TULSA, Okla. – The horn sounded, and the celebration began.
With a 43-22 win at Tulsa on Saturday afternoon, Temple secured bowl eligibility for a fourth consecutive season, relying on victories in three of its final four games to attain a .500 record.
"Four weeks ago, I don't think a lot of people would have thought we would have fought and [been able] to get into this position," first-year coach Geoff Collins said. "I knew we were a good football team and our kids knew we were a good football team. Down the stretch, we played some really good football."
The Owls (6-6, 4-4 American Athletic Conference) will learn their bowl destination next weekend. Playing a team with a deceptively low two-win total, Temple delivered a turnover-free performance and relied on impressive passing from Frank Nutile, who threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns.
"We were confident that we were going to come in here and get the win, but we couldn't look in the future for a bowl game," receiver Keith Kirkwood said. "We just knew what was next and we had to come out and dominate, and I think we did today."
Temple had perhaps its best offensive outing of the season. The first lead, 10-7, came late in the first quarter on a 28-yard throw from Nutile to Adonis Jennings that was set up by Isaiah Wright's 47-yard scamper.
On their next drive, the Owls scored again. Nutile launched a perfectly thrown pass to Kirkwood for 51 yards, and Ryquell Armstead finished with a 9-yard touchdown run.
Sandwiched between a pair of Tulsa field goals, Temple produced a third straight touchdown drive, with Nutile finding Jennings for a 65-yard bomb followed by a 1-yard scoring run by David Hood.
The unlucky Golden Hurricane, playing with backup quarterback Chad President following an injury to starter Luke Skipper in its previous game, had to go to third-stringer Will Hefley when President was hurt late in the first half.
Hefley, making his career debut, was intercepted by Derrek Thomas on his first pass, and Thomas returned the pick 83 yards to the Tulsa 2-yard line. Nutile found wide-open Kirkwood for the easy score and the 31-13 halftime lead.
Given the quarterback situation, the Hurricane looked to the conference's top rusher, D'Angelo Brewer, for the majority of the second half. Brewer, who finished with 255 yards, reached the end zone with a 14-yard run on a series that included two personal-foul penalties against the Owls.
"We knew that was an explosive offense and we knew the running back was really good," Collins said. "He was a good player and he gave us issues, and their offensive line did a nice job for him."
A 72-yard punt return by Wright put Temple in control for the remainder. Following a fumble recovered by Karamo Dioubate, Nutile connected with Kirkwood for another score with three minutes left. The extra-point attempt was blocked and returned for two points.
The Owls, who limited the Hurricane to 55 passing yards, ran out the clock after a late interception by Sean Chandler, the ninth of his career.