Greenville, N.C. — No. 22 Temple finally cracked the Top 25 because of its defense and its ground game. Some timely passing will help the Owls stay there.
P.J. Walker threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson, and Temple scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to rally past East Carolina 24-14 on Thursday night.
Walker finished 19 of 35 for 250 yards for the Owls (7-0, 4-0 American Athletic Conference). Anderson caught eight passes for 126 yards, with five of those grabs coming in the fourth quarter.
“We just haven’t thrown it a ton,” coach Matt Rhule said. “We needed to throw it. They were taking away the run. … We took (Anderson) off the return duties and just said, ‘Go concentrate on being a great receiver.’”
The Owls ensured their first appearance in national rankings since 1979, and the best start in school history, will last a little longer — at least until No. 11 Notre Dame visits next Saturday night.
“I told my team in there, ‘We’re all going through this for the first time,’” Rhule said. “I’m going through this for the first time. So we’re all making mistakes. But we all love each other, we’re battling, and guys made plays.”
East Carolina’s Blake Kemp was 31 of 48 for 272 yards with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Quay Johnson. Chris Hairston added a 1-yard scoring run for the Pirates (4-4, 2-2).
“They’ve got to know we’ve got a lot of season left,” coach Ruffin McNeill said. “Temple did a lot of good things tonight. We didn’t. We didn’t do things that we’ve got to do to win the game.”
Temple’s Jahad Thomas ran for two touchdowns, from 2 and 14 yards, the last sealing it with 2:18 to play. The American’s leading rusher finished with just 66 yards — 60 fewer than his average.
The Owls gained 82 total yards while going scoreless on their first five possessions of the second half, before the passing game got hot just in time.
Walker hit Anderson over the middle for 51 yards to the East Carolina 34 with about 5 1 / 2minutes to go. Five plays later, they hooked up again, with Anderson slipping past a defender between the hash marks on his way across the goal line with 3:31 remaining.
“We’ve got guys that are not afraid to go across the middle and make a big play for us,” Walker said.
After Temple forced a three-and-out, Sharif Finch blocked Worth Gregory’s punt at the East Carolina 15. Two plays later, Thomas iced it with the longer of his two scoring runs.
The Owls forced two second-half turnovers and blocked two punts while occasionally sloppy East Carolina finished with nine penalties for 99 yards and lost to Temple for the second straight year. The Pirates had five turnovers in a 20-10 loss in Philadelphia last season that knocked them from the Top 25.
They were about 5 minutes from getting a little payback on Temple, one of three nationally ranked teams from the American.
“Nothing’s going to be easy,” Rhule said.
(At) UCLA 40, No. 20 California 24: Josh Rosen completed a school-record 34 passes and threw two of his three touchdown passes to Devin Fuller, and UCLA got its season back on track with a victory over No. 20 California.
Rosen passed for 399 yards in another splendid game for the standout freshman, and Thomas Duarte had career highs of 10 catches for 141 yards for the Bruins (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12). UCLA rebounded from consecutive losses and a drop from the national rankings with a 573-yard offensive performance.
Soso Jamabo rushed for a score after star UCLA tailback Paul Perkins left with an injury, and the Bruins’ injury-plagued defense limited Jared Goff and Cal’s potent offense to 170 yards in the first half.
Goff passed for 295 yards in a second straight disappointing game for the Bears (5-2, 2-2). They have lost two straight.