Temple beats Kent State, 34-16

Temple defeated Kent State 34-16 on Friday at Lincoln Financial Field. ( Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer )

Those vacation days already set aside for a bowl game?

Feel free to keep them, Temple fans.

Friday’s 34-16 win over Kent State increased the Owls chances for a second bowl appearance in three seasons.

In what was Temple’s third consecutive ‘must-win’ victory, it rolled up 315 yards at Lincoln Financial Field to finish the regular season with 8-4 overall and 5-3 Mid-American Conference records.

It was a performance that had to impress representatives from the Kraft Fight Hunger, Gildan New Mexico or the Famous Idaho Potato bowls. The three bowls appear to be likely destinations for the MAC East Division runner-up.

In a game where quarterback Chris Coyer exited with a sprained left AC joint,  Bernard Pierce showed why he’s arguably the best player in the MAC.

Pierce had 24 carries for season-high 189 yards and three touchdowns to become the third player to rush for at least 100 yards against Kent State. He compiled 168 of his yards and all three touchdowns in the second half.  

Temple will learn its end-of-season fate on Dec. 4.

All signs lead to the Owls avoiding last season’s heartbreak.

That’s when, despite finishing 8-4 and being bowl-eligible, the Owls weren’t invited a bowl.

But back then, Temple ended the season with  a two-game losing streak.

At the time, there were 72 teams with at least six victories to become bowl-eligible for the 35 bowl games. And the Owls were one of the two squads that didn’t receive an invitation. A team’s ability to sell tickets often determines who gets the bowl bids.

This time, the Golden Flashes had their dreams shattered.

They (5-7, 4-4) needed a victory to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2006. However, Kent State’s last bowl bid came in 1972.

Temple’s chances didn’t look good early on.

Coyer, a redshirt sophomore quarterback, suffered the left shoulder injury on a 16-yard gain on the Owls’ first offensive series.  He didn’t return and is expected to miss the next two weeks.

Without him, the Owls initially struggled.

Junior quarterback Mike Gerardi moved the ball a little on Temple’s second possession. But that drive stalled after he was sacked for a 7-yard loss, followed by two incompletions.

Chester Stewart came in at quarterback to start Temple’s third possession. The fifth-year senior responded by fumbling the first down snap at Owls 16.  Three plays later, Jacquise Terry scored from 11 yards out.  Kent State led 6-0 after Freddy Cortez’s point after was blocked with 14 minutes, 50 seconds  before intermission.

But Temple took the lead 16 seconds later, as Matt Brown returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to tie a school record.  Brandon McManus’ conversion gave the Owls a 7-6 advantage.

Temple extended its cushion to four points after McManus’ 33-yard field goal six seconds before intermission.

Afterward, Pierce showed why he’s regarded as the MAC’s best player.

Carrying the load, the 6-foot, 218-pounder had touchdown runs of 18 and 25 yards on Temple’s first two possessions of the third quarter. His second score gave the Owls a 24-9 lead with 7:32 left in the third quarter.

His third touchdown, a 69-yarder, gave the Owls a commanding 31-9 lead with 9:45 left.