CINCINNATI - Temple backed up its beat-down of Penn State last week by going on the road and holding off a late rally by Cincinnati for a 34-26 win Saturday night at Nippert Stadium.
The Owls forced five turnovers by the Bearcats, and junior running back Jahad Thomas totaled 330 yards for the game and scored two touchdowns in the first 94 seconds of the second half. But Temple didn't seal the win until senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich caught a tipped pass in the end zone with 13 seconds remaining. The Owls improved to 2-0 with the win over the American Athletic Conference preseason favorite.
Thomas returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for one score and added a 56-yard touchdown run 80 seconds later to help the Owls take control in a matchup of AAC East division teams. Temple turned a 6-3 deficit in the second quarter into a 34-12 lead before Cincinnati (1-1) scored a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the score tighter.
The Bearcats made things interesting when they recovered a fumble by Thomas with 2 minutes, 29 seconds left to play at their own 29-yard line and drove to the Temple 5. That's when Matakevich dove to catch a ball tipped by cornerback Sean Chandler on a pass by Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel. It was the second time the pair combined for an interception off a tipped pass in the game.
The Owls stopped Cincinnati in the red zone three times in seven drives, which proved to be the difference in the game. The Bearcats outgained Temple, 557-296, but couldn't overcome the five turnovers.
Temple's defense picked up right where it left off a week earlier against Penn State by forcing a three-and-out on the opening possession and then getting the game's first takeaway on Cincinnati's second drive. Middle linebacker Jarred Alwan ripped the ball out of Bearcats running back Hosey Williams' grasp on a screen pass and safety Will Hayes recovered the ball at Cincinnati's 45. Officials originally ruled that the Bearcats had recovered the fumble, but Temple coach Matt Rhule challenged the call on the field and won.
Austin Jones converted the turnover into points with a 40-yard field goal that gave the Owls a 3-0 lead with 6:39 left in the first quarter. Temple had 34 yards offense in the first quarter, 25 of which came on one run by Thomas on the scoring drive.
Cincinnati countered with two short field goals in the second quarter, but junior quarterback P.J. Walker's 1-yard touchdown pass to senior fullback Michael Felton with 32 seconds left in the first half gave the Owls a 10-6 lead.