No. 22 Temple stays unbeaten with another fourth-quarter comeback

GREENVILLE, N.C. - Temple discarded recent history to make some history of its own.

Trailing by 14-10 after three quarters, the No. 22 Owls came back to defeat East Carolina, 24-14, Thursday night in an American Athletic Conference game before 39,417 at boisterous Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The Owls have made history by opening a season 7-0 for the first time ever. Temple is also 4-0 in the AAC heading into its Oct. 31 game against Notre Dame at Lincoln Financial Field.

The odds appeared to be against Temple when the Owls entered intermission trailing, 14-10. East Carolina (4-4, 2-2) had won 26 straight games when leading at halftime.

"This was by far the best win," quarterback P.J. Walker said. ". . . We never panicked and looked around at each other and said we are going to score and win this game."

Robby Anderson's 23-yard touchdown reception gave the Owls a 17-14 lead with 3 minutes, 31 seconds left in the game. Another huge play in that drive was a 51-yard completion down the middle from Walker to Anderson that gave the Owls a first down on the Pirates' 34.

Anderson was open all evening and he finished with eight receptions for 126 yards.

"We ran that play when I had the big catch and it was wide open and I looked the ball in and said I am scoring right here," Anderson said. "And PJ put it right on the money and the line did their job and everything worked out."

After the Owls held ECU on the next series, Temple's Sharif Finch blocked a punt and the Owls took over on the Pirates' 15-yard-line with 2:28 left. Jahad Thomas sealed the game two plays later with a 14-yard touchdown run.

"We knew it is going to come down to the fourth quarter and you honestly don't want the game to come down any way," said linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who had 13 tackles and an interception.

The Owls were fortunate to be trailing by just 14-10 entering the fourth quarter because they had only one first down in the third period.

It was the second straight week in which the Owls trailed after three quarters.

East Carolina utilizes two junior quarterbacks, James Summers, the running threat, and Blake Kemp, the passing option. Temple did a good job containing them, although Kemp had success completing passes underneath. He completed 31 of 48 passes for 272 yards with one TD and one interception.

But the Pirates were hurt by turnovers and penalties. Entering the game with a minus-4 turnover ratio, ECU added three more, while Temple didn't commit a single turnover. ECU was penalized nine times for 99 yards while Temple had 12 penalties for 114 yards.

Thomas, who entered the evening as the AAC's leading rusher, did not start because of what a school official called "academic reasons."

He was in the game by the third offensive play. Thomas ended with 66 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

Walker completed 19 of 35 passes for 250 yards and the touchdown to Anderson.

Temple scored on Austin Jones' 28-yard field goal on its first drive, but ECU stiffened after the Owls had a first and goal from the 9-yard line.

ECU's David Plowman missed a 40-yard field-goal attempt with 1:24 left in the first quarter. That ended 19 straight red zone scores (15 touchdowns, four field goals) for the Pirates.

East Carolina took a 7-3 lead when Chris Hairston completed a 14-play, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard run with 9:02 left in the half. It was the first touchdown surrendered by Temple in eight quarters. The Owls had several missed tackles in that drive.

Temple regained the lead, 10-7, when Thomas bolted outside for a 2-yard scoring run with 2:59 left in the first half.

ECU came back the next series to take a 14-10 halftime lead. Kemp hit Quay Johnson on a 7-yard scoring pass with 18 seconds left in the half.

Based on recent history, ECU had to feel good about things, but the Owls bucked the trend to remain undefeated.