BOCA RATON, Fla. - Temple tied for the most wins in school history, but a season that held so much promise ended on a sour note. Make that two sour notes.
For the second consecutive game the offense struggled and the defense gave up big plays as Temple lost to Toledo, 32-17, in the Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday night.
The Owls finished 10-4, tying the 1979 team for the most wins in school history. But their final two games produced their lowest scoring totals.
This effort followed a 24-13 loss at Houston in the championship game of the American Athletic Conference.
At least Temple went down fighting during a game played in a steady rain.
Temple made it 25-17 on an end-around to tight end Kip Patton and Robby Anderson's two-point conversion reception, as P.J. Walker eluded serious pressure to compete the pass with 2 minutes, 50 seconds left.
Then Owls kicker Tyler Mayes almost recovered the onside kick. The Owls argued that they did recover it. But it was awarded to Toledo's Cody Thompson.
"I got no explanation," coach Matt Rhule said, referring to the officials. "I saw Tyler Mayes run up and fall on the ball and have it. I was just hoping for a review. At the end of the day you can review if it was a clear recovery."
Two plays later, the Rockets scored on Kareem Hunt's 41-yard run to put the game away.
Temple's Walker completed 23 of 42 passes for 236 yards and one interception.
"We would have a big play on first down and then a negative on second and that has to stop," Walker said.
His counterpart, Phillip Ely, was named the offensive MVP, after completing 20 of 28 passes for 285 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
The Owls tried to keep the loss in perspective.
"It hurts, but we had a great year," Rhule said.
Trailing, 3-0, Toledo scored on a safety with 13:56 left in the half when Temple running back Jahad Thomas was leveled by JaWuan Woodley and fumbled the ball out of the end zone.The momentum carried to the Rockets offense. Toledo scored on the ensuing series, with Ely hitting Corey Jones on a 26-yard touchdown pass and run that consisted of several missed tackles.
The Owls trailed, 12-3, at halftime after gaining just 67 yards including five in the second quarter.
It was a rough first half for Thomas, who was held to 14 yards rushing on five carries and also suffered a knee injury late in the second quarter. He didn't play in the second half.
The Owls came out with more purpose in the third quarter and cut the lead to 12-6 on Austin Jones' 25-yard field goal. That gave Jones a single-season Temple record of 22 field goals, breaking the mark of 21 by Don Bitterlich in 1975.
With Temple trailing, 12-9, late in the third quarter, safety Nate L. Smith saved a touchdown, breaking up a pass intended for Corey Jones, who was momentarily open near the goal line on a pass from the Temple 44.
Toledo (10-2) went up, 19-9, with 12:41 left when Ely hit Thompson on an 80-yard scoring pass. Thompson beat Sean Chandler on a deep post, catching the ball on the Toledo 45 and then outracing Chandler to the end zone.
Temple was moving the next series until Walker threw an interception. His pass intended for Adonis Jennings was tipped by Rolan Milligan and intercepted by Juwan Haynes.
Toledo went up, 25-9, when Hunt completed a 12-play, 74-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:46 left.
All-American Tyler Matakevich became Temple's all-time leading tackler. He had 12 to give him 493 for his career, but that was the least of his concerns.
"I said since I got here the goal was to go to a bowl game and we got here, but we lost," Matakevich said. "I didn't come here to lose, and it hurts."