October surprise: 32 seconds that saved Temple's season

OWLSFB22
Temple quarterback Phillip Walker gets stopped by USF's Juwuan Brown on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016 in Philadelphia. Brown was called for a personal foul on the play.

Thirty-two seconds and four plays saved Temple's season, with one second to spare.

When Temple visits Navy in the American Athletic Conference championship game at noon Saturday, the Owls can point to many reasons for their turnaround. After starting 3-3, the Owls have won six in a row and finished 7-1 to win the AAC East Division (Navy is 9-2, 7-1).

A week after squandering a 13-0 lead in a 34-27 loss at Memphis that dropped Temple to 3-3, the Owls, on an October Saturday night, pulled off the most dramatic of comebacks.

Trailing, 25-7, early in the second quarter at Central Florida, the defense pitched a shutout the rest of the way before the offense finished things off. With 1 second showing on the clock, wide receiver Keith Kirkwood scored on an 8-yard pass from Phillip Walker, giving the Owls a 26-25 victory.

"We probably wouldn't be sitting here if we hadn't done those things," Temple coach Matt Rhule said.

There was no probably about it.

Had Temple lost even once in the final six games, the Owls would not have made it this far. They won the East by virtue of their 46-30 win over South Florida, which also finished 7-1 in the division.

The Owls began that fateful drive trailing, 25-20, with 32 seconds left, no timeouts, and possession on their own 30-yard line.

At the time, the calmest person at Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando seemed to be Walker.

"I was chillin'," Walker recalls. "I had been in that situation before and had two or three opportunities before this year and didn't get it done. So there was nothing to lose and we went out and got the job done."

Three straight receptions by Ventell Bryant put the ball on the UCF 8. It was then that Walker hit Kirkwood on the 8-yard touchdown pass with one second left.

"I was amazed," said Kirkwood, a redshirt junior. "After I caught it I saw there were no penalties and I was excited because it was a great opportunity to come up with the victory."

At halftime, Temple trailed, 25-14, but Rhule could feel the momentum changing.

"Our kids had tremendous energy in the locker room [at halftime] and they just fought," Rhule said.

To Rhule, the team's mind-set actually changed after the Memphis loss.

"We were sitting 3-3 and you have to realize you have nothing to lose and those guys went back to who they were," Rhule said.

That meant simply playing. Not worrying about results, but about hard work and letting the results speak for themselves. It produced a season-altering win.

"It could have turned our season around," Walker said. "Our defense also turned their season around from there, too. They had a shutout in the second half and it gave us the opportunity to win the game."

It's no coincidence that the next week, Temple had its most impressive win of the season, defeating South Florida at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Owls went into the South Florida game with confidence and momentum from their improbable comeback against Central Florida, a night that changed the course of the season.

"We always say one or two plays can change a whole season," said defensive end Praise Martin-Oguike. "You never know when those plays will come."

They came that night in Orlando.

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines

Comment policy:

Philly.com comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by Philly.com staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Load comments
Continue Reading