Big plays lead Temple to win over ECU

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Temple's Logan Marchi escapes the pass rush in Saturday's 34-10 win over ECU.

GREENVILLE, N.C. – For the first time this season Temple consistently showed a desire to go deep.

Bombs away, Temple?

Granted, the Owls were playing an East Carolina defense that entered the game allowing 50.6 points per game, and was equally generous against the run and the pass.

Yet Temple was the lowest-scoring team in the American Athletic Conference, averaging 16.2 points.

In this instance, the offense won in a big way. Erupting for 24 second-quarter points, Temple defeated ECU, 34-10, on Saturday at Dowdy Ficklen Stadium.

The Owls (3-3, 1-2 AAC) are likely out of realistic contention to defend their conference title, so being at least .500 and bowl-eligible is the next challenge.

A loss to ECU (1-5, 1-2) would have been disastrous in that regard.

Quarterback Logan Marchi was among a number of Owls who enjoyed a career day. The redshirt sophomore completed 19 of 31 passes for 321 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

“They played the coverages we wanted and we had the shots built in for that coverage,” said Marchi, whose team was 14 for 20 on third down conversions. “We have the players to make those plays.”

Frequently Temple took advantage of man-to-man coverage with many of the big plays.

The defense also did its job, holding a team that scored 24 first half points last week against No. 18 South Florida, to 287 total yards.

“When they were in certain formations, we were able to use our speed to make plays,” said linebacker Chapelle Russell, who had four tackles.

The Owls didn’t play things safe in either half. Trailing, 24-3, at halftime, ECU scored on the opening  third-quarter possession when Thomas Sirk hit Quay Johnson for an 11-yard TD pass. Johnson made a leaping grab over cornerback Artrel Foster in the end zone.

Temple got the score back when Marchi found a wide-open Isaiah Wright for a 32-yard score, increasing the lead to 31-10 with 2 minutes, 4 seconds left in the third quarter.

This seven-play, 80-yard drive had a highlight-reel play by Keith Kirkwood, who made an incredible one-handed catch for 29 yards  to keep the drive alive.

The Owls took control for good the next series, when Jacob Martin sacked Sirk on a fourth-and-3 play from ECU’s 32-yard line. Temple would settle for a 39-yard field goal by Aaron Boumerhi on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Marchi settled down after throwing an interception in traffic on the Owls’ second possession of the game and the ball on the ECU 7.

After that the Owls were rewarded for their aggressive nature. They tied the score, 3-3, on Boumerhi’s 29-yard  field goal that was set up when Marchi hit a streaking Brodrick Yancy for 48 yards.

Later in the quarter, Temple put together its longest drive of the season, eight plays, 91 yards, which ended with Marchi’s 5-yard scoring pass to Adonis Jennings in the back of the end zone.

The biggest pass play on the drive was a 16-yard completion  to Wright, but David Hood contributed a 22-yard run.

No. 1 running back Ryquell Armstead, who has been playing hurt, was limited to three yards on four carries.

Coach Geoff Collins said on Thursday, Armstead wasn’t able to walk but still willed himself to play.

Without a totally healthy Armstead, the Owls leaned on Hood, a redshirt junior from South Jersey’s Absegami High. Hood, who entered the game with 108 rushing yards, had 20 carries for 106 yards.

“Since last game when he (Armstead) got a little banged up, I already knew I would have to step up,” Hood said.

On the next series, an interception and 16-yard return by Temple safety Delvon Randall gave the Owls the ball at the ECU 34. That led to Hood’s 2-yard run, which  increased the lead to 17-3 with 4:34 left before halftime. Temple kept the drive alive when on a fourth-and-3, Jennings made a leaping catch over Colby Gore and did a great job staying in-bounds for a spectacular 25-yard reception.

Fullback Rob Ritrovato, a  product of West Chester East, scored his first career touchdown on 2-yard run to boost the lead to 24-3 with 1:05 left in the half.

This play was set up when Marchi hit Randle Jones in stride for a 45-yard reception to the ECU 4.

After making one big play after another, the Owls departed Greenville feeling good about themselves at the midway point of the regular season.