Like the rest of Temple's football team, running back Jahad Thomas isn't much of a numbers guy. But the number he is about to approach is hard to ignore.
When No. 21 Temple visits South Florida on Saturday in an American Athletic Conference game with much at stake for both teams, Thomas will be on the verge of joining some select company.
Since Temple first fielded a football team in 1894, the Owls have had a running back rush for 1,000 yards in a season 12 times, accomplished by nine players.
Thomas, a 5-foot-10, 188-pound junior from Elizabeth, N.J., enters the game with 970 rushing yards. He has scored 14 of his 16 touchdown on the ground.
The resurgence of the running game is a major reason Temple is 8-1, and 5-0 in the AAC, and can clinch the East Division with a win. South Florida (5-4, 3-2) can stay in the division race with a victory and also can become bowl-eligible.
A year ago, as Thomas converted from cornerback to running back during the season, he led Temple in rushing with 384 yards but never reached the end zone.
"It is definitely an honor to have the season we are having this year and for me to be 30 yards away" from 1,000, he said. ". . . I wanted to rush for over 1,000 yards, and I have had an unbelievable opportunity to do it with an offensive line that has given me the room to be effective."
Last week at Southern Methodist, he was questionable with sore ribs, but with Temple leading by only 14-10 past the midway point of the second quarter, Thomas entered the game. He rushed for 66 yards and a 2-yard touchdown on 15 carries in the Owls' 60-40 win.
"There is a difference between being injured and hurt and that is the mentality I had," Thomas said. "If I feel I am good enough percentage-wise and healthy to perform at a high level, I will give it everything I have."
Thomas, who leads the AAC in rushing with 107.8 yards per game, has been consistent all season. He has scored at least one rushing touchdown in each game.
He said that this deep in the season, he usually doesn't start feeling good until late in the week. Because Temple played SMU last Friday, he said he can savor an extra day off.
"Jahad being 30 away from 1,000 would be a heck of an accomplishment with a couple of games left and we expect him to eclipse that and put a bunch on the board over the next few weeks," said Temple coach Matt Rhule, whose team will finish the regular season with home games against Memphis and Connecticut after Saturday. "He has played really well, is extremely elusive, and has played while he is banged up."
Quincy Roche, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound defensive end from New Town High in Owings, Mills Md.
Elrom Lumor, a 6-3, 215-pound linebacker at Milford Academy in New Berlin, N.Y.