An official threw a flag, and his coach chewed him out, yet Temple tailback Ryquell Armstead captured the night perfectly right after his 42-yard run gave the Owls a lead they would never relinquish, in a game they weren't supposed to win.

In the north end zone, Armstead flipped the ball in the air and then pantomimed a sound baseball swing. If that counts as excessive celebration, too bad. Friday night, the Temple Owls knocked it out of the Linc, 46-30 over South Florida.

Last season's win over Penn State remains the biggest W in Temple football history, and the bookend Notre Dame game must go down as the most impressive and important loss. Just understand that what went down Friday at the Linc was next on the list in this current era of Temple football. If you consider the quality of opponent and the stakes, it was the biggest league win of the last quarter-century.

Maybe you're not paying attention this season since the Owls didn't start 7-0, and bumped their way out of the gate with a home loss to Army. This season is kind of turning into the opposite of last, since Temple faded a bit down the stretch, while this group has picked up steam.

Even if 5-3 sounds ordinary - that alone is an amazing statement about Temple football - the Owls will be favored in their last four games. If they avoid upsets with two at home and two on the road, they go back to the American Athletic Conference title game. Even if the AAC is No. 6 in a world where there is a Power 5, such a feat should go down as a big deal.

Let's not get ahead, though. Winning four straight, even if they're favored, is a task. But the game that Vegas had them going down in was this one. USF came in 6-1, with their only loss to Florida State. A win would have given them a stranglehold on the division.

USF has the kind of offense, and the kind of quarterback, that has given Temple big trouble the last two seasons. Could Temple really outscore a team that had scored at least 35 every time out?

The task for Temple was kind of twofold. The Owls had to wear down USF while continuing to put up points of their own. The Owls ground out two long first-half drives, picking up 10 points as they ticked more than 16 combined minutes off the clock.

In between, USF scored in a heartbeat. Quinton Flowers is a special quarterback - "That guy was like a video game out there," Rhule said later. Temple had to take its most feared pass rusher, Haason Reddick, who likes to live in opposing backfields, and often turn him into a spy on Flowers, in more of a linebacker role, not committing to going after Flowers too early. If you saw the game on ESPN, Reddick wasn't his usual presence. That was the job.

USF was the one that couldn't make stops. Temple ran for 319 yards, basically double USF's total. Time of possession was 39 and change for Temple, just under 21 for USF.

A headline feature of this one, Armstead, the No. 2 tailback, had 210 rushing yards. Next, freshman Isaiah Wright lined up all over the place as usual, including as a Wildcat quarterback, and had 58 yards on six carries. The starting backfield? Jahad Thomas had 56 yards on 16 carries, but still had two touchdowns. Fullback Nick Sharga plays like a great vintage fullback.

"Nick Sharga is amazing, man," Armstead said. "By the end of the third quarter, he has guys falling to their knees. They're scared to make contact with him."

"He's got like regenerative powers or something," Rhule said of Sharga's ability to come back from injuries. "He's like Wolverine."

With some time to throw, Temple put together a passing game that also looked sharper than it had. Phillip Walker completed 14 of 21 passes for 209 yards. Receiver Ventell Bryant is proving to be more and more dangerous, a legitimate go-to target.

Temple defenders had been saying since the preseason that this group is actually faster than last year's. Even with injuries, especially with defensive backfield star Sean Chandler out, you can start to see why they're saying this. Defensive end Praise Martin-Oguike had a sack and two other tackles for a loss, plus his fifth career blocked kick, an extra point.

"They're going to make plays, right?" said Temple defensive coordinator Phil Snow. "It's just the touchdown plays you want to stop."

Snow was proud, for instance, that USF went to a full-house formation it had never shown, and he noted that Temple hadn't run its full-house defense in eight weeks.

"Our kids went right to it," Snow said. "That's amazing."

It's only the diehards and the students really paying attention now. Market Street didn't close in advance of this one. The Linc was less than half full. The Cherry and White diehards just walked out knowing they had seen something impressive.

Rhule's first words at his news conference: "Just a tremendous, tremendous, tremendous win for us as a team."

It means the rest of them count for something.

"A huge moment for us," Rhule said.

@jensenoffcampus