On Saturday afternoon in Temple’s first bowl appearance since 2009, the Owls made sure that this time, the result would be different.
After conceding a Wyoming touchdown late in the second quarter, Owls’ redshirt-sophomore quarterback Chris Coyer hit senior wide receiver Rod Streater for a 61-yard touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half.
The play swung the momentum in Temple’s favor and the Owls didn’t look back as they defeated Wyoming 37-15 in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
|KATE MCCANN TTN|
“We had a great year and that’s terrific, but this allowed us to put that exclamation on it,” coach Steve Addazio said. “We’re excited to go back to Philadelphia representing our university and our great sports city with this win.”
Addazio said that Streater’s play was the turning point in the game.
“We took a shot, and it ended up being a very, very important touchdown for us,” Addazio said. “In terms of momentum psychologically, we answered a score with a score going into the half, so it was a big play.”
It was Temple’s first bowl win since 1979 and only the second such victory in program history. Temple’s senior class finishes as the winningest class in school history (31) and one of only two classes to ever capture a bowl game victory.
“I’m awful proud of our seniors, some great accomplishments for them,” Addazio said. “[The win] means an awful lot to our program and our university.”
“It sets the foundation for the younger guys,” senior linebacker Tahir Whitehead added. “We want them to keep winning over the next couple of years.”
Whitehead was named the Defensive MVP of the Game after making a team high of 11 tackles. Coyer was named Offensive MVP of the Game, posting 79 rushing yards and 169 passing yards and a touchdown.
Coyer was making his fourth start of the year after recovering from a sprained AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder suffered in the Owls’ last regular season game.
“It’s definitely been an interesting ride throughout the year,” Coyer said. “Thankfully these past three or four games I got a chance and capitalized on it.”
Temple scored on its first three possessions of the game.
After a botched kickoff opened the game, the Owls moved 90 yards downfield and scored on their opening drive. Following a fourth-down conversion, a 40-yard pass from Coyer to senior tight end Evan Rodriguez put Temple into scoring position. Junior running back Bernard Pierce scored his first of two touchdowns, a one-yard run, to give the Owls an early lead.
“The first drive set the tone,” Addazio said. “You could see that our team was mentally and physically ready to play this football game.”
Pierce scored again, another one-yard plunge, to conclude a 69-yard drive on the Owls’ second possession that got started after a Wyoming missed field goal. He finished the game with 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Pierce didn’t speak to the media after the game, which some speculate could be his last at Temple. Pierce is rumored to have filed for early paperwork to enter the NFL draft.
Cowboys’ freshman quarterback Brett Smith had struggles passing early in the game. He completed nine of 14 passes for 78 yards in the first half and threw two interceptions.
Owls’ senior defensive back Kee-ayre Griffin intercepted Smith early in the second quarter and set up Temple’s third consecutive touchdown, a one-yard run again, this time by junior running back Matt Brown, which gave the Owls a three-score lead.
“It was important to send Wyoming a message that we came here to play football,” Griffin said. “Wyoming can score at any moment. It was good for the offense to come out and get a couple of scores and give the defense a chance to rest.”
Smith responded late in the second quarter with an 11-play, 62-yard drive, capped off by a 21-yard touchdown pass to Cowboys’ freshman wide receiver Josh Doctson with 37 seconds remaining the first half.
It was a play that appeared to be Wyoming’s way back into the game, until the efforts of Coyer and Streater yanked the rug out from under the Cowboys’ feet.
Set up by a 29-yard kick return by senior wide receiver Joe Jones, Streater’s touchdown re-established Temple’s 21-point lead going into halftime, and more importantly, gave the Owls all of the game’s momentum.
“It gave us a backbone to come back strong,” Streater said. “The game’s never over. They have an explosive offense and can come back just like that. It was important for us to get those seven points.”
Temple held Wyoming scoreless in the second half up until the game’s closing seconds when the Cowboys scored a meaningless touchdown and two-point conversion. The Temple defense kept the highly touted Smith in check throughout the game, holding him to 203 yards of total offense and forcing three interceptions.
“The goal going into this game was to keep [Smith] rattled and throw the cage around him because he’s a very good and explosive quarterback,” Whitehead said. “We just wanted to make him one-dimensional and pass the ball, and that’s what we did.”
Owls’ junior placekicker Brandon McManus made three second-half field goals and Temple won the New Mexico Bowl trophy by a final score of 37-15.
For Addazio, he becomes the first coach in Temple history to win a bowl game in his first season in addition to setting the school record for most wins by a first-year head coach (9).
For Temple, the win solidifies this year as one of the most successful seasons in school history.
“Temple is here to stay,” Addazio said. “This is a program that is on the rise as we’ll continue to battle and compete and represent our university in a first-class manner.”