It’s hard to believe the Temple Owls could emerge as the best American Athletic Conference team in 2015. The Owls visit South Florida on November 14 with a 5-0 mark in the AAC and 8-1 overall; a victory against the Bulls could wrap up the East Division title. This Temple squad enters the contest ranked 21st in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, the Owls’ fourth consecutive week on that list.
Let’s revisit what happened three years ago at this point. On Nov. 10, 2012, the Owls hosted Cincinnati in a Big East game at Lincoln Financial Field. The Bearcats jumped out to a 24-3 lead at halftime and defeated Temple, 34-10. While Cincinnati improved to 3-1 in the conference (7-2 overall), the Owls dropped to 2-4 in the Big East (3-6 on the season).
At that time, Steve Addazio was Temple’s head coach, Chris Coyer and Clinton “Juice” Granger platooned at quarterback, Brandon McManus kicked field goals and extra points, Matt Brown and Montel Harris were the go-to running backs, defensive lineman Tyler Matakevich was a freshman, and John Christopher had been a freshman wide receiver. McManus eventually worked his way to becoming the placekicker for the Denver Broncos and Addazio bolted for the head coaching position at Boston College the following season.
Move forward to 2015. Matt Rhule cals the shots as Temple head coach for the third straight season, quarterback P.J. Walker has overcome his sophomore slump from the previous season, Christopher can be a reliable offensive player at times, Jahad Thomas can score six points on any drive, and Matakevich (now a senior) is perhaps one of the most feared defensive participants in NCAA Division 1 with tackles, sacks, and turnovers.
Switch back to the 2012 contest. Cincinnati, which led the Big East at that time with 34.2 points per game, posted seven plays of at least 20 yards. Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompson cashed-in a 75-yard touchdown reception and Chris Moore hauled in a 65-yarder for six points, both from Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay.
The Owls notched three points in the opening quarter and seven in the third. McManus lined a symmetrically-good 20-yard field goal with two minutes and 36 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Cody Booth recorded a four-yard passing touchdown from Granger with eight minutes and 55 seconds remaining in quarter three.
Cincinnati’s George Winn rushed for two one-yard touchdowns. Kicker Tony Milano nailed four extra points and two field goals (22 and 23 yards) for the Bearcats.
Bowl eligibility didn’t happen as the Owls finished 4-7 and 2-5 in the Big East. The following season (2013), the conference became the AAC (for football) and the Owls posted a 2-10 record (one conference victory). In 2014, Temple improved to 6-6 but didn’t receive a bowl game.