There are some games where you can look at the box score and see just how dominant a team was in victory. This was not one of those games.
For the first time in program history, Temple (5-3, 3-2 American) defeated a top 25 team at home. The victim was a No. 21/23 (AP/CFB Playoff ranking) East Carolina (6-2, 3-1 American) program looking to keep in front of the pack racing for a guaranteed spot in the College Football Playoff access bowls. Despite being outgained by a wide margin in the box score, Temple took advantage of four East Carolina turnovers to score a 20-10 upset of the Pirates.
East Carolina had over 200 more offensive yards than Temple. It did not mater. East Carolina had more than twice as many first downs as Temple. It did not matter. East Carolina lost five fumbles to the Temple defense. It mattered. By the time Marquez Grayson pushed in to the end zone for East Carolina’s first touchdown of the game, Temple was just two minutes and 15 seconds away from victory, with a 20-10 lead to protect after the ECU extra point. It was a game of many missed opportunities for ECU, and it could end up costing the American Athletic Conference a spot in one of the big bowl games at the end of the season.
Temple’s offense was never able to do much, but it did do all it could to run clock when with the football. Temple’s defense recorded one of the two Temple touchdowns with a long fumble return for a score in the first half. It was enough to get head coach Matt Rhule a big win for the Temple program.
For East Carolina, this loss stings, but it remains to be seen just how much it could hurt. It would be quick to assume the Pirates are now at risk of falling behind Marshall in the playoff ranking, because nobody knows just how the selection committee views Marshall at this point. An undefeated Marshall needed East Carolina to lose, but losses for Colorado State and maybe Boise State, UCF and Cincinnati the rest of the way would certainly help as well. This will be important to pay attention to Tuesday when the new rankings come out.
East Carolina will get a week off to regroup, and they will return to action the following Thursday in a big conference game at Cincinnati. UCF is also in the conference hunt. East Carolina ends the season at home against the defending conference champions.
Temple’s last victory over a top 25 team came in 1998, against Virginia Tech. This was the first time Temple has defeated a top 25 team at home. The Owls are now one win shy of becoming eligible for postseason play.