Toledo lost coach Matt Campbell to the Iowa State job earlier this month, while Temple coach Matt Rhule rejected overtures from Power Five programs to stay in Philadelphia. But in the Boca Raton Bowl, it was the team that lost its head coach that played far better than the team that kept its guy.
Toledo rolled No. 24 Temple, 32-17, on a soggy evening Tuesday at Howard Schnellenberger Stadium, giving the Rockets bowl wins in back-to-back season for the first time since 1969-1971 (a stretch in which it won all 35 games it played).
Quarterback Philip Ely, the ex-Alabama quarterback who reportedly was denied an appeal for a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, shined against a strong Temple defense, completing 20 of 28 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns. His 80-yard scoring strike to receiver Cody Thompson early in the fourth quarter was the push Toledo needed for a comfortable win against an Owls offense that spun its metaphorical wheels all evening.
Owls running back Jahad Thomas suffered a leg injury late in the second quarter and did not return, though the guy who rushed for over 1,200 yards in the regular season wasn’t effective before leaving the game (eight carries, five yards). With Thomas stuffed and then taken out of the game, P.J. Walker & Co. struggled to move the ball and gained only 67 yards in the first half.
Temple finally got in the end zone with 2:50 remaining when Kip Patton plunged two yards for a touchdown, and Walker miraculously kept the two-point conversion attempt alive long enough to find a wide open Robby Anderson to pull the Owls within eight.
Toledo narrowly recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt — Temple kicker Tyler Mayes appeared to fall on the ball, but must’ve lost it in the scrum, and both team’s players pointed to indicate their team had possession — and Kareem Hunt promptly sealed the Rockets’ win with a 41-yard touchdown run.
Toledo finished the season with a 10-2 record, its first double-digit win season since 2001. Temple entered the game with 10 wins, representing its best season since 1979.