By AARON BRACY, ASSOCIATED PRESS
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (AP) — Jahad Thomas ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns and P.J. Walker threw for 160 yards and a score to help No. 25 Temple beat UConn 27-3 on Saturday night and secure a spot in the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural championship game.
No. 25 Temple advances to conference championship with win over UConn
Temple will play for the American Athletic Conference championship after knocking off UConn on Saturday.
Romond Deloatch caught a touchdown for the Owls, who will play at Houston for the American conference title Saturday with a New Year’s Six bowl bid possibly at stake for the winner.
Temple (10-2, 7-1, No. 25 CFP) reached 10 wins for just the second time in program history, capping a three-year turnaround under coach Matt Rhule that now includes winning the American East Division. The Owls were 10-2 in 1979.
UConn (6-6, 4-4), playing without starting quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, struggled offensively. The Huskies had just 138 yards of offense, including only nine rushing yards. It was the fourth time this season the Owls held an opponent under 200 total yards.
UConn’s backup QB combination of Tim Boyle and Garrett Anderson finished 13 for 21. Shirreffs suffered a head injury last week in the first quarter of UConn’s 20-17 upset victory over previously unbeaten Houston.
Thomas, a junior, eclipsed 100 yards for the fifth time in his career with a 60-yard sprint to the end zone with 8 minutes, 40 seconds left in the game that gave Temple a 27-0 lead.
He got the Owls on the scoreboard just over seven minutes into the contest with a 9-yard TD scamper around the right side that capped a four-play, 49-yard drive. Earlier on the drive, Thomas had a highlight-reel, 16-yard run that featured a nifty spin move.
The Owls extended their lead to 10-0 on the first of two Austin Jones field goals, this one a 20-yarder with 6:23 left in the first half that capped an 11-play, 56-yard drive lasting 5:42.
Jones later connected from 37 yards with 6:21 left in the third quarter to make it 13-0.
A defensive holding penalty nullified Andrew Adams’ interception late in the third quarter that would have given UConn the ball at the Owls’ 30-yard line. And Temple took advantage.
Deloatch caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Walker with 41 seconds left in the quarter and the Owls went up 20-0. One play earlier, Deloatch hauled in an apparent touchdown on the opposite side of the field, only to have the play overturned after an officials review determined he didn’t complete the catch before going out of bounds.
UConn scored its lone points on Bobby Puyol’s 45-yard field goal with 5:51 remaining in the game.
Temple limited UConn to just 61 total yards of offense and three first downs in a dominating defensive first half.
The Huskies, who are bowl eligible for the first time since 2010, dropped to 3-24 against ranked teams since joining the FBS in 2000.