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November 30, 2013

Owls tame Tigers, 41-21

After letting so many gut-wrenching, second-half collapses trip up their 2013 season, Temple finally learned how to eliminate those late-game mistakes in Saturday's season finale at Memphis.

Freshman quarterback P.J. Walker threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns, senior tight end Chris Coyer caught three passes for 129 yards - including a 75-yard touchdown pass - in his final college game, and the Owls' much-maligned defense held the Tigers scoreless in the fourth quarter to lift Temple to a 41-21 win over Memphis for the program's first American Athletic Conference win.

The Owls, who had lost four games by three points or less and last week surrendered a 21-point lead in a loss to Connecticut, finished 2-10 in Matt Rhule's first season as Temple's head coach. Walker, who played parts of three games before making his first start back in the sixth week of the Owls' season, connected with sophomore wide receiver Robby Anderson on touchdown passes of 1, 11 and 21 yards, and sophomore running back Jamie Gilmore led Temple with 92 yards rushing on 16 carries.

Against a Memphis defense that came into the game ranked 12th nationally in rushing defense (111.5 yards per game), 16th in total defense (337.6 ypg.) and 23rd in scoring defense (20.9 points per game), Temple tallied 206 rushing yards, 534 total yards and 41 points. Freshman placekicker Nick Visco, who had kicked just one field goal this season, banged in a partially-blocked 22-yarder to open up the scoring in the first quarter and later converted a 19-yarder in the fourth quarter, and freshman linebacker Sharif Finch blocked a punt that was recovered in the end zone for a third-quarter touchdown by safety Michael Felton.

The turning point of the game for Temple came in the third quarter, a period where the Owls had previously been outscored by 84-35 this season. After a Paxton Lynch touchdown pass to Sam Craft closed Temple's lead to 17-14, Walker hit Coyer, who played the last two games of the season with a high-ankle sprain, untouched over the middle for the 75-yard touchdown pass that gave the Owls, with the help of Visco's extra point, a 24-14 lead. Felton's fumble recovery on the blocked punt a little more than a minute later pushed Temple's advantage to 31-14 with 9:38 left in the third quarter.

The Owls held Memphis (3-8, 1-6 American) to just 228 total yards and 2 of 12 in third-down situations. Sophomore outside linebacker Tyler Matakevich forced a fumble and led Temple with eight tackles, while fellow sophomore linebacker Nate D. Smith added seven tackles and a sack.

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