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Inside Game Day
Thursday, October 22, 2015

By Al Myatt

Walker keeps Owls unbeaten

Al Myatt
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GREENVILLE One thing Temple showed in a 24-14 win at East Carolina on Thursday night is that quality, not quantity, can be decisive at quarterback.

Portions of the contest on ESPN2 were more deliberate than a lullaby, but when crunch time came, P.J. Walker drove the Owls like a fire truck.

A win was crucial for the Pirates to maintain control of their fate in the American Athletic Conference East Division race, but ECU couldn't stop Walker from keeping the Owls unbeaten.

Walker was much more effective than in a 20-10 win over the Pirates in Philadelphia last year when conditions were significantly worse and ECU lost five fumbles.

The Pirate defense had kept the Owls off the scoreboard, protecting a 14-10 lead after ECU lost a fourth quarter fumble at the Temple 45.

But Walker stepped up on the next series for the visitors as they moved to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the league with a nonconference date at home next week against Notre Dame.

A partially-blocked Pirates punt put Temple at its 39 with 5:59 to go. A penalty on the boot moved the Owls back to their 29. The retreat continued with another holding penalty that put Temple on its 15.

The hole wasn't deep enough to keep Walker from climbing out.

On second-and-24, the Temple junior hit Robby Anderson for a 51-yard gain to the ECU 34. Five plays later, Walker found Anderson again under pressure for a deciding 23-yard touchdown and a 17-14 lead with 3:31 to go.

A blocked punt after a three and out by the Owls defense led to a short field and a 14-yard touchdown run by Jahad Thomas for the final margin.

Walker finished 19 of 35 for 250 yards with one score and no interceptions. He threw to the rangy Anderson eight times for 126 yards.

Walker was seven of 19 for 70 yards against ECU in 2014.

"He's improved a lot," said Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill. " ... He did a good job of managing their offense. He did a good job of using his weapons. I told him after the game, 'Great job.' He's played pretty seriously all year long."

The Pirates started James Summers at quarterback but played Blake Kemp the majority of the game.

Kemp went 31 for 48 for 272 yards with one touchdown and one pick. Summers was two for four for 11 yards. Summers had seven keepers for 29 yards.

"They had a plan for both quarterbacks," McNeill said.

For the second straight year, the Pirates outgained Temple to no avail. The difference was much smaller this year, 378 total yards to 322, compared to last year's 428-135 disparity.

Running back Chris Hairston cited penalties as a factor that beat the Pirates, who are 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the AAC.

The flags definitely flew. The Owls were penalized 12 times for 114 yards. ECU drew nine penalties for 99 yards.

The Pirates took a 14-10 lead as Kemp passed to Quay Johnson for a 7-yard score with 18 seconds left in the half to complete a 75-yard drive that followed a go-ahead score by the Owls.

Trevon Brown had a 30-yard reception on third down to move ECU from its 22 to the Temple 48. Summers came in on third-and-one at the Owls 39 to run for a first down. Summers made a crucial two yards with a second-effort dive after getting hit in the backfield.

Facing fourth-and-10, Kemp found Bryce Williams for a 21-yard gain to the Temple 16. A 9-yard pass to Isaiah Jones preceded the score. Jones had 10 catches for 106 yards. Brown had seven receptions for 77 yards.

ECU was beset by penalties early. The Pirates were penalized five times in the first quarter for 65 yards. Two 15-yarders on Temple's first possession led to a 28-yard field goal by Austin Jones and a 3-0 Owls lead with 9:38 left in the first quarter.

The Pirates had moved from their 25 to the Temple 46 when a late-hit personal foul and a holding call defused ECU's second possession.

A 39-yard run by Hairston was key as ECU got as far as the Temple 16 before the series ended with a missed field goal by Davis Plowman from 40 yards after Kemp was sacked on third down.

Kemp directed an 80-yard drive capped by a 1-yard run from Hairston with 9:02 left in the second quarter for a 7-3 Pirates lead. A 14-yard pass to Jones put the Pirates on the Temple 1.

The score ended a string of eight quarters during which the Owls had not allowed a touchdown. Kemp had a third down conversion pass to Williams and a fourth down completion to Brown on the 14-play march that consumed 5:13. The Owls were flagged for pass interference on a third down that moved ECU to the Temple 34.

ECU had some streaks of its own impacted. The Pirates have lost 15 straight when scoring 20 points or less. ECU had a 26-game winning streak halted when leading at halftime.

The Pirates have yielded just three points following their last six turnovers. Kemp was picked off by Temple's outstanding linebacker, Tyler Matakevich, in the third quarter. His 26-yard return put Temple at the ECU 27 but a major penalty helped move the Owls back and Jones missed a 52-yard field goal attempt with 4:07 left in the third.

ECU was held scoreless in the second half.

The Pirates face a regrouping challenge for a Friday night game at Connecticut on Oct. 30.

"We have four games left," McNeill said. " ... I told (the players) we've got two days to get away from it. But Sunday, let's get started, put it behind us and get ready for Connecticut."

Kemp said the ECU quarterbacks will work on getting the team refocused for a stretch run.

Bowl eligibility is still dangling in front of the Pirates.

"Everybody is on board," Kemp said. "Everybody loves Coach Ruff. He's going to get our mindset right. The QBs, me and James, we'll do the same thing, keeping everybody positive, keeping everybody ready to go. That's part of being a leader and we look forward to doing that this week."

E-mail Al Myatt.

PAGE UPDATED 10/23/15 02:08 AM.

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