PHILADELPHIA (AP) — With a touch more than two minutes to play, Temple looked as if it was going to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season.
And then it all fell apart.
Temple allowed No. 15 UCF to gain134 yards on its last two drives and score the final 10 points. Shawn Moffitt kicked a 24-yard field goal as time expired and Temple lost 39-36 on Saturday.
The loss marks the fifth time this season that Temple (1-9, 0-6) has failed to hold onto a second-half lead and the third time its blown a fourth-quarter lead.
“This is by far the toughest one to deal with,” Temple freshman quarterback P.J. Walker said. “We had this game. For them to be a top-ranked team, we felt like we were better than them. We just had another game where we came up short.”
It wasn’t Walker’s fault. In his seventh game and fifth start, he completed 26 of 44 attempts for a career-high 382 yards passing and five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing). His 382 yards place third on Temple all-time single-game passing list, behind only Henry Burris.
In the third quarter, he led a 99-yard touchdown drive, and gave the Owls a 36-29 lead, when he twice found tight end Chris Parthemore in the end zone, once for a touchdown and again for a 2-point conversion.
“I felt like we had the game the whole time,” Walker said.
Only 58 seconds later, UCF quarterback Blake Bortles found receiver J.J. Worton in the end zone. Bortles rolled left on a broken play and Worton made a diving, one-handed, seemingly impossible catch to tie the game with 1:04 remaining.
“That’s the best catch I’ve ever had,” Worton said. “Practice or in a game. All glory to God right now. I’m just lucky I was able to come down with the ball.
Temple at least appeared headed for overtime. But that was before the Owls went three-and-out on their next drive and gave UCF the ball back with 19 seconds to play.
Bortles, with 70 yards to go and no timeouts, found receiver Rannell Hall over the middle, and Hall went 64 yards all the way down to the Temple 6. The clock stopped at nine seconds as the sideline officials moved the chains and Bortles managed to spike it at 2.
On came Moffitt, and so went Temple’s hopes of knocking off a top-25 program. The Owls haven’t beaten one since they upset No. 14 Virginia Tech in October 1998. They’re now 2-78 against ranked opponents all-time.
Temple has allowed eight on 10 opponents to throw for at least 300 yards and 10 different receivers to have at least 100 yards in a game.
Bortles to threw for a career-high 404 yards and four touchdowns on 27 of 38 attempts. Worton and Hall combined for 19 catches and 238 yards.
“There’s really no way to describe it,” said sophomore linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who came into the game with national lead in solo tackles. “Back-to-back weeks we were right there with them. We could have played with anybody. . We have to finish.”
First-year Temple coach Matt Rhule did find a way to describe it, and appears to already be looking toward the future.
“I thought our defense made some stops in the third quarter, but at the end of the game we couldn’t stop them under two minutes, which has been a struggle for us all year long.
“The days when we’ve been good, we’ve had a guy that was able to come off knock the ball out. That’s going to be my job in the offseason. We have a couple games left to play, and we’re going to get better. (But) the offseason is the time to find athletes that can help us in those situations.”