PHILADELPHIA - It was only fitting that two seniors would lead Temple football to its most successful season in nearly two decades.
Senior Marcellous Grigsby scored the first two touchdowns of his career and senior Adam DiMichele rushed for two scores for the first time in his brilliant career to lead Temple to a 27-6 win over Akron at Lincoln Financial Field on Senior Day.
The Owls completed their season 5-7 and in second place in the Mid-American Conference East Division at 4-4. It marked the first time in school history that Temple has won four conference games in consecutive seasons.
After Akron (5-7, 3-5) battled back to tie the game on an Igor Iveljic 18-yard field goal with 10:15 remaining, Temple scored 21 points over the final eight minutes to close out the game and its regular season.
DMichele, who led the Owls with 50 yards rushing, completed 15-of-30 passes for 220 yards. Grigsby made 11 carries for 39 hard-fought yards.
It was the Temple defense, however, that stole the show. The Owls picked off three passes, two coming in that final stretch. They also blocked a field goal attempt and held the high-scoring Zips to a season-low in points.
After winning a 55-52 shootout over Eastern Michigan last week, the Owls found themselves in an unlikely defensive struggle in their final game of the season against a Zipa team in need of a win to become Bowl-eligible.
Akron entered the game second to #15 Ball State in scoring offense (36.9 ppg.) and had not been held under 30 points since a season-low 15 in a 17-15 loss to Cincinnati, the first place team in the Big East, on Sept. 27. The Zips had also scored 40 or more points in their last four games.
The Owls defense, hampered by injuries of late, had allowed 123 points in its previous three contests, including a season-high 52 against EMU. Akron, on the other hand, was next to last in scoring defense, allowing 37.4 points per game, and had given up 122 points in its previous three contests.
Temple finally opened the scoring with DiMichele running it in from four-yards out on a third down play with 9:08 remaining in the second quarter. Jake Brownell missed left on the conversion attempt making it 6-0. The drive was aided by a 16-yard John Stec punt that gave the Owls the ball at midfield. DiMichele then methodically led the Cherry and White down the field with an interference call giving TU a first down at the nine-yard-line.
On the Owls' final possession of the half, DiMichele, who had 46 rushing yards in the first half, used his legs to avoid a sack and scrambled for 16 yards and a first down on a third-and-10 play from midfield. He then connected with freshman RB Kee-ayre Griffin for a 12-yard reception to the Akron 22. The drive stalled on the 14 yard-line when freshman Chester Stewart fumbled an exchange on a third-and-two. Brownell missed left again on a 34-yard field goal attempt with 33 seconds to play, keeping the score 6-0 at intermission.
After holding an opponent scoreless in the first half for the fifth time this season, the Owls defense was put to the test in the third quarter.
The Zips' three third quarter drives started in Owl territory.
First, on Temple's opening possession, DiMichele fumbled on a rush and Akron's Joe Rash recovered at the Owl 43-yard line. Sophomore CB Jamal .Schulters first saved a touchdown, breaking up a pass at the goal line on a third and seven play. Then junior LB Brian Sanford
blocked a 32-yard field goal attempt by Igor Iveljic.
Following a three-and-out possession, Gary Pride returned Jeff Wathne's punt 15 yards to the Temple 47. Senior RB Dennis Kennedy caught a first down pass from Chris Jacquemain and then carried 11 yards on the next two plays for another first down.
Temples defense then clamped down, setting up another Iveljic attempt. This time his 41-yarder was wide left.
The Zips however got the ball right back courtesy of a Miguel Graham interception of a DiMichele pass at the Owl 37-yard line.
On the first play, Schulters appeared to have picked off Akron QB Chris Jacquemain, but the play was overturned following an Akron challenge. Kennedy carried five times around a Deryn Bowser a 13-yard reception, but again the Owl defense bent, but did not break, stopping the Zips on the eight. Iveljic converted the 24-yard field goal to make it 6-3.
DiMichele led the Owls down the field on the ensuing drive, hitting junior WR Jason Harper on a 15-yard first down reception and then Griffin on a nice screen for 23 yards to the Akron 41.
DiMichele then connected with Dy'Onne Crudup with the junior wide receiver breaking a tackle on the play to pick up 29 yards to the Zip 12.
The drive stalled, setting up a fourth-and-two at the four yard-line. Owl coach Al Golden decided to go for it, sending in his power rushing formation, but senior fullback Marcellous Grigsby was stopped at the line of scrimmage.
Kennedy, who rushed for 146 yards, broke a 72-yarder off left tackle on the first play. Senior CB Evan Cooper, Jr. pulled him down from behind at the Temple 23-yard line. The Owls appeared to halt the drive as a third-and-three pass went awry, but a defensive holding call gave Akron a first-and-goal at the eight. Again howver Temples defense held tight, forcing a tying field goal, this time from 18-yards by Iveljic.
DiMichele then hit Harper, who had a game-high 115 receiving yards, in stride for a 50-yard pass play to the Akron four-yard line. DiMichele then carried it in on the next play for his first two rushing touchdown game of his career.
Temple freshman DB Kevin Kroboth, making his first collegiate start, intercepted Jacquemain on the next possession, and returned it 56 yards to the Akron 18-yard line. Grigsby then carried the ball four times, the last a three-yard touchdown, the first of his career, to give Temple a two-touchdown lead.
Schulters then recorded the third interception of his career on the first play of the following Zip drive, returning it to the Akron 28-yard line. It was all Grigsby again, carrying the ball three times before the drive stalled and place-kicker. Brownell came on for a 38-yard field goal. Almondo Sewell blocked it, but the Zips fumbled the ball and Derrick Dennis recovered for Temple at the nine-yard line. Grigsby ran it in on the next play, making it 27-6.
Owls wide receiver Bruce Francis extended his school-record streak to 38 games with at least on reception while center Alex Derenthal extended his school-record streak for starts at center to 46.
Courtesy Temple Athletic Communications