Temple 27, Navy 24

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Temple is bowl eligible.


Yes, Temple, a program that has practically defined losing football over most of the last three decades has won six straight, enough victories to earn a bowl bid for the first time since 1979.

Bernard Pierce rushed for 267 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown with 2:41 left, and James Nixon returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score Saturday as Temple beat Navy 27-24.

The Owls (6-2) have their longest winning streak since 1974. The last time Temple went to a bowl game was the 1979 Garden State Bowl.

"This is probably our best win all season. They beat us three years in a row and last year (a 33-27 overtime Navy win) was such a heartbreaker," Temple nose tackle Andre Neblett said. "Now we are getting used to winning and it's a good feeling. We have a lot more games left, we want to get as much as we can out of this year."

Pierce, a freshman, carried the ball 29 times and became the first Temple player since Paul Palmer in 1986 to rush for more than 200 yards in consecutive games.

"He's amazing and he's just a freshman. I never expected him to do this well, this fast," Neblett said.

Navy (6-3) had a five-game winning streak snapped and, because it plays a 13-game schedule, still must win again to become bowl eligible. The Mids last won six in a row in 1979.

The Owls led 14-10 at halftime after Pierce's 68-yard run and Nixon's school-record 100-yard return.

But Navy took a 24-17 lead after Kriss Proctor scored on the first play of the final period.

The Owls scored the game's last 10 points.

After a 21-yard field goal by Brandon McManus closed the Owls to 24-20, they traveled 59 yards on four plays with Pierce's 41-yarder putting them ahead.

"There was a lot of confidence (on the sideline)," said Pierce. "We knew we were going to drive the ball down the field again."

Last week, Pierce gained 212 yards in a 40-24 win over Toledo. Pierce has gained 1,033 yards this season and is the first Temple back to gain 1,000 yards rushing since 2002. He has rushed for 100 yards in five of his last six games.

"He ran hard, made people miss. I think he showed that when you give him a chance to build up speed, he is pretty hard to bring down," Temple coach Al Golden said. "He's 212 pounds and he's fast ...He is either going to make you miss, stiff-arm you or run you over."

Nixon's kickoff return came at a crucial time for the Owls as Navy had taken a 10-7 on a 3-yard punt return by David Wright when Owls punter Jeff Wathne bobbled a snap and punted quickly from his own end zone. The kick reached the 10 and Wright picked the ball up at the 3 after it bounced off a teammate.

Temple was the first team this season to hold Navy without a offensive touchdown in the first half.

The 274 yards rushing by the Owls were the most against Navy since Notre Dame rushed for 280 yards in 2003.

"Pierce was a big running back. He's strong. He broke a lot of tackles and had good vision," said Navy rover back Wyatt Middleton, who had two interceptions.

All three of Navy's touchdowns came following a Temple miscue, the shanked punt, a fumble and an interception.

Navy rushed for 227 yards with Vince Murray getting 115 yards on 33 carries, the third straight game he's topped 100 yards.

Proctor, filling in at quarterback for the injured Ricky Dobbs, had 52 yards rushing and 31 yards passing, but was intercepted in the end zone on a badly underthrown pass.

Dobbs played the Mids' final series but couldn't pull of a rally.

Navy converted 7 of 17 third downs and 1 of 3 fourth downs.

"We didn't execute," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "Give Temple credit. A lot of that was all the third and twos we couldn't convert. We have been converting those in the past. Today we didn't. Normally we are very good on third and fourth down, but they beat out guys up front."