McManus' late field goal kicks Owls past RedHawks

PHILADELPHIA -- Temple keeps finding ways to win.

Long the poster program for football futility, the Owls are on their longest winning streak in 36 years and talking about a bowl game.

Take notice, Philly. There's another football team in town that has a conference championship in sight.

Bernard Pierce ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns, and Brandon McManus kicked an 18-yard field goal with 3 seconds left to give Temple a 34-32 victory over Miami of Ohio on Thursday night.

"Three years ago, our team couldn't win these games, and if they did it was an anomaly," coach Al Golden said. "Now the team has some toughness, some mental toughness and character."

The Owls (7-2, 5-0 Mid-American) won their seventh straight game and are on their longest winning streak since they won the final eight games of the 1973 season.

Temple blew leads of 21-3 and 31-13 against the RedHawks (1-9, 1-5). McManus bailed out the Owls with their biggest kick of the season.

The Owls were already bowl eligible and they now have the MAC title game in sight. To put the winning streak in perspective, the Owls won seven games total from 2002-05.

The Owls opened the 1974 season with six straight victories and finished the 1970s with three straight bowl games. Temple then sunk into three decades of a deep football funk that made it one of the worst programs around.

No more.

The Owls showed some grit on the final drive after blowing the huge leads.

Zack Dysert threw for 426 yards and three touchdown passes for the RedHawks (1-9, 1-5). Dysert tossed TD passes of 25 and 14 yards in the fourth quarter to slice the deficit to five at 31-26.

Dysert rushed for the first down on a crucial fourth-and-1 at Temple's 2 on the final drive. Thomas Merriweather capped the comeback with the short TD run to make it 32-31. The 2-point conversion failed.

Golden, a former Penn State captain, needed only four seasons to turn a demoralized program into conference contenders. Once an automatic "W" on any team's schedule, the Owls are on track for their first bowl game since 1979.

The Owls haven't had a winning record since they went 7-4 in 1990.

Temple received one point this week in The Associated Press Top 25 college football poll for the first time since Dec. 2, 1990, the final regular-season poll.

"We're in the hunt, but we've got a lot of football left," Golden said.

Temple's sob story -- kicked out of the Big East, winless seasons -- has been recounted countless times.

Pierce is among the Owls trying to write a new story in Temple's history. He already set a Temple record for yards rushing (1,211) and touchdowns by a freshman. He now has six 100-yard rushing games this season.

Pierce had TD runs of 1 and 7 yards in the first half, then capped a 15-carry third quarter with a 14-yard score that made it 31-13.

His 14 rushing touchdowns put Pierce one shy of the single-season rushing record held by Paul Palmer (1986) and Walter Washington (2004).

"I expected to do good, but I didn't think I was going to do as good," Pierce said. "I didn't know I was going to have a good line like I did. That always helps, having a 300-pound line straight across ahead of you."

Golden benched starting quarterback Vaughn Charlton for Chester Stewart. Charlton started every game, but had only completed 51 percent of his passes and threw seven interceptions.

Charlton still made an impact, scoring on a fake field goal on fourth-and-1 late in the first quarter for a 14-3 lead.

With Pierce carrying the load, Stewart wasn't asked to do much and threw for 143 yards.

"We don't need a guy who throws for 300 yards when we're rushing for a whole bunch," Golden said.

Golden has done a masterful job with the rebuilding project on the field. He has miles to go to spark massive interest in a city that has never fallen in love with college football. Perhaps suffering from a World Series hangover with the Phillies loss to the New York Yankees, only a few thousand fans showed up on a brisk night perfect for football.

The RedHawks snapped a 13-game losing streak last week with a win over Toledo.

"There are always other opportunities to take in the game and we need to make sure that we take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to us," RedHawks coach Michael Haywood said.