OXFORD, OHIO - The Miami RedHawks clinched at least a share of the Mid-American Conference East title with a 23-3 win over the visiting Temple Owls Tuesday evening at Yager Stadium in a nationally-televised (ESPN2) conference showdown. Miami posted its fourth straight win in improving to 8-4, 7-1 in league play, while the Owls dropped their second straight to fall to 8-4, 5-3.
Temple played the game without two of its top players, senior MLB Elijah "Peanut" Joseph and sophomore RB Bernard Pierce. Joseph is out for the season after suffering a knee injury in the Ohio loss last week, while Pierce is still out with a hamstring injury incurred in the same contest.
The Owls were not able to mount anything offensively, accumulating just 201 total yards while turning the ball over four times. Temple was only able to amass 55 yards ad four first downs after intermission as the Miami defense turned up its intensity in the second half.
The Cherry and White defense allowed 408 yards with 96 coming on a fourth quarter touchdown gallop by senior Thomas Merriweather to account for the final points in the contest with 9:08 remaining.
Besides Merriweather, who rushed for a career-high 182 yards on 22 carries, redshirt freshman QB Austin Boucher had a solid game in his second start in place of the injured Zac Dysert. Boucher completed 15 of 28 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Sophomore LB Evan Harris led the RedHawk defense with a team-high nine tackles while making two interceptions. Miami lived in the Temple backfield, compiling seven sacks with Will Diaz and Jason Semmes each recording two.
Redshirt sophomore QB Mike Gerardi, the recipient of those sacks, struggled all night. He completed 11 of 27 passes for 108 yards and two interceptions, by far the worst numbers since taking over as the team's starter. Sophomore RB Matt Brown accounted for 56 yards on 14 carries while junior WR Rod Streater had 76 total yards (43 receiving, 33 rushing).
Temple jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. On the Owls second drive, Streater picked up a first down on a 17 yard reverse before Gerardi connected with Michael Campbell on a 12-yard first down pass play. Gerardi then picked up a first down with an 11-yard run before hitting Ryan Alderman for 14 yards to the Miami 12. Miami then clamped down, holding Temple to a 23-yard Brandon McManus field goal.
Miami immediately answered as Boucher connected with classmate Nick Harwell on a 34-yard touchdown. Harwell caught the ball at the 20, then made a nifty cut back outside to paydirt. senior PK Trevor Cook, however, failed on the extra point, making the score 6-3 in the RedHawks' favor.
That would be all of the scoring until late in the second quarter. Harris picked off Gerardi at midfield and returned it to the Temple 31. Boucher then hit Armand Robinson on two successive pass, the second for an eight-yard TD to give MU a 13-3 lead with 1:39 remaining in the half.
Junior OLB Tahir Whitehead thwarted Miami's first drive of the second half with his first career interception, but the Owls ended up turning the ball over on downs wen their drive stalled deep in RedHawk territory.
Boucher then led Miami on a 14-play drive that ended on a Cook 21-yard field goal, making it 16-3 with 2:44 remaining in the third quarter.
Temple pinned Miami to its one-foot line on a 50-yard punt early in the fourth quarter. But, on a third and seven play, Merriweather broke through a stacked defensive front and ran 96 yards to break the game open.
The Owls, just two of 13 on third down conversions, did not gain another first down the remainder of the contest and Harris picked off Gerardi again to end any chance of a comeback.
Temple now will wait until December 5 to find out if it will be invited to its second straight bowl.