Temple running back Jager Gardner (21) picks up yardage against South Florida on Thursday in Tampa, Florida. — AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Temple running back Jager Gardner (21) picks up yardage against South Florida on Thursday in Tampa, Florida. — AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

For a record 6th year in a row, and 9th time in 11 seasons, Temple University’s football program is bowl eligible. The Owls hit the mark Thursday night by defeating the University of South Florida 17-7 in an American Athletic Conference game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Senior linebacker Sam Franklin scooped up a fumble and returned it 39 yards for Temple’s second touchdown. Redshirt-sophomore cornerback Christian Braswell punched the ball out of the grasp of redshirt-freshman wide receiver Terrence Horne and Franklin grabbed it and raced down the left sideline for a 14-0 lead in the third quarter.

Redshirt-senior running back Jager Gardner rushed for a career-high 133 yards on 25 carries, including a 57-yarder, while Redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Jadan Blue caught 11 passes for 121 yards for the Owls. It was Blue’s best performance since Temple’s win against the University of Maryland on Sept. 14. Blue finished with 132 yards and a touchdown against the Terrapins.

The defenses dominated the game for both teams. The two teams combined for only 24 points.

Temple’s defense sacked Bulls redshirt-freshman quarterback Jordan McCloud nine times. Redshirt-junior defensive end Quincy Roche led the Owls with 3.5 sacks.

Kenny Yeboah took a 1-yard pass from Todd Centeio with 1½ minutes left in the first half to complete a nine-play, 80-yard drive for the Owls (6-3, 3-2), who snapped a tie for third place with USF (4-5, 2-3) in the American Athletic Conference’s East Division.

Jordan McCloud threw a 14-yard TD pass to Bryce Miller late in the third quarter for theaBulls’ lone score before Owls kicker Will Mobley booted a career-tying 44-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.

McCloud finished with 225 yards and one touchdown pass, but many of his completions were short gains.

McCloud’s longest completion came in the third quarter. It was on a jet sweep to freshman wide receiver Xavier Weaver, who gained 40 yards on the play. Three plays later, McCloud completed it to senior tight end Mitchell Wilcox for 25 yards. On the next play, McCloud found Miller on a 14-yard touchdown pass. This was South Florida’s only scoring play of the game.

Temple’s offense was a little more efficient, finishing with 320 total yards to South Florida’s 286.

The Owls utilized two quarterbacks for the fifth consecutive game. Redshirt-junior quarterback Anthony Russo completed 15 of 21 passes and finished with 164 passing yards and one interception.

Gardner earned much of the reps at running back in place of freshman running back Re’Mahn Davis, who was out with an injury. Gardner finished with 133 yards. Redshirt-junior running back Tayvon Ruley earned a season-high 29 rushing yards against the Bulls.

The Owls will host Tulane (6-3, 3-2 The AAC) next Saturday at 12 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field

The Associated Press

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