- Associated Press - Saturday, December 5, 2015

HOUSTON (AP) - Temple still has plenty to look forward to despite falling to Houston 24-13 in the inaugural American Athletic Conference championship game on Saturday.

The Owls are heading to a bowl game for the first time since 2011 after wrapping up a 10-3 season.

“This isn’t deflating,” Temple coach Matt Rhule said. “This is one of the most positive days in Temple football history. I wish we would have won, but we got down, and our kids fought back. Disappointed, yes, but we are going to play in a bowl game.”

Greg Ward, Jr. ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns as No. 17 Houston came through with the victory over 20th-ranked Temple.

It makes Houston the Group of Five representative, earning the Cougars a trip to either the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.

Houston (12-1) jumped to a 17-0 lead with the help of two turnovers by Temple, one capped by a 47-yard touchdown run by Ward.

Temple had a chance to get within a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but Jeremy Winchester knocked down a pass in the end zone and the Owls settled for a field goal that made it 24-13.

They had two more chances to cut the deficit after that, but were stopped on fourth down both times.

Temple’s star senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich is proud of the turnaround the program has made in just two seasons.

“You have to sit down and look at how far we have come,” he said. “To go from 2-10 to 6-6 and get to the conference championship, it is an unbelievable experience. It is an unbelievable ride. I just hope the young guys take this to heart to see what they have to do to get over the hump and win the championship.”

P.J. Walker threw for 287 yards with a touchdown and interception and Robby Anderson had a season-high 150 yards receiving for the Owls.

“It’s not going to be hard to get ready for the bowl game,” Anderson said. “This is a hurtful loss, but we have a lot of accomplishments. We are the first team to make it to the championship.”

Ward’s day gave him 1,041 yards rushing this season, making him the first quarterback in school history to rush for 1,000 yards. It was his fourth 100-yard rushing game and the sixth time he’s run for two scores.

He was 11 of 21 for 88 yards passing.

Ward’s second touchdown came on a 10-yard run that made it 24-3 with less than seven minutes left in the third quarter. He was shaken up on the play after being drilled to the turf as he scored. Ward walked off after a couple of minutes and was attended to by medical staff on the sideline, but didn’t miss a play.

Walker connected with Anderson on a 13-yard touchdown pass that got Temple within 24-10 late in the third quarter.

A 39-yard field goal by Austin Jones made it 24-13 early in the fourth.

Ward evaded several defenders at the line and darted to the outside before dashing 47 yards for a touchdown that made it 17-0 with about 5 1/2 minutes left in the first half. The scramble was Houston’s longest rushing touchdown of the season.

The Owls cut the lead to 17-3 with a 40-yard field goal by Austin Jones about two minutes before halftime.

Tyus Bowser intercepted Walker on Temple’s first possession when he launched the ball under heavy pressure from Elandon Roberts.

Javin Webb’s 1-yard run on the ensuing possession gave Houston a 7-0 lead.

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AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org

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