PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Temple's unlikely backfield tandem of Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown enjoy pushing each other to new heights on the field.
The 6-foot, 218-pound Pierce and the 5-5, 170-pound Brown played a personal game of one-upmanship Saturday, combining for 290 yards and five touchdowns in leading Temple to a 42-14 victory over Army before 25,516 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Temple kept its bowl hopes firmly alive by improving to 7-4 overall (4-3 MAC) with a modest two-game winning streak and Kent State left on its schedule. Army, meanwhile, lost its third straight and fifth out of six heading into its Dec. 10 game against Navy at Fed Ex Field.
Pierce led the Owls with 157 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, including a 49-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run in which he broke several tackles. Brown added 133 yards on just eight carries, including touchdown runs of 22 and 52 yards, averaging 16.6 yards a carry. As a team, Temple pounded Army on the ground, amassing 335 yards and five touchdowns rushing.
"We go back and forth all of the time," Brown said, in reference to Pierce. "I thought I was going to have more yards today then he broke that big run (in the fourth quarter) and I was like, `Coach, put me back in!' But it's good competition. It brings out the best in both of us."
Army snapped Temple's shutout bid when Max Jenkins, Army's third quarterback of the afternoon, scored on a 1-yard plunge with 2:59 remaining in the third quarter. Black Knights' freshman Larry Dixon added a score on a 15-yard run with 7:30 left in the fourth quarter.
Temple had the game locked up by halftime, scoring on their first two possessions and four of their first five drives to take a 28-0 lead into intermission. Temple outgained Army 269-103 in total yards for the half, averaging 8.1 yards a play.
The bulk of Temple's offense came on the ground, where the Owls established a school record for rushing touchdowns scored in a season, on Pierce's second touchdown with 4:30 left in the second quarter. It marked Temple's 30th rushing touchdown this year, eclipsing the 29 the Owls had in 2009. Temple upped that mark to 32 by game's end, when Brown and Pierce added fourth-quarter scores.
Temple wasted little time in taking 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The Owls took the opening kickoff 80 yards on six plays, concluding with Brown's nifty 22-yard touchdown run.
The Owls followed with a 15-play, 88-yard drive that resulted in Pierce's first score, an 11-yard run that he took to the outside and caught the end zone pylon. All 15 plays came on the ground, with Pierce doing the bulk of the work, carrying 10 times for 63 yards.
After one quarter, the Owls had blasted through the Army defense for 151 yards rushing, and 194 by halftime. Army's smallish defensive front (its largest defensive lineman is 260-pound junior tackle A.J. Mackey) entered the game giving up an average of 170.8 yards rushing per game.
"We are a bit undersized up front, with small defensive ends playing tackle, so we have to zip and zag to get penetration, but we also missed a lot of tackles," Army coach Rich Ellerson said. "Give some credit to that Temple offensive line. They clobbered us. Tackling is one of the challenges we have as a football player and we lost that one."
The Black Knights didn't cross midfield until the final minute of the half. It didn't help that Black Knights' starting quarterback, junior Trent Steelman, left the game after Army's second play. He was returning from a high left ankle injury after missing the previous three games, and departed with a right leg injury. Ellerson said Steelman may be able to return in time for Army's game against Navy in Landover, Md.
Temple, meanwhile, took advantage of two short Army punts to tack on two additional first-half scores. Working off a short field, Brown swerved his way through the Army defense for a 22-yard gain, setting up Pierce's school-record touchdown. Owls' quarterback Chris Coyer was 3 for 3 for 75 yards in the half, including a 36-yard scoring strike to Joe Jones that gave the Owls a 28-0 lead.
"We have a chance to go to a great bowl game, and we have a chance to do that," Temple coach Steve Addazio said. "We have a chance to win eight games, and play in a bowl game and win a ninth game, which is something that's only been done three times in the last 30 years. We have a really good football team, in the fourth largest market, so I'm sure there will be a spot for us."