By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Temple Owls are one step away from an appearance in the American Athletic Conference Championship game.
The Owls are 9-2 (6-1 in the AAC) after hammering Memphis this past weekend at the Linc, 31-12. So that means if the Owls beat UConn on Saturday night in their regular season finale (or if South Florida loses to winless Central Florida) they will clinch the AAC's East Division and earn a berth in the conference title game.
The win against Memphis this past weekend was impressive. The Owls held an offense that had been averaging 43.7 points per game to just four field goals while Temple rolled up 461 yards of total offense.
"It was a great day," Temple had coach Matt Rhule tells KYW Newsradio. "We were able to run for 200 yards, I thought our passing game led by quarterback P.J. Walker was outstanding. Then defensively, it was just a tremendous effort, holding them without a touchdown for the first time all year. It really took everybody. I'm really proud of all of our players, played a lot of guys, they went out, they did a great job and came away with a win versus a ranked opponent."
Listen to the entire interview with Temple's Matt Rhule:
The defensive performance was a welcomed sight after back-to-back performances against SMU (60-40 win) and South Florida (44-23 loss) that saw the Owls really struggle on that side of the ball.
"We didn't change a thing," Rhule says. "We do the same thing all the time. Just tried to get our guys to go back, trust themselves, trust what we do, trust the system, trust their technique. Sometimes as the year goes on and you get to the end of the year, you start to not do that. But we were able to take a breath and go out and play great team defense. I thought every position, everybody that played for us, did that at a high level."
On Saturday night the Owls will host a UConn team that is 6-5 but surging down the stretch. The Huskies have won three straight and this past weekend they earned their most impressive victory of the campaign, beating previously undefeated Houston, 20-17.
"They are a tough, physical, hard-nosed team," Rhule says. "They play great defense. They hold everyone that they play in check. So they'll be a real challenge for our offense."
That defense has been exceptional during this current winning streak. The Huskies have allowed a total of just 33 points in their last three-games.
"Coach (Bob) Diaco, their head coach, he's really one of the best 3-4 defensive coaches in the country," Rhule says. "He was the defensive coordinator at Notre Dame (prior to taking over at UConn). They are just big, strong, physical, they have a great secondary. They're going to play the 3-4, keep everything in front of them, not take chances, make you execute and by doing that they eventually wear people down. So we have to try and make big plays when we can get them and avoid the costly mistake."
Last season these two teams met up in Storrs, with the Owls rolling to a 36-10 win.
Saturday's game will kickoff at 7:00pm.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.
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