Pierce, Temple run over Wyoming 37-15 in NM Bowl
By RUSSELL CONTRERAS
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) Wyoming coach Dave Christensen knew Temple's game plan in the New Mexico Bowl would be to play smash-mouth football.
It was just something the Wyoming couldn't do much about as the Owls came away with a 37-15 victory Saturday.
"It was disappointing," Christensen said. "We knew they were going to run the football, which they did. We missed some tackles. . They just played physically played better than us. My hat's off to them. They're a good running football team. They're a good football team. They were the better team today."
Temple (9-4) ran up 424 yards of total offense, with 255 of that coming on the ground. Bernard Pierce had 100 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, while quarterback Chris Coyer had 240 total yards and one touchdown pass.
That physicality extended to the other side of the ball as well, with Temple limiting the Cowboys (8-5) to 267 total yards as freshman quarterback Brett Smith scuffled to find open receivers or open running lanes.
"He had some struggles today, without a doubt," Christensen said about Smith. "Certainly not from a lack of wanting to get it done. Obviously, when he has struggles generally other people are struggling with protection or getting open in a route."
The Owls had three interceptions - tying a New Mexico Bowl record - en route to the second bowl victory in school history. The first interception came at the start of the second quarter when Temple's Kee-arye Griffin picked off Smith, which set up Matt Brown's 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Owls a 21-0 lead.
The last one came late in the game to Temple's Kevin Kroboth resulting in a field goal.
"Our starting point is playing great defense," first-year Temple coach Steve Addazio said. "That's what our program's built around. We lead a lot of statistical categories in the country, and we have a lot of pride in playing great defense."
The New Mexico Bowl was Temple's second bowl game in three years, but that 2009 game - a 30-21 loss to UCLA in the EagleBank Bowl in Washington - was the Owls' first bowl in 30 years. The Mid-American Conference East runner-up did not get a bowl invite last year despite going 8-4.
Sophomore Coyer, who also rushed for 71 yards, was selected the game's offensive MVP.
That rushing attack, coupled with effective passing, was too much for the Cowboys.
"Watching them on film, they'd lull a lot of teams to sleep with their run and put it in the air," linebacker Brian Hendricks said. "That's why they're so good, why they just turned 9-4. They made those kinds of plays."
Meanwhile, Smith was held to just 127 yards by a greedy Owls defensive line that preventing the Cowboys from getting anything started.
The loss dropped the Cowboys to 6-7 in bowl games. It was a disappointing effort by Wyoming after the Cowboys won the 2009 New Mexico Bowl in double overtime, beating Fresno State 35-28.
"They definitely had a great defense," said receiver Mazi Ogbonna, who was held without a catch. "Like we expected them to be; extremely tough on that side of the ball. They just executed more plays than we did."
Wyoming's defense has had a bend, don't break attitude this season and a knack for coming up with a key turnover when it was needed. The Cowboys' turnover margin of plus-1.25 was fourth best in the country.
But Wyoming came up empty in the takeaway department, failing to offset Smith's three interceptions.
"We were trying, but they were holding onto the ball tight and that quarterback made some great decisions," Hendricks said. "Going back to that quarterback, he was a great athlete today and made the plays. Sometimes you can get the ball to pop out and today we couldn't do that."
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Updated December 17, 2011