PHILADELPHIA — After two games in which its defense leaked considerably, Temple reverted to its old form against one of the most explosive offenses in the nation.
And it came in the nick of time, since the Owls needed to win to realistically keep their conference championship hopes alive.
Limiting a team that was averaging 43.7 points to four field goals, Temple defeated Memphis 31-12 in Saturday's must-win American Athletic Conference game before 31,708 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Had Memphis won, USF — which owns the tiebreaker over Temple after defeating the Owls on Nov. 14 — would have gained control of the East Division race, needing only a win over 0-11 UCF on Thanksgiving night to earn a spot in the inaugural ACC championship game.
Instead, Temple can clinch the East with a win next Saturday at the Linc against Connecticut in its regular-season finale.
After seeing its opposition score 84 points the previous two games, Temple's defensive players were criticized for freelancing by coach Matt Rhule.
"When we are on the same page, and the defense is rolling the way it was today, we are hard to beat," said Owls linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who had 11 tackles, giving him 107 for the season.
Matakevich became the first Temple player to amass 100 or more tackles all four years and only the seventh in Division I-A history. And junior P.J. Walker passed for two touchdowns, giving him 50 to break the school's career mark of 49 by Henry Burris.
UConn 20, No. 13 Houston 17: The Huskies handed the Cougars their first loss of the season and became bowl eligible for the first time in five years.
Pretty good day for Noel Thomas and company.
Thomas caught two touchdowns, including a 45-yarder on a trick play in the fourth quarter, as the host Huskies pulled off the upset.
Houston, which came in averaging 43.5 points and 521 yards, was held to 318 yards. Kyle Postma, playing in place of injured Heisman hopeful Greg Ward, threw for 190 yards and a touchdown.
Ward, who rolled his left ankle a week ago against Memphis, came in after Postma was injured during Houston's final drive but was intercepted by cornerback Jamar Summers with 55 seconds left.
Connecticut then ran out the clock, and its fans stormed the field.
"That's a moment I'll probably never forget in my life," senior safety Andrew Adams said.
Houston hosts Navy next Saturday for the conference's Western Division title and a spot in the Dec. 5 AAC championship game.
"It's a real hard pill to swallow," Houston linebacker Steven Taylor said. "But we have other things to focus on."
Brandon Wilson returning a kickoff 94 yards to bring Houston within 20-17. But Postma, who engineered Houston's come-from-behind win over Memphis last week, could not repeat the feat against UConn. The Cougars' next drive ended when his fourth-down pass to a diving Demarcus Ayers was ruled out of bounds on a replay.
No. 19 Navy 44, Tulsa 21: Quarterback Keenan Reynolds ran for 81 yards and a touchdown while directing an offense that rolled up 512 yards on the ground for the visiting Midshipmen.
Reynolds, who also threw for a touchdown, became Navy's all-time leading rusher with 4,195 yards, breaking Napoleon McCallum's record of 4,179 yards. His 82 career touchdowns remain one behind the career NCAA record of 83 set by former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball.
Navy plays Friday at Houston for the AAC West Division title and a spot in the league title game.
Tulsa has a final chance to become bowl eligible Friday at Tulane.