PHILADELPHIA (AP) Temple players got tired of losing, and coach Matt Rhule made them believe they could win.
Jahad Thomas ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns and P.J. Walker threw for 160 yards and a score to help the No. 25 Owls beat UConn 27-3 on Saturday night and secure a spot in the American Athletic Conference's inaugural championship game.
''We had so many guys step up,'' Rhule said. ''I'm just really proud of our guys. Perseverance conquers.''
Romond Deloatch caught a touchdown for the Owls, who will play at No. 21 Houston for the American conference title on Saturday with a New Year's Six bowl bid possibly at stake for the winner.
Temple (10-2, 7-1, No. 25 CFP) reached 10 wins for just the second time in program history, capping a three-year turnaround under Rhule that now includes winning the American East Division. The Owls were 10-2 in 1979.
''It's big deal to us,'' Rhule said. ''I want to see us answer the call in big moments and we did that tonight. Just credit the character of the seniors. There are a lot of high-character guys.''
Temple was 8-16 in Rhule's first two seasons.
''We kept buying in, buying in,'' said senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who had 11 tackles. ''We didn't want to lose anymore. We just said, `No more. Enough is enough.' That's what's happening right now. This team is something special.
''It's such an amazing feeling. Give credit to all the seniors who stuck it out.''
UConn (6-6, 4-4), playing without starting quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, struggled offensively. The Huskies had just 138 yards of offense, including only nine rushing yards. It was the fourth time this season the Owls held an opponent under 200 total yards.
''It looked like a lot of open edges,'' UConn coach Bob Diaco said. ''We need to figure out a way to get those edges secure.''
UConn's backup QB combination of Tim Boyle and Garrett Anderson finished 13 for 21. Shirreffs suffered a head injury last week in the first quarter of UConn's 20-17 upset victory over previously unbeaten Houston.
Thomas, a junior, eclipsed 100 yards for the fifth time in his career with a 60-yard sprint to the end zone with 8:40 left in the game that gave Temple a 27-0 lead.
He got the Owls on the scoreboard just over seven minutes into the contest with a 9-yard TD scamper around the right side that capped a four-play, 49-yard drive. Earlier on the drive, Thomas had a highlight-reel, 16-yard run that featured a nifty spin move.
''Wow, we're going to a championship,'' Thomas said.
The Owls extended their lead to 10-0 on the first of two Austin Jones field goals, this one a 20-yarder with 6:23 left in the first half that capped an 11-play, 56-yard drive lasting 5:42.
Jones later connected from 37 yards with 6:21 left in the third quarter to make it 13-0.
A defensive holding penalty nullified Andrew Adams' interception late in the third quarter that would've given UConn the ball at the Owls' 30-yard line. And Temple took advantage.
Deloatch caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Walker with 41 seconds left in the quarter and the Owls went up 20-0. One play earlier, Deloatch hauled in an apparent touchdown on the opposite side of the field, only to have the play overturned after an officials review determined he didn't complete the catch before going out of bounds.
Bobby Puyol's 45-yard field goal with 5:51 remaining in the game accounted for UConn's only points.
Temple limited UConn to just 61 total yards of offense and three first downs in a dominating defensive first half.
The Huskies, who are bowl eligible for the first time since 2010, dropped to 3-24 against ranked teams since joining the FBS in 2000.
Rhule wouldn't address a report that he is scheduled to meet with Missouri on Sunday to discuss the Tigers' head coaching position.
''I won't talk about jobs,'' he said.