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Walker, defense spur Temple to 36-10 victory over UConn in Owls' AAC opener

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EAST HARTFORD, Connecticut — P.J. Walker threw for 231 yards and a touchdown, ran for another and Temple's opportunistic defense scored two touchdowns and added a safety as the Owls won their American Athletic Conference opener with a 36-10 win over Connecticut on Saturday.

The Owls (3-1, 1-0) benefited from a 93-yard interception return for a score on the opening drive of the game as Tavon Young picked off the Huskies' Chandler Whitmer.

The Owls added an 11-yard fumble return for a score by Praise Martin-Oguike in the third quarter off a sack of Whitmer to take control. Temple's Tyler Matakevich also tackled Whitmer in the end zone for a safety in the third quarter as a 7-3 halftime lead became a 30-10 advantage at the end of the quarter.

Temple came into the game leading the nation in turnover margin (2.67 per game) and has scored a defensive touchdown in every game. The defense accounted for 16 points on Saturday. Temple has 17 takeaways this season after forcing three on Saturday.

"Give our defense credit," Temple coach Matt Rhule said. "In all three wins this year, our defense has outscored the opponents' offense."

The UConn offense has committed critical turnovers early in every game this season and Saturday was no different. UConn has now given up four defensive touchdowns this year and has had a turnover on the opening drive in four of five games. All of those turnovers have led to touchdowns.

PHOTO: Temple wide receiver John Christopher (7) stiff-arms Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones (16) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in East Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Temple wide receiver John Christopher (7) stiff-arms Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones (16) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in East Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

"We've got to eliminate game-changing turnovers," UConn head coach Bob Diaco said. "Sixteen uncontested points. Impossible to win, a pick-6, fumble recovery for a touchdown and safety."

The game fell apart in the third quarter for the Huskies.

The Huskies (1-4, 0-2) seemingly had a touchdown out of halftime when Wilbert Lee recovered a muffed kickoff in the end zone, but an offsides on the kickoff by Vontae Diggs negated the play. Temple responded with Walker ultimately finding Jalen Fitzpatrick, who finished with 108 yards receiving, for a 42-yard pass play and a 14-3 lead.

Temple scored 21 points in the first 4:54 of the third quarter. Walker added a 1-yard touchdown run and then Temple's Sean Chandler sacked Whitmer with Martin-Oguike scooping up a fumble and returning it for a 28-3 lead.

Temple struggled in the first half. The Owls managed only 31 total yards in the first half on 21 plays and had one first down. The Huskies couldn't capitalize. UConn's Bobby Puyol hit a 30-yard field goal in the final moments of the first half to trim the lead to 7-3 going into the half.

Arkeel Newsome had a 74-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter for the Huskies.

Whitmer passed for 163 yards for UConn. Geremy Davis led the Huskies in receiving with 80 yards on eight catches.

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Connecticut linebacker Graham Stewart (2) sacks Temple quarterback P.J. Walker (11) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game in East Hartford, Conn., Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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