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Coaching Change Doesn’t Slow Down Toledo Against Temple

Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire

Toledo was the team that dealt with the unknown of a coaching change.

Temple was the school enjoying the stability of signing its coach to extension.

So guess which team picked up its play where its regular season left off while taking part in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl?

That would be Toledo.

The Rockets upset No. 24-ranked Temple 32-17 Tuesday night at FAU Stadium, the 30,00-seat facility that is home to Florida Atlantic University.

Toledo dealt swiftly with its coaching change by promoting offensive coordinator Jason Candle to head coach. Candle, saying he didn’t want to disrupt his team’s routine, coached the game from the press box and called plays. He replaced Matt Campbell, who left for a job at Iowa State, a Big 12 school that should be known as a place where successful coaching careers at second-tier schools go to die.

Toledo’s players rewarded Rockets’ athletic director Mike O’Brien for his decision to promote the popular Candle without conducting a national coaching search with their effort. Toledo out-gained Temple 435 total yards to 335.

Toledo’s 10-2 season is its first 10-victory year since 2001.

Temple, the AAC East champions that lost the conference title to AAC West champion Houston, finished the year with a 10-4 record.

Toledo quarterback Phillip Ely enjoyed a homecoming night in his home state after a roundabout path took him first to Alabama and then to the Mid-American Conference school in Ohio. Ely completed 20 of 28 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Boca Raton is on the opposite Florida coast from Ely’s hometown of Tampa, but that’s not nearly as far as Ely traveled to find the right school.

He signed with Alabama as a high school All-American prospect out of Tampa’s Plant High. He only stayed at Alabama two years, one as a redshirt, before he left for Toledo. After sitting out 2013 as a transfer, he missed most of 2014 with knee injury.

But the roundabout path paid off in 2015, a season that included Toledo earning Top 25 rankings and winning at Arkansas. The Rockets had four votes among others in the AP poll but not votes in the USA Today poll.

Unfortunately for Candle and the Rockets, though, they’ll have to break in a new quarterback with Ely’s graduation.

In addition to Ely, Toledo’s Kareem Hunt rushed 16 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns, and Cody Thompson caught four balls for 119 yards and one TD.

Temple lost the game, but looking ahead to the 2016 season, the Owls find themselves in a rare position.

Usually, being a fourth-year coach at Temple translates to being a coach on the hot seat. But Matt Rhule will enter his fourth season next year having enjoyed enough success to earn a contract extension through 2021. He’s paid $1.5 million a year and sees enough promise and commitment from the school to remain at the urban Philadelphia campus.

(Photograph by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

(Photograph by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

Rhule is a Penn State grad, but he has established rare roots at Temple. He was an Owls assistant from 2006 to 2011 before he left for a year to coach with the New York Giants in 2012.

He returned as head coach in 2013.

Temple was 2-10 in 2013 and 6-6 in 2014 before the breakthrough 2015 season that began with a resounding 27-10 victory over Penn State.

Rhule will have another year to work with junior quarterback P.J. Walker, who had an off-night.

Walker finished 23 of 42 for 236 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He was the team’s leading rusher with 10 carries for 30 yards. Brandon Shippen caught four balls for 70 yards.

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