WEST POINT, N.Y. – Bernard Pierce didn't make the trip to Michie Stadium with his Temple teammates. Matt Brown made sure the Owls' standout tailback wasn't missed.
Brown rushed for a career-high 226 yards on 28 carries and scored four times as Temple rallied past Army 42-35 on Saturday.
The 5-foot-5, 170-pound Brown, held in check for two quarters after a sparkling first that saw him rush for 108 yards on seven carries and score on runs of 3 and 42 yards, broke loose on touchdown runs of 11 and 20 yards in the fourth quarter for the decisive points.
"He did his job," Owls quarterback Chester Stewart said. "He's a great back. He's strong. A lot of people don't know he's strong, so they come at him with a different approach. He'll break those tackles. A lot of people don't know Matt is as good a back as he is because when you have somebody like Bernard in front of him, he doesn't get the opportunities Bernard does. Today, a lot of teams might find out how good he is."
Pierce, who was being touted by the school as a Heisman Trophy candidate, had 343 yards rushing on 66 carries and had scored five touchdowns but didn't travel with the team on Friday.
Temple (4-1) rebounded from a tough loss a week ago at Penn State, where the often-injured Pierce suffered a high right ankle sprain. Head coach Al Golden called Saturday's victory the most important one since he took over the program five years ago.
"That's the biggest win since I've been here, make no mistake," Golden said. "In that kind of environment, to stay together, to be down 15 and then reel off 29 straight — that's a big win."
Army (3-2) seemed to be in command. The Black Knights had scored following a fumble on the opening kickoff, put together their longest scoring drive of the season — an 18-play, 79-yard march that took nearly 10 minutes of the second quarter — and quarterback Trent Steelman scored his third touchdown of the game on a 3-yard run to cap the first drive of the second half and give Army a 28-13 lead midway through the period.
"We will go back and look at the tape, but it's there," said Steelman, who was masterful. He scored four times, threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Austin Barr, and did not commit a turnover.
"We have to be able to finish," Steelman said. "We haven't been a really good fourth-quarter team this year. That's not who we are."
Down but not out, the Owls regrouped and used some trickery to begin their comeback.
Wideout Joe Jones started the rally by taking a handoff, running right and passing to a wide-open Michael Campbell in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown. Vaughn Charlton caught a 2-point conversion pass from Stewart on a throwback across the field to move Temple within 28-21.
Soon after, with Temple facing a third-and-25 near midfield, Army's Antuan Aaron was called for pass interference against Campbell, giving the Owls a first down at the Army 32. Three plays later, Stewart hit a diving Campbell at the right pylon for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
"We needed a couple more plays," Army coach Rich Ellerson said. "That's a bowl team we're playing out there. We had them on their heels and we had an opportunity."
Brown repeatedly outran the Army defense inside and out. After Stewart hit Campbell for a 48-yard gain, Brown scored on an 11-yard run to give Temple a 35-28 lead with 6:46 left.
Brown added a 20-yard touchdown run with 4:20 to go, reversing his field and running straight up the gut of the Army defense.
Temple's rally spoiled a stellar day for Steelman.
Army scored first, taking advantage of a Temple fumble on the game's opening kickoff. After gaining 19 yards on a tricky option play, Steelman scored on a 2-yard run for a 7-0 lead.
Late in the second quater, after Army's Josh Jackson returned Jeff Wathne's punt to the Temple 31, Steelman quickly took advantage. He rolled left on first down and hit a wide-open Barr for a touchdown and a 21-13 Black Knights lead at halftime.