DALLAS – After a 40-yard touchdown run, his fourth touchdown of the game, a group of offensive linemen and quarterback Chase Daniel carried Tony Temple off the field. The gesture had more to do with resting Temple’s tweaked hamstring than with any grandiose display.
But after 281 yards and four touchdowns — both Cotton Bowl single-game records — no one would have blamed them for a display either.
“That’s the definition of our family,” Temple said. “Our team is a family atmosphere out there. They don’t want our guys to go down. Like my offensive line, they’ve been supporting me and helping me this whole year.”
Having already racked up 241 rushing yards on 23 carries, Temple contemplated calling it a game after tweaking his hamstring earlier in the game. According to MU head coach Gary Pinkel, the team athletic trainer Rex Sharp told Pinkel that he thought Temple could play.
And, as Pinkel recalls, when he told Temple that he was 25 yards from breaking the record, he returned to the game with a warning.
“He told me not to go out there doing anything dumb and trying to be Superman,” Temple said.
What followed was the last, somewhat heroic, touchdown run. Highlights included Temple spinning off of a hapless Razorback defender to break free and diving into the endzone to cap off his 24th, and final, carry of the game.
The Razorbacks used a dollar package of three down linemen, one linebacker and seven defensive backs to answer the problems the Tiger passing attack could present.
Temple created more problems with his long runs: Temple had five rushes of 22 yards or more and picked his way through Arkansas defense.
“He was running on air out there,” interim Arkansas head coach Reggie Herring said.
With all the to-do made about the gaudy numbers of Arkansas running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, Temple became something of a forgotten man in the days leading up to the game. With the Tigers’ pass happy offense, Temple’s role in the offense was overlooked.
This season, Daniel has often referred to Temple as the offense’s catalyst. But on this day, he carried them, being named the game’s most outstanding offensive player.
“Well, he obviously did an outstanding job,” Daniel said. “I mean, everyone was talking about Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Peyton Hillis. No disrespect to those guys but I wouldn’t trade my back for anything.”
Tiger faithful didn’t forget him. Fans in the southwest corner of the endzone chanted “Tony! Tony!” as he stood front and center for the presentation of the Cotton Bowl trophy and cannon’s of confetti shot and showered Temple and his teammates.
The 2007 calendar year has been one of ebb and flow for Temple. He lost his grandmother in November and honored her memory by running for 141 yards and a touchdown against Texas A&M before hopping on a charter plane to Kansas City to attend her funeral that same day.
And then there have been the questions of Temple’s future. Having played in his last game as an eligible scholar-athlete, Temple will now apply for an extra year of eligibility after having his freshman season cut short due to injury just a few plays after it began.
If he were granted a fifth year, he would have the chance to play with his younger brother Drew, a Tiger commit. But that is all out of the Tony Temple’s hands — all he can do is savor what he has now.
“I’m just trying to enjoy this day,” Temple said. “It was a great day for my team; it was a great day for my family. I want to enjoy this first, but everything else will come.”