The football season completely changed for Temple University running back David Hood on Nov. 10.

Hood, a 2013 Absegami High School graduate, went into Temple’s contest with Cincinnati with just 289 yards rushing in nine games, and was treated more like a third option at best in the ground game for the Owls.

Then he rushed for a career-high 108 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown, helping lead Temple to a 35-24 win over the Bearcats. Since then, he’s been more a first-thought rather than an afterthought.

“I felt like I was playing like myself,” said Hood, 21, a redshirt junior, by phone last week. “I was feeling that game. It felt like I was in the game. It felt like the game was slowing down and I was dominating.”

Temple will rely on Hood as one of its two feature backs in the 2017 Bad Boys Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Thursday. The Owls will face Florida International, and it will be televised on ESPN at 8 p.m.

Hood, who now lives in Atlantic City, is the team’s leading rusher with 562 yards on 116 carries, an average of 4.8 yards per carry and four touchdowns. He is also fifth on the team in receptions with 25 and has 172 receiving yards and a touchdown.

“I try to embrace that I can contribute and play at 100 percent every chance I get,” the 5-foot-9, 190-pound back said. “I won’t leave anything on the field. It definitely feels special.”

The win against Cincinnati started the current three-game run that Hood has been on, which are some of the best games of his career.

He totaled 273 rushing yards on 49 carries with two touchdowns in wins against Cincinnati and Tulsa, and a loss to Central Florida. That was nearly double his first six games.

“I think it’s his competitive spirit,” Temple running backs coach Tony Lucas said about Hood’s strengths as a running back. “He’s a fighter. It’s a challenge to him to be the best guy, not necessarily in our room but on the field. His quickness and elusiveness are assets. It kind of helps him. He’s also tough enough to get you some tough yards when you need them.”

Hood will go into Thursday’s matchup likely sharing the workload with 2014 Millville graduate Ryquell Armstead, who has 553 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Hood and Armstead have given Temple some versatility on offense, and it’s showed the last four games in which Temple has gone 3-1 to earn a bowl game.

“(Hood is) another elite athlete and he’s a good change of pace,” Lucas said. “Ryquell is more of an inside, downhill runner where David gives us some things to keep (opposing teams) off balance.

“It’s one of those things where (Hood) has very good hands with our offense and we can use him in a variety of ways. So it’s definitely a strategy to get him in space one-on-one.”

Hood started the year with a concussion, which limited his preseason reps and in games in the early part of the season. It was especially disappointing because Lucas had plans for Hood to factor heavily into the running game.

Through eight games, Temple was 3-5 and coming off a disappointing 31-28 overtime loss to Army. That was where Hood felt the season turned around, not just for him, but for the team.

The next week, Nov. 2, Temple hosted Navy, which was in and out of the Top 25 during the season. The Owls won that game 34-26, turning their season completely around.

“We turned it around from there and started to execute and started to win more,” Hood said.

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Contact: 609-272-7210

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I graduated from Rowan University in 2011 where I studied journalism. I covered local high school and college sports at the South Jersey Times and Vineland Daily Journal. I have been a sports reporter with The Press since July of 2013

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