Head coaches — at least publicly — won’t complain about winning ugly when it comes to securing a victory in college football. If you gave some truth serum or a few adult beverages to Geoff Collins though, the first year head coach would have to admit that Thursday night’s game at Tropicana Field was about as ugly as it comes in the sport.
Not that it mattered in the end, as his Temple team (7-6) managed to mow down Florida International (8-5) for a 28-3 win in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.
The formula was a familiar one for the Owls: salty defense, a methodical offense and wait for a few big plays out of quarterback Frank Nutile. The signal-caller didn’t have the sharpest outing down in St. Petersburg, Fla. but was solid enough to lead his team to the win column by throwing for 254 yards and a touchdown without an interception. He scored the game’s first points as well on a keeper in the second quarter and setup the team’s second score on a big pass play down the field that tailback David Hood (76 yards rushing) eventually punched in for a touchdown.
Adonis Jennings (51 yards), Keith Kirkwood (96 yards) and Isaiah Wright (73 yards, one touchdown) were the big play threats in the passing game and balanced out things given how difficult it was to run the football. The offense did just enough to take advantage of a quality performance from the Temple defense, which recorded seven sacks, two fourth downs stops, and kept their opponent out of the end zone despite having one of the more productive units in the country coming in.
Most of those struggles for FIU can be traced back to their opening drive of the game when senior starting quarterback and Tampa native Alex McGough went down with what officials later said was a broken collarbone. That seemed to chuck the game plan right out the window for the Panthers, which never seemed to get any consistency on that side of the ball out of backup Maurice Alexander once he threw two early interceptions and was generally running around to avoid pressure on every drop back. Running backs Napoleon Maxwell and Alex Gardner failed to find much space on the ground without much of a passing threat as neither came close to hitting the century mark.
Despite the loss though, it was still a heck of a year for FIU and first year coach Butch Davis as they made just the third ever bowl appearance for the program and tied the school record for wins in a season.
Temple knows all about turnarounds themselves as the bowl victory on Thursday, just the third postseason win in program history, caps off a remarkable second half surge that included four wins in their final five games. Given how bad the Owls looked in September, that’s a nice little springboard into the offseason for Collins and his staff as they send the winningest senior class in school history off with a nice, if ugly, victory.