How No. 20 Cincinnati (6-1, 2-1 AAC) suffered their first loss of the season was pretty remarkable to watch unfold. With a 17-10 lead in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati intercepted Temple (5-3, 4-0 AAC) twice to seemingly thwart any upset bid by the Owls, but Temple scored a touchdown in the final minute of regulation and then scored first in overtime before sealing the game with their own interception. Temple’s 24-17 win over Cincinnati helps keep the Owls in contention for a bowl berth.
After having each of the last two drives end with an interception, including one inside the red zone, Anthony Russo completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Branden Mack with 49 seconds to play.
The game-tying touchdown came after Cincinnati went three-and-out following the red zone interception. The Bearcats picked up just four yards after the interception, giving the Owls the ball back with a little more than two minutes to play. It was the fifth-straight offensive possession where Cincinnati failed to pick up a first down after taking a 17-10 lead (four punts, one turnover on downs). The offensive ineptitude for Cincinnati continued in the second half.
After Russo connected for the go-ahead touchdown to Isaiah Wright on 3rd and 10 from the 25-yard line, Cincinnati recovered a fumble for a loss of 11 yards that had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty tacked on for a 3rd and 36 situation. Desmond Ridder was picked off on the play, giving Temple the win and get the last laugh.
Temple’s chances to go to a bowl game are still alive, although the upcoming schedule is a challenge. Temple needs two more wins, which likely means Temple will have to win one of their next three games before a road trip to UConn in order for that to happen. Temple gets a week off to prepare for a road trip to UCF, which is followed by a road game at Houston and then a home game against South Florida.
That upcoming schedule for Temple also means Cincinnati should not be written off in the AAC East either. If Temple loses two games, then Cincinnati has a chance to make their own run with games against SMU, Navy, South Florida, UCF, and East Carolina all remaining. Cincinnati will play at home against South Florida on November 10 and then at UCF the following week. Going 2-0 in those games may be mandatory for Cincinnati to have a shot at the AAC championship and a possible New Years Six bowl spot that could come with it.
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.
It’s the first day of the college basketball season and for one half of play it sure seemed like the Temple and Cincinnati football teams would rather be watching hoops given their effort through the first of two extremely boring quarters of football. Luckily the pair seemed to snap out of things at halftime as things got a little crazy in the third quarter before the Owls eventually pulled away with a 35-24 win on Friday night.
The two sides traded touchdowns coming out of the locker room at the break to inject quite a bit of life into an otherwise sloppy game between teams that are fighting to remain above water on the season. As part of four trips to the end zone in the third quarter, there was also a dropped punt snap that resulted in a turnover on downs, a two point conversion off a reverse pass and an Isaiah Wright 98-yard kick return for an Owls score.
Redshirt junior Frank Nutile continued to rack up big plays for Temple with both his arm and his legs. Making just his third start behind center, the quarterback threw for 224 yards and a touchdown (one interception) while also rushing for 28 yards and a score. He formed a pretty good combo in the backfield with tailback David Hood, who ran for 89 yards and a touchdown as the Owls racked up over 400 yards of offense.
The picture was quite as so rosy on the home sideline as the Bearcats were shutout in the first half and turned the ball over on a fumble. Hayden Moore threw for 217 yards on 20-of-36 passing (two TD’s) despite the shaky effort to start the game at quarterback. Mike Boone was all over the field for the offense in the second half, winding up with 58 yards and a touchdown rushing while also throwing a pass and catching a touchdown. It just wasn’t enough to keep pace with their opponent in a loss that knocks the team out of the running to make it in to the postseason.
The flip side is the outcome was good enough to keep Temple in the hunt for a bowl game and move them to .500 on the year. They still have to play undefeated UCF among their final two games but it certainly seems like a squad hitting their stride with Nutile at quarterback and a defense that knows how to limit big plays.