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.
The first half of the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl was — fittingly for a game sponsored by a lawn care company — about as interesting to watch as it is to watch grass grow.
Not that it mattered to Temple head coach Geoff Collins, as the Owls took a 7-0 lead into halftime over Florida International in a meeting of two coaches in their first year with their respective programs.
A lot of that score line had to do with FIU starting quarterback Alex McGough, who left the game with what the ESPN broadcast said was a broken collarbone injury he suffered on the very first drive of the game. Backup Maurice Alexander entered in his place and did not do well throwing the ball, tossing two interceptions in the half on 4-of-11 passing while also taking a pair of sacks.
Running back Alex Gardner chipped in with 17 yards on the ground but saw a stacked box pretty much from the moment that McGough left the game.
The Panthers did well on defense to pick up the slack with two fourth down stops but still allowed Temple quarterback Frank Nutile to find some openings on his way to 97 yards passing in the half. The dual-threat signal-caller was also responsible for the game’s first points when he ran it in off a keeper and added 19 yards rushing to go with tailback David Hood‘s 31.
Needless to say, offensive adjustments will be a priority for both sides in this one as things were quite rough on that side of the ball through two quarters. The Owls were a little ahead of the sticks in that department (and hold the lead) but both sides are still in this one and looking to capture that rare postseason win at Tropicana Field once the second half rolls around.
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.
A summer of attempting to change the narrative and a week’s worth of Brian Kelly trying to tell media outlets this year is going to be different has paid off for at least one week. Notre Dame (1-0) opened the season at home with a 49-16 win against Temple (0-1), and has a few reasons to feel optimistic about this season after one game.
For starters, there is quarterback Brandon Wimbush. Wimbush got the Irish off on the right foot Saturday afternoon with a pair of touchdown passes and 106 rushing yards and a score. Brian Kelly has liked having dual threats run the offense, and Wimbush did just that against a Temple defense that was ripe for the picking.
Then there is running back Josh Adams, who tore up the Temple defense for 161 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. Adams was a workhorse for the Irish running the football with an average of 8.5 yards per carry. As a team, Notre Dame piled up 353 rushing yards, which was more than the total yardage picked up by Temple on the afternoon.
Notre Dame may have room to improve on the defense, but the Irish did a sound job slowing down the running game for the Owls. It was expected there would be a transition period for Temple with a new head coach in Geoff Collins and a decent amount of roster turnover, an unproven quarterback situyation made running the football a key for Temple. The Irish held the Owls to fewer than 100 yards on the ground, with a trio of sacks helping out in the box score in that department. That is encouraging, but the next game poses a much more serious threat on the ground with Georgia coming in with Nick Chubb. Time will tell if this will hold up.
It wasn’t all bad for Temple, as Logan Marchi battled and passed for 245 yards and two touchdowns in a tough spot. Ryquell Armstead ran 19 times for 67 yards and the Owls spread the ball around in the passing game. It just was not nearly enough to battle Notre Dame in this setting at this time.
Notre Dame will stay home next week to host No. 15 Georgia. The game will be a primetime affair from Notre Dame Stadium with the Irish and Bulldogs squaring off at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC (check your local listings). Georgia opened the season against Appalachian State in a game that was ongoing at the time Notre Dame wrapped up the win. Temple will look to rebound next week with a home game against a local FCS threat from the Main Line, Villanova. Villanova is ranked in the FCS top 25 polls and is coming off a top 25 victory over Lehigh.
If this is going to be a different Notre Dame team this season, then new starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush is going to playing a key role. So far, so good as Notre Dame leads Temple 28-10 at the half in the season opener.
Wimbush has accounted for three touchdowns in the first half of the season opener in South Bend against defending American Athletic Conference champion Temple. Wimbush, making his first career start for Notre Dame, has thrown two touchdown passes and rushed for one more, Notre Dame opened up a 28-3 half on the strength of a 21-point first quarter, but the Owls have started to scratch back a little bit.
Logan Marchi completed a touchdown pass to Keith Kirkwood inside the red zone to cut into the lead, but that has been all the Owls have been able to muster aside from a field goal. Temple is playing the game without their top wide receiver, Ventell Bryant, who did not travel with the team due to a reported hamstring injury.
Temple has a lot of ground to make up against a more talented Irish team in the second half, and first-year head coach Geoff Collins will have his work cut out for him to turn this game back in his favor.