It was a historic day for the Temple Owls as they became bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season with the 43-22 win over Tulsa on Saturday.
Temple’s seniors finished their playing careers by becoming the winningest class in school history with 32 wins. The 2011 class previously held the record with 31 wins. The class accomplished plenty of feats in their four seasons in Philadelphia. They gave Temple its first American Athletic Conference Championship, back-to-back 10-win seasons and will be the only group to play in three bowl games.
It was a total team effort for the Owls as Frank Nutile threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns - all to a senior wide receiver - running backs David Hood and Ryquell Armstead each had a rushing touchdown and the defense forced three turnovers.
eligible.— Temple Football (@Temple_FB) November 26, 2017
the highlights! pic.twitter.com/gkDyAUDNEX
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane opened the scoring with an eight-play, 90-yard drive that concluded with Chad President finding Justin Hobbs on a 35-yard touchdown. After that drive, Tulsa turned it over to their ground game as they only pick up 20 more yards through the air to finish with 55 yards passing.
Temple responded with a field goal on the ensuing drive for their first points of the afternoon. Two drives later, the offense really started rolling as they scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions.
The Owls first touchdown came on a 90-yard drive of their own, with two big plays leading to a 28-yard touchdown grab by Adonis Jennings. Since Nutile took over as the starter against Army, the senior wide receiver leads the team with five touchdown receptions.
Following a three-and-out for Tulsa, Temple would go 90 yards for another touchdown on a drive that featured a beautiful pitch-and-catch to Keith Kirkwood down the left sideline for a 51-yard gain. Two plays later, Armstead nearly used the whole field to score from nine yards out to make it a 17-7 game.
The Golden Hurricane answered with a 14-play drive, but had to settle for a field goal to make it a one-score game. But once again, Temple scored quickly, needing only four plays for another touchdown. The key play was a 65-yard reception by Jennings in which he was tripped up just before reaching pay dirt. Hood punched it in from one yard out one play layer to increase the Owls lead to 24-10.
Tulsa would have another 10-play series on their next possession, but would settle for another field goal. They lost President to an injury on the series and following a Temple three-and-out, Will Hefley, the third quarterback to play for the Golden Hurricane this season, was picked off by Derrek Thomas, who returned it to the Tulsa 2. Nutile found Kirkwood on a 2-yard score on the next play and Temple increased its lead to 31-13 with 27 seconds remaining in the first half.
Tulsa opened the second half with a 72-yard drive in which D’Angelo Brewer scored his lone touchdown of the afternoon from 14 yards out. Brewer was the Golden Hurricane offense as he accounted for 255 yards rushing on 34 carries to close out his collegiate career.
The Tulsa D did their part to limit the Owls from scoring on their first series of the second half, with a chance to make it a one-possession game with a score. But the offense sputtered and Isaiah Wright made them pay with 72-yard punt return for a touchdown to increase the Temple lead to 37-20 with 3:26 left in the third quarter.
Nutile hit Kirkwood again from 6 yards out with 3:17 remaining on Temple’s final touchdown. Cristian Williams returned Aaron Boumerhi’s ensuing PAT try for a two-point conversion for the final points of the game.
It was a disappointing season for Tulsa, who many thought - myself included - could be a sleeper team to win the AAC West before the start of the season. Instead, they finish with the worst record in the conference. While it wasn’t the year Philip Montgomery anticipated, they were on the wrong end of a lot of close games.
The days of Temple being the laughing stock of college football are long gone. After a slow start to the season for Geoff Collins’ team, the Owls are bowl eligible for the seventh time in nine years. They will learn where they play their bowl game on December 3rd.