The Temple Owls’ senior class is the winningest in school history. Now, they can add a bowl win to their already impressive resume.
Temple’s defense manhandled the FIU Panthers, 28-3, behind a bowl-record seven sacks to win the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Redshirt-junior quarterback Frank Nutile was namedq MVP of the game with 254 yards passing and a touchdown, and another 18 yards and a score on the ground to give Temple their first bowl win since defeating Wyoming in the 2011 New Mexico Bowl.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this group of guys,” Temple head coach Geoff Collins said after the game. “The senior class is the all-time winningest in Temple University history. What they did the last five games, just fighting through adversity and keeping this team together. The leadership showed throughout the entire bowl season was as good or better than I’ve ever been around.”
It was a rough start for both offenses as neither could get anything going early. Both teams went three-and-out on their opening drive, and turned the ball over on their next possession. It was particularly tough for FIU as they lost quarterback Alex McGough to a left shoulder injury in the process.
“It was very difficult when you lose Alex McGough, your starting QB that obviously had been a four-year starter, was playing great, had been in situations like that,” Panthers head coach Butch Davis told reporters. “It was tough.”
His backup, sophomore Maurice Alexander, was sacked on his first play and then threw an interception one play after FIU recovered a backward pass by Nutile.
“It was an awful lot of a load for Maurice Alexander to just come in here and for him to get in a rhythm and have a little bit of success, but it wasn’t enough,” Davis added.
Temple looked to have a drive that was brewing late in the first quarter after crossing midfield for the first time. It was all for not as David Hood failed to convert on a fourth-and-2 play. However, the FIU offense couldn’t capitalize once again, and the first quarter came to a close with neither team sniffing the other team’s red zone.
The second quarter finally saw some action as Temple used a seven-play, 68-yard drive to get some points on the board. Nutile found Keith Kirkwood on a 23-yard completion that set Temple up at the FIU 25. The redshirt-junior capped the drive off with back-to-back rushing plays, punching it in from four yards out to give Temple a 7-0 lead.
It did not take long for Temple get another possession as Alexander threw his second interception of the night on the first play of the drive right into the waiting arms of linebacker Shaun Bradley. It was the first time this season the Owls picked off two passes in a game. However, Temple couldn’t make anything of the good field position as they turned it over on downs for the second time in the game.
The Panthers finally put together a solid drive, but it bogged down as they were just outside the red zone. William Kwenkeu recorded his second sack of the night on a third-down play, and FIU kicker Jose Borregales’ 43-yard field goal attempt was wide left.
“It’s just something that we always expect,” Temple defensive coordinator Taver Johnson said of Kwenkeu. “When you get to watch him in practice, how he prepares and the way he approaches the game, it’s fulfilling to see.”
The first half came to a close with the 7-0 score, and some of the statistics at that point were just ugly. FIU had just 96 yards of total offense at the intermission. On the other hand, Nutile had 97 yards passing in the first two quarters. Alexander finished the first half 4-of-11 for 35 yards and the two turnovers. It wasn’t much better for Temple either, going 1-for-6 on third downs and picking up five penalties as well.
Florida International started the second half with possession and looked to have a good drive going following a 20-yard reception by Austin Maloney that set them up in Owls’ territory. Facing a fourth-and-3, Alexander found Maloney once again for what looked like a first down. However, the Panthers were hit with a penalty because of an ineligible receiver down field, and were forced to punt.
The defense did their part to give FIU another possession shortly after, and used that drive to finally get on the board. However, they left more points on the field as Napoleon Maxwell dropped an easy catch that would have led to an easy touchdown. Instead, the Panthers were forced to settle for three on a 27-yard field goal to make it a 7-3 game.
The Owls responded with a touchdown that was anything but your ordinary scoring drive. They quickly got out to midfield, but were then hit with a holding penalty and a dead ball personal foul plenty that made it first-and-30. Back-to-back completions to Kirkwood and Isaiah Wright got all the penalty yardage back, and then Adonis Jennings made an absurd, one-handed catch while falling down and being interfered with that set Temple up at the 1 yard-line.
Adonis Jennings got tackled and still made the catch pic.twitter.com/N6TG8HR2Y9— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) December 22, 2017
David Hood looked to have scored on the next play, but replay overturned the touchdown. Another handoff to Hood actually saw the ball hit the turf and FIU pounced on it, but the officials ruled he crossed the goal line, giving Temple the 14-3 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
“Honestly, I was beating myself up after that play,” Hood said after the game. “I was not supposed to reach the ball over, but I took that challenge.”
Temple put the game out of reach with a five-play, 93-yard drive that ended with another touchdown. Hood picked up 29 yards on the ground, but was injured on the play due to a horse collar tackle. A few plays later, Wright took a slant route 45 yards to the house for the third touchdown of the game, and a 21-3 lead for the Owls.
The scoring was capped off late in the fourth on a five-yard rushing touchdown by Ryquell Armstead. He finished with 51 yards and the score on 15 carries. He also had two receptions for 11 yards.
The Owls broke a Gasparilla Bowl record with the seven sacks. The record was previously held by Rutgers, who notched six sacks in the 2009 win over UCF. The two teams also set the record for most accepted penalties with 16, which was previously set by the same two teams in the ’09 game.
Temple is the first American Athletic Conference team to pick up a win in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. The AAC came into the game 0-2, while Conference USA’s four-game winning streak was snapped with the FIU loss.
“Our defense nearly pitched a shutout tonight, man,” said Nutile. “That makes it so much easier to be a quarterback out there.”