WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
Back in late September, when Temple Football left Raymond James Stadium in humiliation after a blowout loss against South Florida, the mere notion of postseason aspirations for the defending American Athletic Conference champions was as starry-eyed as it was foolish. At that moment, the Owls’ offense was dysfunctional. Their defense, vulnerable. A relatively new coaching staff, under the direction of rookie head coach Geoff Collins, appeared overwhelmed. And a roster assembled with young, inexperienced players resembled, at best, a work in progress.
Funny how sharp a narrative can turn in two month’s time.
On Saturday night in Oklahoma, Temple (6-6, 4-4 AAC) made history in its final regular season game, defeating Tulsa, 43-22, to become bowl eligible for a fourth consecutive year. Along with that feat, the Owls’ seniors became the winningest class in program history with 32 wins (2011 class recorded 31 wins).
According to ESPN bowl projections, Temple is slated to face either Florida International or Middle Tennessee State in the Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 19 – the same bowl game the Owls played in two winters ago (32-17 loss to Toledo).
Temple quarterback Frank Nutile, who started for a fifth straight game, completed 20-of-28 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns, and after two quarters of play, the Owls were ahead, 31-13.
Tulsa happened to draw first blood on its first possession, as an eight-play, 90-yard drive was capped off with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Golden Hurricane quarterback Chad President to receiver Justin Hobbs. After a 39-yard field goal by Aaron Boumerhi cut Temple’s deficit to 7-3, the Owls’ offense stepped on the gas, scoring 28 points before halftime.
Nutile’s first touchdown pass came on a 28-yard connection with receiver Adonis Jennings during the final minute of the first quarter. His second pass – a two-yard score by Keith Kirkwood – also came in the closing seconds of the second quarter. In between those plays were two rushing touchdowns, scored by Ryquell Armstead (nine-yard TD, 17-7) and David Hood (one-yard TD, 24-10).
Golden Hurricane halfback D’Angelo Brewer had a career day on the ground, rushing for a whopping 255 yards on 34 carries. Early in the third quarter, Brewer added a 14-yard touchdown, which made the score 31-20.
But, Temple wasn’t finished scoring. After a Tulsa punt on its ensuing possession, Owls’ receiver Isaiah Wright put the game on ice, returning it 72 yards for a touchdown with 3:26 left in the third. 15 minutes later, Kirkwood added his second touchdown – a six-yard catch – which gave the Owls a 43-20 lead. On the PAT attempt, Tulsa blocked the kick, and returned it to the house for a two-point conversion score.
OTHER NOTES, STATS
-Temple finished the game with 451 total yards of offense, and Hood was the Owls’ leading rusher with 84 yards on 14 carries. Jennings was their leading receiver (3 REC, 89 YDS), followed by Kirkwood (4 REC, 71 YDS).
-Despite allowing 314 rushing yards, Temple’s defense forced three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble), and limited to Tulsa to just 55 total passing yards. The Golden Hurricane were forced to turn to backup quarterback Will Hefley III late in the second quarter after President left with an injury. On Hefley’s first career pass attempt, he threw an interception to Derrek Thomas, who helped set up the Owls’ offense at Tulsa’s two-yard line.
-Owls’ receiver Ventell Bryant, who suffered a lower-body injury against Central Florida last weekend, didn’t play against Tulsa. Nor did linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley, who entered concussion protocol against Cincinnati back on Nov. 10.
-Temple committed 10 penalties for 123 yards, while Tulsa led in time of possession, 30:48 to 29:12.
-Owls’ cornerback Sean Chandler was credited with the second interception, and defensive lineman Jacob Martin forced a fumble that was recovered by Karamo Dioubate. Both plays came late in the fourth quarter.
Temple will appear in a bowl game (TBA).
If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.
Michael is an award-winning radio host at WHIP Radio. He has been a staple host on WHIP’s Wake Up Call, and has recently occupied the role of Program Director for the station.