WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA – It’s worth wondering where Temple Football might’ve been if they started Frank Nutile at quarterback all along.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound redshirt junior put on a clinic Thursday night, completing 22-of-30 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns in the Owls’ 34-26 primetime win over Navy at Lincoln Financial Field.
In what was considered a must-win contest for Temple, they improved to 4-5 (2-3 in AAC), and snapped a two-game losing skid. On the other end, the Midshipmen lost their third straight game, and dropped to 5-3 (3-3 in AAC).
“The biggest thing after tonight was that we got a win. So that’s all I really care about right now,” said Nutile, who started in his second straight game in place of the injured Logan Marchi. “And I just want to keep moving forward and keep winning games for the seniors. We lost a heartbreaker two weeks ago. We had about 10 days to really get together as a team, regroup, and we kind of have this mindset that it’s a championship game every week and everyone’s going to put everything on the line. So, it really feels good winning a game like this.”
To obtain bowl eligibility, Temple will need to win two of its final three regular season games.
A HOT, FRESH START
Throughout practice this week, Temple’s offensive players stressed the importance of a quick start resulting in points. On their first possession of the night, they did just that, driving 73 yards on 10 plays for a 22-yard field goal made by kicker Aaron Boumerhi. In less than five minutes, Temple was ahead, 3-0, and after 15 minutes of play, Nutile had added a touchdown pass to make the score 10-3 following a 48-yard field goal from Navy.
Nutile completed 8 of his first 11 passes in the first quarter – one of which was a 40-yard touchdown pass to receiver Adonis Jennings.
Six minutes into the second quarter, Temple padded its lead with another score. This time Nutile found Keith Kirkwood on a fade route for an eight-yard touchdown, making the score 17-3. The Owls’ groove on offense continued into the third quarter, as Nutile connected with Jennings for six once again – this time on a 34-yard pass – which increased their lead to 24-6 at the 11:22 mark.
Temple’s fourth and final touchdown came late in the third quarter, with Nutile finding tight end Jacob Robinson on a five-yard score. After 45 minutes of play, the Owls led, 31-13.
OWLS’ DEFENSE SNOOZED LATE
Although Navy didn’t seem equipped to pull off a dramatic comeback victory in the final minutes, Temple’s defense did allow them to creep back in. Trailing 34-13 with 10:27 remaining in regulation, Navy tacked on two touchdowns on a combined 14 plays. The first was a 16-yard pass from backup quarterback Garret Lewis to Brandon Colon (34-19, 5:51 left), and the latter was an eight-yard score from Lewis to Tyler Carmona (34-26, 2:12 left).
Temple receiver Keith Kirkwood then recovered an onside kick attempt, and the Owls ran out the clock.
Overall, Temple’s defense was quite strong. Up front, they contained Navy’s triple-option offensive scheme, limiting the No. 1 rushing team in the nation (376.1 yards per game) to just 136 yards on the ground. Defensive end Sharif Finch led the Owls with two sacks, and the team had five in total. Midshipmen quarterback Zach Abey, who entered the game with a team-high 13 rushing touchdowns and 1,142 rushing yards, was held to just 6-of-9 passing (111 yards) with 60 rushing yards on 25 attempts.
Owls’ defensive back Delvon Randall also picked off Abey in the fourth quarter for his fourth interception in five games.
HIGHLIGHT NIGHT FOR JENNINGS
Adonis Jennings finished the game with a season-best 127 receiving yards and two touchdowns on just five receptions. He nearly had his first three-touchdown game, but a 33-yard pass he caught from Nutile in the third quarter came up one yard short of the goal line. The drive resulted in a touchdown to Robinson.
It was Jennings’ best game stat-wise since the Military Bowl against Wake Forest last December, when he tallied 154 receiving yards and two scores on seven catches.
“I’m just happy that we won and that we’re one step closer to achieving our goal,” Jennings said. “Frank is a leader. I like him in the huddle. He demands things and he make the right reads, the right checks. I’m really comfortable with Frankie out there, and I’m glad that he’s doing good and I hope that he continues to do good.”
OTHER STATS, NOTES
-Kirkwood finished with seven catches for 87 yards, while six other Owls’ receivers combined for 75 yards on 10 receptions.
-Navy’s leading rusher was Abey, who also left the game in the fourth quarter due to an upper-body injury. The Midshipmen wound up with 226 receiving yards on 13 receptions, and their leading receiver Malcolm Perry (4 REC, 94 YDS), who also happened to throw for a touchdown (made the score 24-13).
-Both teams finished with 20 first downs apiece. But Temple beat Navy in total yards, 393 to 362. The Midshipmen also had the ball for 33 minutes, 55 seconds.
-Navy committed seven penalties for 69 yards, while Temple committed six penalties for 50 yards.
-Owls’ receiver Ventell Bryant didn’t play nor practice this week due to an internal matter, according to head coach Geoff Collins.
-Temple kicker Aaron Boumerhi and Navy kicker Bennett Moerhing drilled two field goals apiece. Boumerhi’s came in the first quarter (22-YD) and fourth (33-YD), while Moerhing’s came in the first (48-YD) and second (25-YD).
-The announced attendance at Lincoln Financial Field was 26,127.
Temple will face Cincinnati (2-6, 0-4) at Nippert Stadium on Nov. 10 (7 p.m. kickoff, ESPN2).
If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.