Temple Football, on cusp of bowl eligibility, embracing the underdog mentality


PHILADELPHIA – When Geoff Collins was formally introduced to the media as Temple Football’s next head coach last December, he didn’t hesitate to mention his first encounter with the well-known trait of toughness that resides within Philadelphia’s borders. He understood the city’s attitudes, and he immediately embraced the football program’s identity and mold.

So, it came as no surprise on Tuesday when Collins admitted that he relishes Temple’s (5-5, 3-3 AAC) status as a 14-point underdog against No. 14 Central Florida (9-0, 6-0) on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.

“I’ve been that way [an underdog] all my life,” Collins said during his weekly press conference at Temple’s practice facility. “One of the things that drew me to Temple University is none of these kids were ever given anything. I was never given anything. You’ve got to fight and scratch and claw for anything you get in this world. And that’s the same thing in college football Saturdays, that’s the same thing in the work world, that’s the same thing in academics. You have to fight, scratch, claw, and earn every single thing that you get.

“Our kids have a chip on their shoulder because they know they’ve put in the work, the tough times. They’ve faced adversity and have come out better for it. So those kinds of things are special, just an attitude and a mindset of who you are as a culture, who you are as a program. And we’ve got a bunch of kids in that locker room that want to get better, want to be the absolute best they can be individually and collectively. They play with an edge. They play with a chip on their shoulder. And I kind of like that.”


During the preseason, Temple’s preeminent goal was to repeat as AAC champions. That window closed several weeks ago. However, the Owls’ hope of obtaining bowl eligibility for a fourth consecutive year is still within reach. An impressive 35-24 road win at Cincinnati last Friday places Temple at five total wins with two regular season games left on the slate (Nov. 18 vs. UCF; Nov. 25 at Tulsa).

Owls’ senior defensive end Jacob Martin remembers that six wins doesn’t guarantee a bowl game (Temple finished 6-6 in 2014), but the ongoing mantra of ‘Going 1-0 every week’ is still fresh to him.

“I wouldn’t say we’re really worried about the bowl game right now,” Martin said. “We play UCF this week. As long as we go 1-0 every week, our goals at the end of the season will be realized. I think that’s something that everyone has bought into now. Before, it was kind of just like a suggestion. A lot of guys believe it now. It’s not just the seniors and coaches.”


Frank Nutile will start at quarterback for a fourth consecutive game. The redshirt junior completed 19-of-30 passes for 224 yards, a touchdown, and an interception against Cincinnati. In his three starts, Nutile has tallied 803 passing yards (61-of-89), six scores, and two interceptions.

“He’s done a nice job for us,” Collins said of Nutile. “He’s done great in two days of practice, and I’m excited to see what he does for us on Saturday.”

Although Temple’s defense will have a tall order in defending Central Florida’s offense – a potent unit which is averaging a nation-high 48.6 points per game – Nutile believes his squad is capable of keeping up with the Knights’ torrid pace.

“I think our defense is great. I think they’re going to have a great game plan going against these guys. They’ve done really good with explosive offenses the whole year,” Nutile said. “But I think the offense will be ready to put up points. We’ve gotten into a pretty good groove, and [offensive coordinator] Coach Patenaude’s done a great job calling plays. The offensive line’s been playing great. So, we’ve really been executing well. We have a sense of urgency to win for these seniors.”


Temple’s defense has been Jekyll-and-Hyde all season. In 10 games, they’ve allowed 394.9 yards on average, along with 26.5 points per game. Perhaps the Owls’ rejuvenated offense has the ability to match Central Florida’s, but an upset win over the Knights will be contingent upon an inspiring performance from their defense.

“They have some dynamic players,” Martin said of Central Florida’s offense. “They’ve been fortunate enough to play some teams with some different defenses than what we play. I don’t think they’ve seen a defense like us. I think we can cause some problems as long as we stay true to our jobs.”

McKenzie Milton, Central Florida’s sophomore quarterback, has put up career numbers in 2017. In nine games, he’s thrown for 2,720 yards with 22 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also owns a 69.6 completion percentage.

“They do have some exciting players in their backfield with McKenzie,” Martin said. “He’s grown a lot since we played him last year. It’s a challenge for the D-Line, obviously. If we stop the run, we can get after him.”


According to Temple’s sports information department, the Owls are 1-51 all-time against teams ranked in the top 14 of the Associated Press poll.

Ventell Bryant led the Owls in receiving yards against Cincinnati (62 on four receptions). It hasn’t been a season to remember for Bryant, who’s dealt with issues off the field. On Tuesday, he told reporters that he “needs to be better individually as a person.”

-Temple running back David Hood will wear No. 1 this week. The junior ran for 108 yards and one score on 23 carries against Cincinnati. The Owls’ other halfback, Ryquell Armstead, is dealing with a hamstring injury he suffered on Friday, and his status for Saturday is a game-time decision, according to Collins.

-Central Florida’s leading rusher is Adrian Killins, Jr. (74 ATT, 599 YDS, 8 TD), while its leading receiver is Tre’Quan Smith (40 REC, 761 YDS, 10 TD).

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at thanslin@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.


Michael Carey

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.