Temple Football snaps bowl skid, grinds past FIU in Gasparilla Bowl

WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN  @tomhanslin

By no means was it pretty. By no means was it thrilling. But, Temple Football fulfilled its ultimate goal, and that’s all they’ll be thinking about back in Philadelphia.

In what was a sloppy, drawn-out, and injury-filled Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Owls finally snapped their bowl game skid, defeating Florida International, 28-3, at Tropicana Field on Thursday night.

Temple (7-6), which had lost to Toledo in the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl and Wake Forest in the 2016 Military Bowl, won its first bowl since 2011 (New Mexico Bowl). It was also the Owls’ third bowl victory in seven tries, dating back to 1935.

“Couldn’t be prouder of this group of guys,” first-year head coach Geoff Collins told reporters after the game. “I’ve been to a lot of bowl games. The way these kids managed the football team – in the locker room when we were back in Philadelphia when we were down here on the bowl trip – was impressive. The content of character in this group of young men is amazing.

“It’s just an amazing journey that I’ve been blessed to be on, and I couldn’t be happier to be associated with this group of guys.”

The Gasparilla Bowl’s MVP award was given to Temple quarterback Frank Nutile, who completed 19-of-29 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown. The lone passing score came on a 45-yard connection with wide receiver Isiah Wright midway through the fourth quarter, and with a 21-3 lead, the game was simply out of reach for FIU.

However, the Panthers’ slew of issues began on their first possession of the game. Starting quarterback Alex McGough was forced out of the game with a dislocated left shoulder, and from there, Temple’s defense feasted on backup quarterback Maurice Alexander. Overall, the Owls recorded seven and a half sacks and recorded three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble). FIU was also limited to just 252 yards of offense, compared to Temple’s mark of 400.

Neither team put up points after a quarter of play, but the Owls drew first blood in the second, scoring the lone points of the half on a four-yard scramble by Nutile to make it 7-0. After FIU tacked on a 27-yard field goal made by Jose Borregales with 3:12 remaining in the third, Temple’s offense had a highlight drive. A drive that started with a first-and-30 ultimately ended in seven points, as three straight passes for 69 yards set up halfback David Hood for a one-yard touchdown. With less than a minute left in the third, Temple was up, 14-3.

Following Wright’s connection with Nutile, Ryquell Armstead added the final score – a five-yard rushing touchdown which made it 28-3.

Hood was Temple’s leading rusher with 76 yards on 14 carries, while Keith Kirkwood was their leading receiver with six catches for 96 yards. Adonis Jennings, who was the final player to wear the special No. 1 jersey this season, caught three balls for 51 yards.

Sean Chandler was credited with the first interception of Alexander, and Shaun Bradley was credited with the latter.

The Owls’ senior class won its 33th game, which now stands as a program record.

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