WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA – An invitation to a bowl game requires one more win out of Temple Football, and it’ll have to come in a do-or-die scenario on the road next weekend.
The Owls’ offense simply couldn’t keep pace with their opponent in No. 14 Central Florida on Saturday afternoon, as Temple’s five total turnovers made all the difference in a 45-19 loss to the Knights (10-0, 7-0 American Athletic Conference) before 25,877 at Lincoln Financial Field.
As a result, Temple (5-6, 3-4) will have to win its final regular season game at Tulsa (2-9, 1-6) on Saturday, Nov. 25, to obtain bowl eligibility for a fourth consecutive year. A loss would officially end the 2017 campaign.
“It’s a tough loss against a really good football team,” Owls’ head coach Geoff Collins said. “Can’t turn the ball over five times and expect to win games – especially against a team that good. Hats off to them. They’ve got a quality football team. They’re well-coached. They played hard.
“Every week, we talk about going 1-0. That message never changes. But I think everybody knows what’s on the line for next Saturday.”
FRANKIE JUICE GOT SQUEEZED
During the past week of practice, Temple quarterback Frank Nutile expressed subtle confidence in his unit’s ability to match Central Florida’s formidable offense (48.6 points per game – ranked best in the nation) on the scoreboard. He talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk.
The redshirt junior, who threw just three interceptions in his previous three games as starting quarterback, threw a total of four on Saturday. Two of those picks came inside Temple’s own 25-yard line, and both turnovers resulted in touchdowns for the Knights.
“I just think I made a lot of bad mistakes, bad decisions with the ball,” said Nutile, who also completed 16-of-37 passes for 193 yards and two scores. “It’s very uncharacteristic of me. Obviously, I put the team in a bad situation. But the defense played great today. It’s hard to win a game when the quarterback throws four interceptions.”
Central Florida scored 24 points in the second quarter alone, thanks to Nutile’s blunders. Trailing 10-7 with 13:37 before the half, Knights’ quarterback McKenzie Milton found Dredrick Snelson on a two-yard touchdown pass to make the score 14-10, and from there, Temple never led again. After Nutile’s first pick, Central Florida added two more touchdowns and a field goal, and by halftime, they held a commanding 31-13 lead.
Nutile’s latter two interceptions came in the second half, and after the game, he apologized to the team for his poor performance.
“I’d rather die than let those seniors down like that again,” he said.
UCF READY FOR NEW YEAR’S BOWL
Following the game, as Central Florida’s players were walking to the locker room, one player was a holding a sign which read “We Want Bama.” This season has been quite magical for the Knights, as their beatdown of Temple made them 10-0 for the first time in program history. Just two years ago, Central Florida finished the regular season with a winless record of 0-12.
Milton, who entered the game with 22 touchdowns in nine games, threw for four and ran for one. He also completed 16-of-23 passes for 208 yards.
“Milton’s a terrific player,” Temple defensive lineman Sharif Finch said. “And he’s very quick. He’s faster than people would think. He’s very fast and he’s a great decision maker. So, give him all the credit in the world. He’s one of the best in the conference and he showed it here today.”
Owls’ defensive coordinator Taver Johnson concurred.
“When [Milton] sees green grass, he’s able to take off and he got the first down on that one,” said Johnson, whose unit allowed 331 total yards (123 rushing) on 63 plays. “It’s just a technique thing and the fundamental thing of filling those lanes.”
OTHER NOTES, STATS
-Temple’s longest touchdown of the year came in the fourth quarter, as Nutile connected with receiver Adonis Jennings for a 74-yard score. As a result, Jennings was the Owls’ leading receiver (2 REC, 88 YDS).
–Ventell Bryant, who’s dealt with off-the-field issues this season, suffered a leg injury in the second half and didn’t return. According to Collins, Bryant’s status is currently unknown.
–Julian Taylor led Temple in tackles (10), and Finch led all defenders with two sacks.
-Owls’ kicker Aaron Boumerhi missed a 39-yard field goal early in the first quarter. He made up for his miss later in the quarter by drilling a 35-yarder. Central Florida kicker Matthew Wright also made a 44-yarder in the second quarter, and went 6-for-6 on extra points.
-With a road win over South Florida (9-1, 6-1) next Friday, Central Florida would claim the AAC’s East Division title.
Temple will face Tulsa on Sat., Nov. 25, with kickoff scheduled for 4 p.m. at Skelly Field at H. A. Chapman Stadium.
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.