WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA — Although the calendar will soon be flipped to the month of May, a raw and rainy Saturday afternoon certainly felt like autumn football weather for Temple.
While the program brands its annual spring scrimmage as the “Cherry & White” game, this season’s squads were split under two popular Twitter hashtags, with #GDQ (Greatness Doesn’t Quit) defeating #TempleTuff, 17-14, at Edberg-Olson Hall.
“I was just happy with the way the guys competed,” head coach Geoff Collins said. “Whether it’s raining or snowing, they don’t care. They’ll play in whatever it is. These kids were out there having a blast. They’d still be out there playing if we let them. We’ll watch the tape. We didn’t do a lot on offense, we didn’t do a lot on defense. The neat thing about standing back there behind the huddle is that you can hear the interaction between the guys.
“We’ve established that we’re a tough, physical, disciplined football team, but now in our league there’s so many tempo teams, we’re going to have to go to tempo at times. So, make sure we establish our culture, and then make sure we’re getting ready for the situations that come up.”
Only three points were scored in the first quarter of the scrimmage, as redshirt sophomore kicker Jake Geiger drilled a 39-yard field goal for team #GDQ. Redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Russo saw the first snaps, but it was reshirt junior Frank Nutile who threw the first touchdown pass, a 37-yard connection with receiver Freddie Johnson which placed #TempleTuff ahead at halftime, 7-3.
That moment you find out you’re going from a walk-on to a full scholarship… pic.twitter.com/zqf9d2OnST
— Temple Football (@Temple_FB) April 22, 2017
Midway through the third quarter, #GDQ regained the lead on a 5-yard touchdown rush from Jager Gardner. The junior halfback tallied 101 total yards, with nine carriers for 67 yards on the ground (34 yards receiving on two receptions).
“I thought Jager had a great day running the ball,” Collins said. “He looked like a PlayStation4 character out there, juking and hurdling people, so he was phenonemal.”
Gardner didn’t seem much time in the backfield last season. He trailed three of his teammates in total rushing yards (111 on 29 carries) in 2016, and scored only twice in six games. While the ground game will be led by Ryquell Armstead come September, Gardner has an opportunity to be the next halfback in line.
“I think I played pretty good overall,” Gardner said. “I didn’t feel I was left out [last season], I just felt like I had stuff I had to build on. I feel like I had things I had to prove. I feel like I can contribute a lot more. Me and [Armstead] work off each other, we just build off each other. Long as that keeps going on, I think I’ll have a pretty good season.”
Both teams scored a touchdown apiece in the final quarter, with Nutile rushing from 16 yards out to help team #TempleTuff regain the lead, 14-10. But it was freshman quarterback Todd Centeio who made the game-winning throw for team #GDQ, as he found Marhsall Ellick in the right corner of the endzone for an 18-yard score.
BY THE NUMBERS:
QBs: Nutile completed two passes on six attempts for 43 yards and two scores. Centeio led the entire team in passing yards with 110 on nine completions, while Logan Marchi threw the team’s two interceptions. Russo, who started the game, went 7-of-11 for 77 yards. Temple will begin the 2017 campaign at Notre Dame, and considering the opener is still more than five months away, Collins ensured the media that the starting quarterback job is still up for grabs.
“There’s plenty of reps to go around. Everybody’s playing,” Collins said. “There’s not one person who stands around at any one of our practices. So the reps are there. They’re going to have plenty of time to work with all the different receivers. We’ve got a veteran receiving core that I think is outstanding, and they’ll really help the quarterbacks along.”
RBs: Gardner led in rushing yards with 67, while Armstead rushed for just 10 yards on four carries. Redshirt freshman Tyliek Raynor also saw four carriers for 61 yards.
WRs: Ellick had five catches for 105 yards receiving and a touchdown. Johnson also scored on five catches for 37 yards. Sophomore Isaiah Wright was targeted twice for 29 yards.
Defense: Temple’s defense forced six total sacks, with two coming from walk-on defensive lineman Zach Mesday, who also led the team in tackles (six). Defensive backs Mike Jones and Delvon Randall were credited with the interceptions on Marchi.
If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.