Temple football

Temple-No. 15 UCF observations: Owls crushed by visiting Knights

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Temple-No. 15 UCF observations: Owls crushed by visiting Knights

BOX SCORE

For the first 18:35 of Saturday afternoon’s Senior Day game at the cloud-covered Lincoln Financial Field, Temple had a pulse that was beating proudly. Here were the underdog Owls, leading UCF, the No. 15 team in the nation, 10-7, and punching away at the Knights’ undefeated record.
 
Then the highest-scoring offense in the entire country caught fire and flatlined any pulse the Owls had.
 
UCF, which came into the contest averaging 48.6 points, reeled off 24 straight points at the end of the first-half and proceeded to blow away the Owls, 45-19.
 
The loss dropped Temple to 5-6 on the season and leaves bowl eligibility hanging in the balance with next week’s game at Tulsa. While bowls can select teams with less than six wins, they may be more inclined to select teams with more prominent names and from more prominent conferences.
 
Conference-leading UCF is now 10-0 on the season and has lined itself up as the likely “Group of 5” participant in this year’s New Year’s Six bowls.
 
And UCF asserted dominance quickly and surgically Saturday at Temple’s expense.
 
• The overwhelming theme of Temple’s lackluster season has been mediocre (some may say that’s even too polite a term) quarterback play. It started with redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, who had his moments, but ultimately couldn’t keep the job. The reins went to redshirt junior Frank Nutile, who stabilized the position for two weeks in wins over Navy and Cincinnati.

UCF crumpled up that stability and chucked it out onto I-95 Saturday. Nutile endured an ugly afternoon that saw him go 17 for 40 for 201 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. His two first-half picks deep in his own territory were backbreakers that enabled the high-powered Knights offense to get on the fast lane to the end zone against an overmatched Temple defense. His second-quarter pick into triple coverage to UCF’s Kyle Gibson was just ugly. There was nothing but white jerseys around.
 
Combine those picks with Ryquell Armstead’s fumble deep in his own territory in the first half and it was a recipe for disaster that buried Temple’s upset chances. You can’t turn the ball over three times that deep against the No. 15 team in the land and hope the defense can hold the levee together.
 
If the Owls wanted any chance of pulling the upset Saturday, they had to play as pristine a game as possible. Instead, the stains were aplenty. Hence the final score.

• UCF star linebacker Shaqueem Griffin is a fantastic player and an even more amazing story of human perseverance.

Born with a birth defect that caused severe, burning pain in his left hand, Griffin had that hand amputated when he was 4 years old. But his dream of playing football never wavered and he’s worked his way to being one of the premier defensive players in the country.

The 2016 AAC Defensive Player of the Year, Griffin was all over the field Saturday with three tackles, a forced fumble and his second career interception. The pick would have been an excellent play for someone with two hands, let alone a one-handed player as Griffin tracked a Temple receiver down the field and made an over-the-shoulder snag and then returned it for 22 yards.

Next stop: the NFL. What a story. What a player.

• While Temple’s offensive effort was ugly, the Owls’ defense, while having its back against the wall more often than it should have, didn’t have many answers Saturday.

Sure, it’s always going to be a monumental task against the most powerful offense in the country. But the Owls’ defense was battered by UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton and crew. Milton went 16 for 23 for 208 yards and four TDs. He also rushed for 23 yards and a TD. At one point in the second quarter, Milton rushed untouched up the gut for 15 yards on 3rd-and-13. It signified the issues with the Owls’ defense as not a single Owl was in Milton’s zip code.  Milton dazzled while the Temple defense fizzled.

• Random take of the day: Temple’s black helmets, black jerseys and cherry pants look are sharp. Really sharp. Sorry, traditionalists.

• There were two bright spots for Temple on a figuratively and literally dark day.

Senior Adonis Jennings hauled in two balls for 88 yards, including a 74-yard TD pass in the third quarter. It was the Owls’ longest play from scrimmage this season.

Redshirt junior running back David Hood, who was awarded the No. 1 jersey this week by his teammates, a weekly rotating reward for toughness and leadership, carried the ball 12 times for 81 yards, including a hard-nosed 33-yard gain down the sideline in the second quarter when he shrugged off tacklers left and right. He made the most of his touches as the Owls’ featured back Saturday. Don’t be surprised to see him featured again next week.

• With a game that was basically over by halftime, a highlight of the second half was the fan “Flex Cam” that had Hulk Hogan’s “Real American” theme music playing in the background. That brought perhaps the biggest cheers from the announced crowd of 25,877.

• Next week’s season finale at 2-9 Tulsa is no gimmie, by any means, for Temple. It’s always tough for a young team like the Owls to travel halfway across the country, even more so with the pressure of bowl eligibility lingering overhead.  But the Golden Hurricane hung tough at South Florida this past Thursday, losing only by a 27-20 margin in the same environment Temple fell by 36 points earlier in the year. And Tulsa features senior running back D’Angelo Brewer, the conference’s leader in rush yards for a tailback with 126.2 yards per game (Navy QB Zach Abey leads the conference in rushing per game with 150.2 yards) and 1,262 total rushing yards. A challenge looms for a Temple defense that will still be licking its wounds.

Tons at stake as Temple hosts unbeaten UCF; Penn, Villanova wrap up

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Tons at stake as Temple hosts unbeaten UCF; Penn, Villanova wrap up

Temple (5-5, 3-3 AAC) vs. No. 15 UCF (9-0, 6-0 AAC)
Lincoln Financial Field
Saturday, noon, ESPNU

Last time out
Temple beat Cincinnati, 35-24, last Friday.

UCF beat UConn, 49-24, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Both teams have a lot at stake in Saturday’s game. An Owls win would make them bowl eligible and give them a victory against a high-ranked opponent, which would certainly help when it comes time for bowl selection. On the other hand, UCF will look to preserve its perfect season and stay atop the AAC's East Division with a crucial matchup against 8-1 South Florida looming.

Frank Nutile, who will make his fourth consecutive start at quarterback, has sparked Temple’s offense. Since he stepped in, he has completed 61 of 89 passes for 803 yards, six touchdowns and just two interceptions, and led the Owls to two wins. He will need to continue his stellar play for Temple to beat UCF, which boasts the second-best total and scoring defense in the AAC, allowing 371 yards per game and 20.7 points per game.

The Knights also have the best total offense in the conference, putting up 538 yards per game and 48.6 points per game, which is more than six points better than the second-best team. The Owls must keep UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton (2,720 yards, 22 touchdowns, five interceptions) and the Knights' rushing attack, which averages 210.2 yards per game, in check if they want a chance at the upset.

Series history
The series is tied at 2-2 and Temple has won the past two matchups, including a 26-25 come-from-behind win last year.

What's next?
Temple travels to play Tulsa next Saturday.

UCF hosts No. 23 South Florida on Friday night.

Penn (5-4, 3-3 Ivy) vs. Cornell (3-6, 3-3 Ivy)
Franklin Field
Saturday, 1:30 p.m.


Last time out
Penn defeated Harvard, 23-6, last Saturday.

Cornell lost to Columbia, 18-8, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Penn has won its last three Ivy League contests and has gained a lot of momentum after losing its first three Ivy League games this season. Cornell shouldn’t pose much of a challenge to the Quakers since the Big Red are second worst in the conference in scoring offense, total offense and pass efficiency. The Quakers’ strength is their rushing attack, as they average 192 yards per game on the ground. Cornell’s rush defense is sixth in the conference, so look for the Quakers to take advantage of this matchup.

Series history
This is the 124th meeting between the teams. The Quakers hold a 72-46-5 advantage and won, 42-20, last season. 

What's next?
This is the final game of the season for both teams.

Villanova (4-6, 2-5 CAA) vs. Delaware (7-3, 5-2 CAA)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pennsylvania 
Saturday, 1 p.m.


Last time out
Villanova lost to Rhode Island, 20-6, last Saturday.

Delaware beat Albany, 22-3, last Saturday.

Scouting report
What stands out about this regular-season finale are the defenses for Delaware and Villanova. Delaware’s scoring defense is second to James Madison as the Blue Hens allow just 15.7 points per game. The Wildcats’ specialty on the defensive side of the football is their run defense. Villanova allows only 72 yards per game on the ground and will look to slow down a Delaware rushing attack that averages 200 yards per game. Also to note, the Blue Hens come in fighting for a berth in the FCS playoffs.

Series history
Villanova leads the series 28-21-1. The Wildcats won, 41-10, last season.

What's next?
This is the regular-season finale for both Villanova and Delaware. For the second time in the last three seasons, the Wildcats won't make the FCS playoffs.

Temple holds off Cincinnati to keep bowl hopes alive

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Temple holds off Cincinnati to keep bowl hopes alive

BOX SCORE

CINCINNATI -- Temple was able to keep its bowl hopes alive and make its senior class the most successful in school history.

Junior Frank Nutile threw for one touchdown and ran for other, Isaiah Wright had a 98-yard kickoff return and Temple kept its bowl hopes alive with a 35-24 win over Cincinnati on Friday night.

"We would rather die out there than let our seniors down," Nutile said.

With two games left, the Owls need one more victory to become bowl eligible. One more win and the senior class will be the best all-time.

"Our seniors are special. I'm lucky I got to be their coach," first-year coach Geoff Collins said. "They've gone through a lot with this program. A lot of them had to wait their turn."

The Owls (5-5, 3-3 American) held off an inspired second-half effort by Cincinnati (3-7, 1-5) to get the win.

Hayden Moore threw a 29-yard pass to Thomas Geddis and Mike Boone had 28- and 21-yard runs on consecutive plays to make it a one score game with 7:40 left in the third quarter but Wright took the kickoff back 98 yards to separate the Owls from the Bearcats. Wright then threw a two-point conversion pass to Nutile on a trick play.

"For the first time I told the guys I'm disappointed with the way we coached; disappointed with the way we prepared the," Cincinnati's first-year coach Luke Fickell said. "It is baffling to me. The defense can play really well in the first half and have really big stops in tough situations. The offense doesn't move the ball in the first half. In the second half it completely flips. We have to find a way to break through some of this stuff."

Nutile completed 19 of 30 passes for 224 yards.

"He studies film and works hard," Collins said. "You could see it on several key plays tonight. He is a great kid."

David Hood's one-yard run midway through the second quarter gave Temple a 13-0 halftime lead. Hood was Temple's leading rusher with 89 yards on 19 carries.

Hood has spent most of the season backing up Ryquell Armstead.

"I look at myself as the No. 1 back every week," Hood said. "Our offense really came together tonight."

Cincinnati had a 76-yard punt return called back for an illegal block in the back and fumbled to set up one of Aaron Bourmerhi's two first half field goals.

Hayden Moore completed 20 of 36 passes for Cincinnati and was the leading rusher with 75 yards on 11 carries.

Takeaways
Temple: Ventell Bryant moved into eighth place on Temple's all-time list for receptions with 117. His 62 yards r and yards receiving also put him eighth on the list with 1,721. . With the win, Temple's seniors tied the team record of 31 wins by a class. ... The Owls faced two triple option offenses in a row before coming to Cincinnati. Army rushed for 248 yards on Oct. 21 but they held Navy to 136. Cincinnati split the difference with 184 yards rushing.

Cincinnati: Luke Fickell and Geoff Collins are both in their first season as head coach. Both were on the defensive coaching staff at Alabama for the 2007 national championship season. . Cincinnati has lost nine of its last 10 AAC games.

Up next
Temple will host Central Florida at noon on Nov. 18. The undefeated Knights will be the final home opponent for the Owls, who need one more win to be bowl eligible.

Cincinnati will travel to East Carolina on Nov. 18 at a time to be determined. The Pirates and Bearcats are at the bottom of the AAC standings.