Temple Owls

Temple-Navy observations: Quarterback Frank Nutile airs it out

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Temple-Navy observations: Quarterback Frank Nutile airs it out

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This time, Temple football didn't look like a sideshow in prime time.

The Owls on Thursday night snapped a two-game losing streak with an almost flawless effort in a 34-26 win over the Navy Midshipmen at Lincoln Financial Field.

In an ESPN Thursday night game Sept. 21, the Owls were embarrassed in a 43-7 loss to then-No. 21 South Florida. Tonight, Temple had its biggest win of the season.

Temple improved to 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the American Athletic Conference. Navy has now lost three straight games and dropped to 5-3 and 3-3 in conference.

• The triple-option has given Temple fits in the past, but the Owls essentially had three weeks to prepare for Navy with their last game against Army and a bye week.

Temple won this game in the second quarter by holding the Midshipmen to three points on a 19-play, 68-yard, nine-minute and 35-second drive to close out the second quarter.

It allowed Temple to take a 17-6 lead into halftime, which was huge since Navy got the ball to start the second half. Holding Navy to a field goal on its first drive was equally as big, especially after a 58-yard kick return, but the second-quarter stop was bigger.

Allow the Midshipmen a touchdown there and it's a 17-13 game. Whole different ballgame.

• Credit goes to Temple’s front seven, who didn’t get pushed around much at all in this game. But also credit the coaching staff for preparing this team for it. It certainly helps to have a dual-threat quarterback like true freshman Todd Centeio on the roster.

Temple held Navy to 136 yards on 52 carries — a lot of volume but not much damage. The Midshipmen averaged just 2.6 yards per carry. The Temple D held strong.

• Frank Nutile made his second straight start and the second of his Temple career with Logan Marchi (foot) still not healthy enough to play. Marchi did handle holding duties for field goals and extra points, however. Nutile was in control.

Nutile threaded the needle perfectly on a 40-yard touchdown pass to Adonis Jennings in the first quarter. He completed 13 of his first 16 passes for 164 yards and two TDs. Nutile and Jennings hooked up for another big TD in the third quarter, a 34-yarder. Nutile finished 22 of 30 for 289 yards, four TDs and one interception.

In two starts, Nutile has now completed 42 of 59 passes for 579 yards, five TDs and one INT. It will be hard to go back to Marchi after what Nutile has shown.

• A major reason the Owls won was third downs. Temple finished 8 of 13 on third downs. After failing to convert on its first drive, TU converted eight straight.

Converting on third downs are huge against the triple-option because it beats down defenses. It's important to move the chains when you have the ball. Temple did just that.

• The Temple offense was much less conservative with Nutile. Both of Jennings' TDs were big-yardage plays — 34 and 40 yards — and Keith Kirkwood had catches of 19 and 24 yards.

It was an excellent game plan by Temple offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude. The Owls weren't afraid to attack the Midshipmen, and they did so aggressively.

• One more note on big plays and third downs. What a gutsy play call on a 3rd-and-8 on the Navy 34-yard line with 1:50 left in the third when Nutile delivered a strike. The 33-yard hookup with Jennings put the Owls on the 1-yard line and sealed the win.

• With the victory, Temple needs two wins with three games remaining — next Friday at Cincinnati, Nov. 18 against No. 18 UCF and Nov. 25 at Tulsa — to become bowl eligible. Two wins doesn't guarantee a bowl game. Winning out would give TU a much stronger case.

Obi Enechionyia leads Temple past Clemson to win Charleston Classic

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Obi Enechionyia leads Temple past Clemson to win Charleston Classic

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CHARLESTON, S.C. - Temple players hugged each other in a circle, jumped around and chanted in celebration of their latest early-season tournament title.

Owls coach Fran Dunphy's happiness was tempered by the knowledge his team has a long, long road ahead before seeing if their fast start will pay off in March.

Shizz Alston Jr. scored 14 points including four clinching foul shots as Temple defeated Clemson 67-60 to win the Charleston Classic on Sunday night.

"This will make Thanksgiving taste a little bit sweeter," Dunphy said. "But there's a long way to go."

Still, it was a historic start for Temple (3-0), which had never before won the first three games of a season away from home. Their Charleston victories included wins over a pair of Power Five opponents in Auburn of the Southeastern Conference and Clemson of the Atlantic Coast Conference. And it was their second straight early season tournament win after taking the NIT Season Tip-Off event a year ago.

"It's a great way to start the season," said Obi Enechionyia, who scored 12 points and was named the event's most outstanding player. "We've worked all offseason for this."

Temple used an 18-7 run that spanned both halves to gain control. Josh Brown scored 13 points and had two of his three 3-pointers in that stretch. And when he knocked his final long-range basket with 13:02 remaining the Owls were up 50-36 and on their way to the victory.

The Tigers (4-1) cut things to 60-56 on Shelton Mitchell's driving layup with 51 seconds to go. Clemson had the chance to make it even tighter when Marcquise Reed stole the ball with 50 seconds left, but Donte Grantham's quick 3 was off the mark.

Quinton Rose hit two foul shots for Temple and Clemson could not catch up.

The Owls got a measure of Charleston-flavored revenge on Clemson, which topped Temple 76-72 to win this title in 2008. The Tigers were playing in their third Charleston final. They lost to UMass in 2013.

Alani Moore II also scored 12 points for Temple, while Rose finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Mitchell led Clemson with 16 points. Reed had 14 points for the Tigers, 11 of them in the second half.

"We just got a little careless, a little excited and sped up," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said.

Big picture
Temple: If the Owls can play like this, expect them to make plenty of noise in the American Athletic Conference this fall. Temple defeated Auburn of the Southeastern Conference to make the finals, then outhustled and out-muscled Clemson to win the tournament title.

Clemson: The Tigers were off-kilter in the middle of the game, often failing to finish good looks near the basket. Clemson's 6-foot-9 forward Elijah Thomas struggled to make an impact down low with six points. The Tigers will need more, much more, from Thomas to compete.

Temple chant
The Owls had a deep, strong chant they used to enter the court in all three games and did it as they left. When Enechionyia was asked what they were saying, he smiled and declined to detail it. "We'd like to keep that between us," he said.

Is that ...
Movie funnyman Bill Murray, who has a home in Charleston, was at the TD Arena to watch the tournament finals. Murray routinely pops up at area events and had on a zip-up vest with a Clemson tiger paw on it.

Charleston recap
The game of the final day had to be Ohio's four-overtime, 96-94 victory over Indiana State in the seventh-place game. The Bobcats were down 18 points in the second half and eight in the second OT before Mike Laster's bucket in the final extra period gave them the lead for good. Old Dominion defeated Dayton 75-67 to take fifth, while Auburn outlasted Hofstra 89-78 for third.

Up next
Temple plays at La Salle on Sunday.

Clemson returns home to face Texas Southern on Friday night.

Temple's bowl eligibility hangs in balance after deflating loss to No. 15 UCF

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Temple's bowl eligibility hangs in balance after deflating loss to No. 15 UCF

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The deflated tone of Geoff Collins voice and the stone-cold look on his face dimly painted the darkened picture of what his Temple team had just endured for most of the previous three hours.

A cherry-and-white Senior Day underdog story just had its fruitful initial chapters dissected and jammed into the paper shredder by an overwhelming force of football nature.

“That was a tough loss and we didn’t send the seniors out the way we wanted to,” Collins said.

“Tough” is just one way to describe the shellacking Temple absorbed at the hands at No. 15 and conference powerhouse UCF, as a 10-7 second-quarter lead evaporated into an ugly 45-19 defeat at cloud-covered Lincoln Financial Field (see observations).

The loss dropped the Owls to 5-6 on the season and leaves bowl eligibility hanging in the balance during next week’s trip to Tulsa.

UCF, on the other hand, improved to a perfect 10-0 on the season and tightened its grip on the “Group of 5” berth in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

“That was just a tough loss against a really good football team,” Collins said. “You can’t turn the ball over five times and expect to win games, especially against a team that is that good and very talented offensively, obviously. “

The Knights came into South Philly sporting the highest-scoring offense in the entire nation with an average of 48.6 points, presenting a challenge the Owls knew would be formidable.

But for the first 18:35 of the contest, the Owls answered every bell. They had a 10-7 advantage thanks to a nifty scramble by redshirt junior quarterback Frank Nutile, who found space and floated a perfect ball to senior wideout Keith Kirkwood in the back of the end zone.

But from there, the Temple upset wagon plummeted off the cliff as the Knights and their turbo-charged offense caught fire.

Thanks in large part to three Temple turnovers — two Nutile picks and a Ryquell Armstead fumble — deep in Owls territory, the Knights reeled off 24 points in a span of 9:11 to take a commanding 31-10 lead that silenced Temple’s pulse.

Nutile’s two picks in that span were ugly, especially the second one, which was thrown into triple coverage and easily picked off by UCF’s linebacker Kyle Gibson.

Nutile, who would go on to throw two more picks in the second half and four total in the game, was extremely hard on himself afterward as Temple’s overwhelming theme of mediocre QB play throughout the season lingered on.

“I just think I made a lot of mistakes and bad decisions with the ball. It’s very uncharacteristic of me,” said Nutile, who took over as the starter two weeks ago against Navy and entered Saturday’s contest with just three interceptions on 103 attempts as compared to six TDs.

“Obviously, I put the team in a bad situation. I put the defense in a bad situation. I didn’t play great today. It’s hard to win a game when the quarterback throws four interceptions. … I take that loss totally on me.

“I’d rather die than let those seniors down like that again.”

Nutile’s mistakes set Temple’s defense on a platter for UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton and crew.

Milton whitewashed the Owls for 208 yards on 16 completions and four touchdowns. He also ran for 23 yards and another score for a combined five TDs on the day. Not that it was put in the best situations, but the overwhelmed Temple defense just didn’t have an answer.

While Nutile professed his apologies to the team in the locker room, Collins lamented on the fatefully miserable second quarter that saw Temple get outgained 122 yards to 57 yards when asked if it was the turning point.

“I think that’s pretty easy to say, yeah,” Collins said.

“Looking into [the seniors’] eyes before the game, how much hope and how much excitement they had and then conversely at the end, the hurt and the pain — I just told them to take their time. No one should be in a rush to get out of that locker room.”

As painful as Saturday may have been, there is still a glimmer of sunshine as the Owls can gain the bowl eligibility they’ve been yearning for with a win next week at 2-9 Tulsa. The Owls could still be selected for a bowl game with only five wins, but a bowl is more likely to select a five-win team with more of a pedigree and from a bigger conference.

Of course, there is a chance even a sixth win could get the Owls nowhere. Remember the 6-6 team from 2014 that was left heartbroken with no bowl invite?

Despite a 2-9 record, Tulsa is no gimmie for Temple. The Golden Hurricanes feature senior running back D’Angelo Brewer, the conference’s leader in rush yards for a tailback with 126.2 yards per game and 1,262 total rushing yards. And Tulsa just hung tough at South Florida last week, losing only by a 27-20 decision.

The Owls say the page has already been turned to Tulsa and they know what’s at stake.

“We just want to go out on a good note,” senior safety Sean Chandler said.  “We definitely want to get to a bowl game.

“This week is going to be my last game. But most importantly, we want to get to the bowl game and send each other out on a good note.”

“Every week, we talk about going 1-0 every week. That never changes,” Collins said.

“I think everybody knows what’s on the line for next Saturday. So we aren’t trying to make it bigger than that. “

Seniors say goodbye
Saturday marked the last home game for a studded senior class that includes Chandler, DE Sharif Finch, DB Artrel Foster, WR Adonis Jennings, WR Keith Kirkwood, DL Jacob Martin, FB Nick Sharga and DL Julian Taylor.

One more win will give this group of seniors 32 wins, which would be the most for a class in school history.

One-handed wonder
UCF star linebacker Shaqueem Griffin is an incredible story of perseverance and triumph.

Born with a painful defect that left burning sensations shooting through his left hand, Griffin had that hand amputated when he was 4 years old. But he never gave up on his football dream and overcame all obstacles to become one of the premier defensive players in the nation.

He starred on Saturday with three tackles, a forced fumble and a beautiful over-the-shoulder interception.

An amazing talent and story.