Following Temple’s dominant victory over Tulsa in the team’s regular-season finale, the Owls reached the mark of 6-6. With their 6th win, Temple clinched a school-record third consecutive bowl appearance.
The team was chosen to play in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida, at Tropicana Field, which is the home of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. The team selected to face-off against the Owls are the 8-4 Florida International University Golden Panthers from Conference USA.
This is the 10th annual Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, however, it is the first time Bad Boy Mowers is a title sponsor. The game had been known previously as the St. Petersburg Bowl.
This will be the first time that Temple will be playing against FIU and the first time the Owls will be playing at Tropicana Field.
Temple enters this game 2-4 all-time in bowl game appearances, 1-3 in the last 8 years and have lost in the previous two seasons. However, Geoff Collins is in the process of turning the tide on the recent bowl game outcomes. In this just his first season as head coach, he was able to reach the .500 mark for the season and make a bowl game appearance. Temple has not had a head coach guide the team through two postseason appearances. (Previous HC Matt Rhule left the team for the HC job at Baylor prior to last season’s bowl game vs. Wake Forest.)
For the Golden Panthers, they will be making their school’s third bowl appearance in program history. In their previous two appearances, FIU has a record of 1-1. In 2010, the team was the Sun Belt Conference Champion, entering the game at 6-6. FIU played the 8-4 Toledo Rockets. FIU was able to overcome a 24-7 deficit early in the 3rd quarter to come back and win the game on a game-winning 34-yard field goal as time expired. The following year, in 2011, FIU went 8-4, finishing 4th in the Sun Belt Conference. They were invited to play in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl against the 6-6 Marshall Thundering Herd. The game was tied at 10 apiece going into the 4th quarter, then Marshall scored the final 10 points to win the game.
The Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl has had some significant names come through their contest. Blake Bortles, the starting QB for the Jacksonville Jaguars played QB doe UCF when his team played in the bowl in 2012. Star wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts T.Y. Hilton was catching passes when FIU played in the game in 2011. Other star players include the Colts starting QB Jacoby Brissett (NC State), the Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty (Rutgers), Minnesota Vikings running back Latavius Murray (USF), Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu Sr. (Rutgers).
Florida International comes into this game with an offense that ranks first in the nation in red zone scoring, scoring points on 97.5% of red-zone opportunities. On the opposite side of the ball, the Golden Panthers defense has been quite stingy in the red-zone, finishing the season 25th in the nation with their opposition scoring on just 77.6% of their chances. While the Golden Panther’s third-down conversion percentage is 26th in the FBS at 44.6%.
The FIU offense is led by senior QB Alex McGough, who on the season has a 65.3% completion percentage, throwing for 2791 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. McGough also has the team’s third most touches rushing the ball 77 times for 214 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Leading the rushing attack is senior Alex Gardner. This season, he’s rushed 171 times for 765 yards and 6 touchdowns. Over the last 4 seasons, Gardner has tallied up 3,037 rushing yards on 675 carries. He is also a viable option to receive out of the backfield as well. This season he’s caught 17 passes for 70 yards. Over his 4 seasons, he has caught 115 passes totaling 751 yards and 1 touchdown.
QB Alex McGough’s favorite target is senior WR Thomas Owens. On the season, Owens has 59 catches for 887 yards and 6 touchdowns. He has not had a game where he caught below 40 yards. Though due to a knee injury that sidelined him the last three games, he will be forced to sit out of the bowl game, and he will look towards the NFL for his next step.
In the place of Owens’ receptions, look to senior TE Pharoah McKever who has 26 catches for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns. Also look for sophomore WR Tony Gaiter who has 31 catches for 293 yards and 1 touchdown.
Defensively for the Golden Panthers, their leading tackler is senior LB Treyvon Williams with 82 tackles, 8 for loss. He also has 3 sacks and 1 forced fumble. Right behind Williams in total tackles is fellow senior LB Anthony Wint with 81 total tackles, 7 for loss.
Leading the team in interceptions is senior CB Brad Muhammad with 4. The senior also has 51 total tackles. Leading the team in sacks is junior defensive lineman Fermin Silva, who has 7 sacks and 45 total tackles, a team-high 14 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. Right behind Silva in sacks is fellow junior defensive lineman Anthony Johnson with 6 sacks, and 37 tackles, 7 for loss.
Again, it’s the Temple Owls (6-6, 4-4 American) vs. the Florida International Golden Panthers (8-4, 5-3 C-USA). The game is set to kick off from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, at 8 PM, on ESPN. Make sure to follow up with the SportsDesk for continuing coverage throughout game day.