An idea that many thought was well out of reach after a devastating overtime loss to Army, is now coming into fruition for Temple in Geoff Collin’s first season. The Owls must win two of the final three games to make a bowl game, and two of which come against teams in Cincinnati and Tulsa, each with a losing record this season.
First up is the aforementioned Cincinnati Bearcats, a team that lost five straight before last week’s one point victory over Tulane.
For Temple, it is once again a must win to have any hope at making a bowl game. While Cincinnati is a longshot at making a bowl game at this point in the season, the Bearcats will be looking to put a winning streak of their own together as the season winds to a close.
Starting on the offensive side of the ball for Temple, Frank Nutile enters his third career start looking to continue his stellar play. In his two starts against Army, and Navy, the redshirt junior has thrown five touchdowns, four of which coming against Navy, and just one interception.
The offense has taken off with Nutile under center, averaging over 30 points per game in the last two games. Along with the play of Nutile, the wide receiving corps has also come to life down the stretch, as Isaiah Wright and Adonis Jennings have been getting open early and often in the past few games.
Wright put together perhaps his strongest performance of the season against Army, with 79 yards, on just three catches, for an average of over 25 yards per catch. The sophomore wideout also made plays in the run game against Army, with 52 yards on four carries, and a long touchdown run to cap it off.
Jennings’ best performance of the season came last week against Navy, as the senior Pitt transfer racked up 127 yards and two touchdowns, including a 40-yard touchdown strike from Nutile in the first half.
“Frank is a leader, he connects with all the receivers,” Jennings said after practice on Tuesday. “He’s just so confident and poised in the pocket, I believe that Frank is a good quarterback.”
The run game has also been improving, as Ryquell Armstead continues to get healthy. Last week, the Owls rushed for 104 yards as a team, while using a trio of running backs in Wright, Armstead, and David Hood.
Armstead’s best outing of the season came against Army, when he rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the loss. The junior running back has been getting more carries the past two weeks, and will look to be the number one back for the remainder of the season.
The defense of Cincinnati has been the strength of the team this season, as it ranks 5th in the conference in total defense, and second in pass defense. Nutile faces his toughest test of the season as a starter, on the road against a strong, playmaking secondary.
The secondary hasn’t been the only unit making plays for the Bearcats, as they also have a strong linebacking corps. Senior Jaylyin Minor has totaled 87 tackles on the season , followed by Perry Young who has collected 76 tackles, and he leads the team with 8.5 tackles for loss.
As a unit, the Cincinnati defense has 46 tackles for loss. The Bearcats will look to put pressure on the Temple offensive line, and Frank Nutile, early and often in Friday night’s matchup.
Defensively for Temple, the Owls have contained the nation’s top two rushing attacks in consecutive games. The front seven of Temple held Navy, who was averaging over 340 yards per game on the ground, to just 136 yards as a team. Quarterback Zach Abbey, who leads the AAC in rushing, was held to just 60 yards on 25 carries.
Much of the success of the run defense can be credited to the strong play of the linebackers. A unit that looked lost against Notre Dame and Josh Adams in week one, has turned into a position of strength on the Temple defense.
Chappelle Russell leads the team with 70 tackles on the season, and 3.5 tackles for loss this season. He turned out another strong performance against the midshipmen, with eight tackles to lead the team. Shaun Bradley has also made his mark this season, with 57 total tackles, and nine tackles for loss through the first 10 games.
Safeties Delvon Randall and Sean Chandler have also been performing at a high level for the Owl’s defense. Randall is second on the team in tackles, with 60, and he leads the team with four interceptions. His ball hawking style of play has transitioned well in the new defensive system, as he leads the team in forced turnovers.
Lining up across from Temple will be a Cincinnati offense that has struggled mightily this season. The bearcats rank dead last in scoring offense in the AAC, averaging just over 20 points per game.
While the team has struggled, quarterback Hayden Moore has put together a solid season, throwing for almost 2,000 yards, and 13 touchdowns. The 6-3 215 lb. junior has spread the ball around to a plethora of different receivers, most notably Kahlil Lewis. The junior wideout leads the bearcats with 48 receptions, 444 yards, and four touchdowns on the season.
As for the Cincinnati rushing attack, the Bearcats use multiple different backs in different situations much like that of the Temple offense. Leading the way is Gerrid Doaks, who has rushed for exactly 500 yards on the season. He is followed by Mike Boone and Michael Warren who have each rushed for over 200 yards on the season, and have a combined four touchdowns.
Moore also contributes to the run game out of the quarterback position, as rushed for 197 yards to this point in the season, to go along with three touchdowns on the ground.
It is a must win game for both teams in the hopes of making a bowl game. The Owls have won the past two matchups, including a 34-13 victory a year ago.