Gasparilla Bowl gives Temple football seniors chance to go out on winning note

Owlsfb20-19122017-0001
Temple Owls football head coach Geoff Collins feeding the jugs machine for a punt returning drill during Tuesday’s practice ahead of the Gasparilla Bowl.

GULFPORT, Fla. — The winningest class in Temple football history doesn’t want to go out with a losing record.

That is just one of the motivating factors for not only the seniors, but the entire team when Temple (6-6) meets Florida International University during Thursday’s Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

Another factor is making up for the sour taste of the last two bowl games, when Temple came up short.

This is the seventh bowl game in Temple history, but the first time the Owls have earned trips in three consecutive years.

“It’s a huge difference being 7-6 instead of 6-7,” senior second-team all-conference defensive end Jacob Martin said before Tuesday’s practice at Boca Ciega High School. “The senior legacy is sending these people out in a winning fashion.”

This senior class has won 32 games, more than any in Temple history.

While nobody would want to admit it, Temple, coming off consecutive 10-win seasons, appeared to take its bowl opponents lightly the last two seasons.

The Owls lost to Toledo, 32-15, in the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl. Last season, the Owls lost to Wake Forest, 34-26, in the Military Bowl.

A season ago Temple had to play under difficult circumstances. A few days after beating Navy, 34-10, in the American Athletic Conference title game, coach Matt Rhule left to take the Baylor job. Many of his assistants left with him, but they ended up coaching in the bowl game.

“It was definitely tough to deal with that going into the bowl season, so preparing wasn’t all there,” said senior safety Sean Chandler, who will be making his third consecutive start in a bowl game. “We were focused on different things I feel like so this year I feel we will get it done.”

Redshirt junior quarterback Frank Nutile, who will be making his first bowl start, said Temple’s relative inexperience in bowl games, was a detriment the last two years.

“We weren’t really used to going to bowl games,” said Nutile, who is 3-2 as a starter. “Now we have been to two bowls and know the importance of winning it.”

While the seniors have reinforced how important it is to win, first-year coach Geoff Collins has set the tone for this bowl.

Collins was named Temple’s head coach two weeks before last year’s bowl game, but he didn’t coach in it, opting to observe. Tight ends and special teams coach Ed Foley, who was named the interim head coach when Rhule departed, coached the team.

While the media hasn’t been able to view much of practice, word is that the players have been energetic, with Collins leading the way.

Collins says he and his staff haven’t shied away from mentioning the disappointing results of the last two bowl games. He feels that in practice, he feels the players seemed to have responded.

“I am pleased with how they prepared [and] handled their business on and off the field, so it has been a good week of preparation,” Collins said.

While the seniors’ winning legacy is at stake, junior safety Delvon Randall says that the bowl should be a tone-setter for the future.

“We will have young guys step up and play this game, and we will see where they are at.” said Randall, Temple’s lone first-team all-AAC choice. “[Going] 7-6 is a plus for next year.”