Seniors provide motivating force for rejuvenated Temple football program

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Temple quarterback Frank Nutile (18) throws to tight end Kenny Yeboah during the fourth quarter against Navy on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. (Yong Kim/Philadelphia Daily News/TNS)

CINCINNATI — There are many reasons for Temple’s sudden football turnaround, not the least of which has been redshirt junior Frank Nutile replacing an injured Logan Marchi at quarterback. But besides that, there has been a commitment to the senior class that has acted as a motivator.

Just ask Nutile, who has guided the team to a 2-1 record in his first three career starts and it very well could have been 3-0 if the Owls didn’t allow a 16-yard scoring pass that tied the game with one second left in regulation in a 31-28 overtime loss at Army.

With Nutile, the Owls have averaged 32 points in their last three games. Take away the eight points that came from Isaiah Wright’s 98-yard kickoff return and two-point conversion in Friday’s 35-24 win American Athletic Conference win at Cincinnati and the Owls are still averaging nearly 30 points per game.

Before Nutile took over, the Owls were averaging just under 20 points per game.

So Nutile has made a world of difference, but the cliché about the sense of urgency has also played into things for the Owls.

At 5-5, they need to win one of the final two games to become bowl eligible for a fourth straight year. Saturday, they host Central Florida, currently ranked No. 18 in the College Football Playoff ratings. The season finale is at Tulsa (2-8).

The urgency comes not only in being bowl eligible but in not letting the seniors down.

Like many programs, the seniors set the tone and they have gone through the most. The thought of them staying home in bowl season, has been a driving force.

“People want to die out there to make sure they [the seniors] get what they deserve,” Nutile said.

Anybody who goes through a college football program four years — or for the 13 redshirt seniors, five years — has seen his share of ups and downs.

Few like safety Sean Chandler come in and start all four years; many of the seniors had to start from the rock bottom and work their way up.

Somebody like Nutile, who attempted only five passes in his first three seasons, including a redshirt year, knows what the seniors have to go through to not only survive but, in many cases, thrive.

“There is a sense of urgency, that we want to do the right things for those guys,” Nutile said.

This is real passion, with Nutile and many of the non-seniors talking from the heart.

And the seniors are feeding off what the younger players have been accomplishing.

“We definitely are gaining confidence and we feel we are on a roll,” said Chandler, the Camden High product who has made 45 career starts.

Is it actually crazy to think the Owls could upset UCF on Saturday?

“It is definitely not crazy,” Chandler said. “I have a lot of confidence in the guys and feel we are going to go out and put out a good game.”

Before consecutive wins over Navy and Cincinnati, it would have been crazy.

And it isn’t crazy to think this team can become bowl eligible, a thought that a few weeks ago seemed far-fetched.

Yes, the quarterback has done wonders. But the power of playing for the seniors, who have given the most time, sweat and commitment, can’t be understated for this rejuvenated Owls team.

 

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