TAMPA, Fla. — Temple quarterback Frank Nutile waited patiently for his turn, and the redshirt junior has made the most of his opportunity.
Nutile will be making his sixth career start, all in row, when Temple (6-6) meets Florida International University (8-4) in Thursday’s Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
He first got his chance when Logan Marchi was injured and has kept his job with an impressive command of the offense.
Temple is 3-2 in his five starts and had the Owls not surrendered a 16-yard scoring pass with one second left in regulation against Army in a 31-28 overtime loss, Nutile’s record would have been even better.
With as effective as the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder has looked, the question is often asked as to why he didn’t get the chance earlier.
One only has to go to the practice field to find the answer.
Nutile, who played at New Jersey power Don Bosco Prep, is known as one of the hardest workers on the team. He watches film until he is bleary-eyed, but his best performances weren’t always stellar on the practice field.
“The coaches have joked with me that I am a much better game quarterback than practice quarterback,” Nutile said last month.
For first-year offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dave Patenaude, all he had to go by was practice, especially since Nutile had just five career passing attempts entering the season.
“I had no real understanding of who the quarterbacks were until I went out and watched them throw in practice,” Patenaude said. “Frank wouldn’t be the first pick if I was picking a 7-on-7 team.”
In other words, he didn’t dazzle the coaches in practice, although his football acumen was off the charts.
“Frank has all the intangible things that come with playing quarterback,” Patenaude said. “He is really smart, he understands how to direct the traffic, how to direct protections and, for the most part, he doesn’t get hit that much because he protects himself the right way.”
In that first start against Army, Nutile completed 20 of 29 passes for 290 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
The next week, he completed 22 of 30 passes for 289 yards, and had four touchdowns and one interception in a 34-26 upset of Navy that turned Temple’s season around.
Nutile has had only one clunker among his five starts and that came in a 45-19 loss to a now 12-0 Central Florida team on Nov. 18 when he threw four interceptions.
“The great thing about Frank is his resiliency and the way he bounced back the next week,” Patenaude said.
Patuenaude was referring to Temple’s 43-22 win at Tulsa in the regular-season finale that the Owls needed to win to become bowl eligible. Nutile completed 20 of 28 for 262 yards for three touchdowns and no interceptions.
After the UCF game, Nutile stood up in front of his teammates and apologized for his performance. Nobody will hold Nutile more accountable for his performance than he will.
“His leadership and composure have really been impressive,” Temple coach Geoff Collins said of Nutile. “The second it was announced that we were playing FIU, Frank was already pouring over tape. He is a great kid who understands the game and is getting ready to play at a high level.”
Nutile says his new role hasn’t changed him or his outlook, only his playing time.
“I have always been a confident person and have tried to keep the mind-set of not being too high or too low,” Nutile said earlier this week as Temple took a break to attend Busch Gardens. “We’re all excited and we can’t wait until Thursday.”