Temple’s football team was quietly hoping to play in one of the Florida bowl games and the Owls got their wish. They learned Sunday that they will play Florida International in the Dec. 21 Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg Fla.
The game will be at Tropicana Field, home of baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays, and will be televised by ESPN.
The Owls (6-6) became bowl-eligible with a 43-22 win at Tulsa in their regular-season finale on Nov. 25. This will be the third straight year that Temple will compete in a bowl, a first for the Owls.
FIU which competes in Conference USA, has an 8-4 record.
“I think it is a pretty cool opportunity,” quarterback Frank Nutile said during a news conference Sunday night at the Owls’ football facility. “It is something growing up I wanted to play Division I and play in a bowl game and I look forward for this opportunity and play one more game with the seniors. And I am pretty pumped.”
Nutile is a big reason the Owls are bowl-bound. The redshirt junior started the last five games for injured Logan Marchi and Temple went 3-2. The Owls easily could have been 4-1 had they not squandered a late lead in a 31-28 overtime loss at Army.
First-year-Temple coach Geoff Collins,who has been on the road recruiting since the regular season ended, is looking to get an even deeper footprint in Florida, and having a bowl game there won’t hurt.
His counterpart, Butch Davis, is the most recognizable figure on the FIU team. Davis is completing his first season as head coach.
He has a long coaching resume, including head coaching stints with the University of Miami, North Carolina, and the Cleveland Browns. Davis was an assistant under Jimmy Johnson at Oklahoma State, the University of Miami, and the Dallas Cowboys.
Temple and FIU have played two common opponents: Central Florida and Massachusetts. Both lost to UCF and beat UMass.
The Owls had to go 3-1 in their final four games to become bowl-eligible.
“I think you build a team off things you go through with each other,” said safety Sean Chandler, who will be starting in his third bowl game. “We are definitely one of the most close-knit teams and it is going to feel special having that last game with each other.”