Temple will face a rejuvenated Cincinnati football team when the Owls visit Nippert Stadium on Friday night for an American Athletic Conference game with serious bowl-eligibility implications.
Both teams kept alive their bowl hopes last week — Temple (4-5, 2-3 AAC) upsetting visiting Navy, 34-26, and the Bearcats earning a 17-16 win at Tulane in a game in which the Green Wave missed a 36-yard field goal with 1 minute, 21 seconds left. That ended two dubious losing streaks for the Bearcats (3-6, 1-4). Cincinnati snapped a five-game skid and also an eight-game AAC losing streak.
If Cincinnati beats Temple, East Carolina, and Connecticut, the Bearcats will become bowl eligible. Temple needs to go 2-1, with games also against unbeaten Central Florida and Tulsa (2-8).
These are the two lowest-scoring offenses in the AAC, but both have shown some signs of recent life.
Temple, 11th in the AAC in scoring offense (22.3 ppg.) has averaged 31 points in the first two starts by redshirt junior quarterback Frank Nutile. Once again, Nutile will replace injured Logan Marchi against Cincinnati, although Marchi took reps this week in practice.
“They have switched quarterbacks, and I think that has given them a little bit of spark,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said during his weekly press conference.
Fickell then had more high praise for Temple.
“Talent-wise, they are as talented as anybody in the league,” said Fickell, whose team had a season-high 458 yards of total offense against Tulane.
The player Temple is most fearful of is Cincinnati quarterback Hayden Moore, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior. This season, Moore has completed 55.7 percent of his passes for 1,959 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also has rushed for 197 yards (3.0 avg) and three touchdowns.
“Moore has a strong arm,” said Temple safety Delvon Randall, who shares the AAC lead with four interceptions. “He can throw where most quarterbacks can’t.”
While Moore is the headliner, Cincinnati has done a better job recently in the run game. The Bearcats have had their two best rushing efforts in their last two games, with 248 yards in a 31-28 overtime loss to SMU on Oct. 21 and 208 against Tulane. Freshman Gerrid Doaks had his first 100-yard rushing day, gaining 148 on 17 carries against the Green Wave.
Doaks is part of a young roster, as 77 of the 112 players (nearly 69 percent) are freshmen or sophomores.
As for the defense, Cincinnati has had trouble putting heat on quarterbacks. The Bearcats are last in the AAC in sacks with nine. Conversely, Temple is second with 27. That likely will be a key to the game — which team can mount a better pass rush. Nutile has shown that given time, he can pick apart a defense.