Written by Ernie Casanova
ST, PETERSBURG, FL-- The FIU Panthers were one victory away from achieving a new school record for most wins in a season, while the Owls were looking to rebound after losing their coach a year ago, trying to keep momentum with a bowl win. Temple got the task done, gaining their 7th win of the year by defeating the Panthers in today’s Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl by a score of 14-3.
The FIU Panthers rolled into Tropicana Field ready to add on to their successful season. Head coach Butch Davis led them to an eight-win season and had the offense on a hot streak in the last couple of weeks. Also, quarterback Alex McGough started the game with many school records on the cusp of his hand. After breaking off for a 17 -yard run, a bad landing from getting tackled forced him to exit the game for the rest of the night with an apparent arm injury only a couple of plays in. Maurice Alexander stepped in for McGough and shortly turned the ball over, throwing an interception after the FIU defense gave him the ball from a fumble recovery.
The Panthers’ offense was visibly missing McGough’s playmaking ability, and it certainly did not help Alexander get up the field with leading receiver Thomas Owens already out from a knee injury. Alexander threw two picks in the half on his first four passes and hindered any possibility of FIU making strides without McGough. He finished the first half 4-11 for 35 yards and was profoundly ineffective throughout the start. Leading the Panthers in the first half was running back Napoleon Maxwell with seven carries for 25 yards, as FIU only gained 98 total yards of offense.
Temple’s offense had a bit of a struggle early on getting things going. With the mistakes from FIU and lack of firepower in their offense, the Owls had the ability to score first. With the 2nd quarter underway, Temple moved the ball up field after receiving the punt and quickly got to the goal line after a pass interference call went their way. Nutile was the force on offense for the half, going 9-14 for 97 yards and scoring the first touchdown of the game on a 4-yard run. Running back David Hood had 32 rushing yards on 10 carries, as Nutile was also using his legs with 19 yards on seven carries.
In the second half, FIU needed a push. They began the third quarter with the first possession and quickly made their moves. However, the spark flamed out, and they were forced to punt after a penalty call overturned a 4th down conversion.
Temple, still with a 7-0 lead, was having issues of their own offensively and just couldn’t get back into scoring position early on in the 2nd half. The Owls were outgained in total yardage 105-26 in the third quarter by FIU as the Panthers got hot. This allowed the Panthers to get on the board with a field goal shortly after.
Even after losing their starting quarterback, FIU was still in the game with a position to take the lead. Still, Temple’s offense was just too much as Nutile kept making the right throws and the rest of the offense started to click. Hood scored a 1-yard rushing touchdown in the closing minutes of the third quarter, with wide receiver Isaiah Wright scoring a 45-yard touchdown reception to put the game on ice late in the fourth quarter. Wright finished with five catches for 73 yards and the reception TD.
Hood finished with 76 yards on 14 carries and one touchdown, with wide receiver Keith Kirkwood having six catches for 96 yards. Nutile finished 18-28 for 254 yards passing with one passing touchdown and one rushing and was named the MVP of the 2017 Gasparilla Bowl with his excellent play.
“It means a lot,” said Nutile. “We’ve been through a lot. Our team’s mindset was to go out there and leave it all on the field.”
Temple head coach Geoff Collins complimented Nutile’s remarks after the game.
“These players work so hard. They’ve done an amazing job. The future is bright at Temple football." said Collins
“We laid out a plan right when we got into the bowl game. Got a plan together. How we were gonna practice. How we were gonna rest these older guys. They stuck to the plan. They executed the plan. I’ve been to a bunch of games. I’ve never seen a group of guys that just bought in and dove into how were gonna practice,” Collins stated after his first ever bowl win as a head coach.
For the Panthers, it just wasn’t a great way to end the season. Maurice Alexander started to find somewhat of a groove in the game, but it’s what his job calls for. It wasn’t enough, and he finished 16-33 for 162 yards and two interceptions. It didn’t help that he was sacked 7.5 times as this Temple defense mauled him all night. Napoleon Maxwell was the leading rusher, with 52 yards on 11 carries and Austin Maloney lead the receiving corps with three catches for 42 yards.
FIU head coach Butch Davis was still able to shed some positive light after the loss today,
“I am extremely happy of this football team regardless of the outcome tonight, and nobody’s ever happy about losing a game. But what these kids accomplished this year, nobody thought was even remotely possible. To get an opportunity to get a chance to win eight games, to qualify and get to a bowl game was a remarkable accomplishment by these guys.”
Writer - Ernie Casanova
(Orlando, FL) The FIU Panthers and the Temple Owls will face off in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Owls (6-6) look to complete a third consecutive winning season, while the 8-4 Panthers are on the verge of a school-record ninth victory of the year. A seventh win for the Owls will also be a school victory for them, which will most certainly push each squad to play lights out this Thursday at 8:00 PM ET.
Coming in as the defending AAC champions, it was somewhat of a disappointing season for the Owls. They won three of their last four games to gain bowl eligibility and haven’t won a bowl game since a victory over Wyoming in the 2011 New Mexico Bowl.
For the Panthers, head coach Butch Davis has guided the team to a major turnaround in just his first year. This is only the university’s third bowl game ever, with only one victory coming against Toledo in the 2010 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. It will be the first time these schools ever meet on the gridiron.
“We’re very excited to be headed to the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl,” said Davis. “Our guys have worked really hard this year, and I’m proud that we’ll end this season in a bowl.”
Panthers senior Quarterback Alex McGough had a solid season even with the absence of his best receiver Thomas Owens in the final games. McGough accounted for 22 total touchdowns and threw only two interceptions in his final six games. Temple leads their conference in passing yards allowed per game (210.0), but have also allowed 21 touchdowns through the air. While having won eight games this year, things may still not bode well for the Panthers against the offensive minded Owls.
The Owls began the season on a slump, starting with a 3-4 record. Insert junior Frank Nutile, and it was a whole different ball game from there. Nutile has gone 3-2 as the starter with one of those losses coming to the nation’s best offense in UCF. He a fearless thrower and has averaged over more than 253 yards passing over the last five games while accumulating 11 total touchdowns as well. With only six interceptions to compliment his efficiency, he’ll be up against an FIU defense that ranks 93rd against the pass. Nutile definitely has some help, as wide receiver Isaiah Wright is their most dynamic player. Wright leads the team with 40 catches for 581 yards, but contributes to the team in numerous ways. He’s a reliable return man and runs the ball well with 8.4 yards per carry on his rushes.
The main focus for each team will need to be in the trenches. FIU has only allowed 22 sacks to opposing teams and is a very competent run-blocking unit, with an average of 165.1 yards per game on the ground. They face the 22nd ranked defense in terms of sacks per game, as this will be one of the underrated and exciting bowl matchups of the postseason.
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