BAD BOY MOWERS GASPARILLA BOWL STORYLINES
1. Temple coach Geoff Collins will see a familiar uniform on the opposing sideline Dec. 21 in St. Petersburg, Fla. when the Owls take on Florida International in the Gasparilla Bowl. Collins was the defensive coordinator for the Golden Panthers in 2010, as FIU captured a conference title and went on to win the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. In his first season with the Owls, Collins guided the team to a 3-1 finish down the stretch to secure a fourth straight bowl berth for the team’s seniors, the winningest class in school history.
2. Neither Temple nor FIU is a particularly high-scoring team as the Owls rank 96th nationally in points while the Panthers are 75th. However, both teams closed with strong offensive performances as Temple scored a season-high 43 points in a regular season-ending win against Tulsa while FIU put up 104 points in its final two wins over Western Kentucky and Massachusetts. Frank Nutile gave the Owls a boost at quarterback over the final five weeks while counterpart Alex McGough was an improved player for the Panthers during the second half of the season.
3. Perhaps the key for Temple will be its ability to stop FIU inside the red zone. The Panthers led the nation in scoring percentage in the red zone with 39 scores in 40 trips while the Owls’ red-zone defense was far from great, holding their opponent scoreless on just 13 percent of red-zone trips. In addition to McGough, FIU has three running backs who carried the ball at least 70 times this season and have combined for more than 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns.
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ABOUT TEMPLE (6-6, 4-4 American Athletic): The Owls turned to Nutile in late October and, with the exception of one bad game against undefeated UCF, the junior quarterback finished with nine touchdowns and two interceptions down the stretch. Adonis Jennings and Keith Kirkwood each finished with 39 catches and seven touchdowns for Temple, while Isaiah Wright contributed 41 catches and three scores. Wright also averaged 8.4 yards per carry on 23 attempts, but David Hood and Ryquell Armstead – who combined for about 1,100 yards and eight scores – typically handle the bulk of the running duties for Temple.
ABOUT FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (8-4, 5-3 Conference USA): McGough threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns against UMass in the regular-season finale, helping FIU set a school record for total yards (674) while matching the mark for wins in a season (eight). The Panthers racked up 379 rushing yards and six TDs on the ground, with Alex Gardner and Napoleon Maxwell each scoring twice and McGough adding 108 yards and a touchdown. Bryce Singleton, who entered the regular-season finale with 10 catches for 112 yards and no touchdowns, erupted for six receptions for 111 yards and three scores against the Minutemen.