In Geoff Collins’ second season as coach, the expectations for Temple University’s football team have been raised after last season’s first bowl win since 2011.
Collins’ Owls finished 6-6 in the 2017-18 regular season after going through rough patches in the first half of the schedule. Still, the Owls defeated Florida International University in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, winning handily, 28-3.
The Owls were expected by those in college football to improve this season and compete with the likes of Central Florida and South Florida for the top spot in the American Athletic Conference’s East Division.
In Saturday’s 19-17 loss to Villanova at Lincoln Financial Field, Temple showed it is still far away from making that jump.
Temple lost to an inferior opponent. Villanova is one of the top Football Championship Subdivision schools, but it came to Philadelphia as 15.5-point underdogs and still left victorious.
The Owls did not take Villanova for granted. They took themselves for granted. Blown opportunities, including a missed 29-yard field goal, throws at the feet of wide receivers, poor clock management and the inability to get the defense off the field, showed that a season where the Owls were presumed to have a higher level of play has quickly turned into one where no win is guaranteed.
Six games remain on the Owls’ schedule against teams that were bowl eligible in 2017. Plus, they have a Week 3 showdown against the University of Maryland on the horizon. Maryland upset nationally ranked University of Texas in its first game of the season on Saturday.
Even Temple’s matchup later this month against Tulsa, which finished 2-10 last season, may not be a foregone conclusion. Certain games on Temple’s schedule could have been viewed as potential wins, but after a loss to an FCS school, the Owls no longer have that luxury.
Temple struggled to get anything going offensively. Senior running back Ryquell Armstead ran 14 times for 31 yards. The run game failed to set up the passing attack for graduate student Frank Nutile, who was limited to short passes instead of testing his arm down the field.
“A big part of it was myself, just missing the throws in the short game for sure,” Nutile said. “If I make those throws, we might extend a little bit more drives and the third-and-longs and everything like that. …Last year we were one of the best teams on third-and-short in the country.
If opposing teams can take away the run and deep passing game from Temple, its offense is one-dimensional and will not be able to score many points. On Saturday, offensive drives led to 10 points, while the Owls’ other seven points came from a blocked field goal returned 74 yards for a touchdown by redshirt sophomore Kimere Brown.
“A bunch of guys are hurting and upset obviously after nine months of really hard work,” Collins said. “And as the head football coach, I did not get it done today and I’m hurting for those guys in there, hurting for our program. [Villanova] played a great game and beat us on the opening weekend of college football.”
The Owls worked day in and day out for nine months to be contenders, but for the third season in a row, they failed to win their season opener.
In 2016, under Matt Rhule, Temple lost, 28-13, to Army in its season opener. In Collins’ first game last year, the Owls dropped the season opener, 49-16, to the University of Notre Dame.
Temple does not need to make a four-win jump, like it did from 2013 to 2014 to be bowl eligible. It’s perfectly OK for the Owls to stay the course of finding their rhythm under Collins. Saturday may have been a wake-up call to let this team know that its chance to be at the top of The American isn’t here yet.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated Temple’s last bowl game was in 2011. It has been updated to reflect Temple’s last bowl win was in 2011.