Football nears bowl eligibility after beating Cincinnati

Redshirt-junior quarterback Frank Nutile scored passing and rushing touchdowns in Temple’s, 35-24, victory against Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium on Friday.

Redshirt-junior quarterback Frank Nutile carries the ball during the Owls’ 31-28 overtime loss to Army West Point on Oct. 21 at Michie Stadium in New York. | HOJUN YU / FILE PHOTO

Frank Nutile’s second pass of the game bounced out of senior wideout Adonis Jennings’ hands and into freshman cornerback Marquese Taylor’s mitts for an interception.

The redshirt-junior quarterback didn’t let the early turnover phase him. After rushing for 21 yards on third-and-10 in the third quarter, Nutile lofted a 34-yard pass to redshirt-senior wideout Keith Kirkwood for a touchdown to help the Owls beat Cincinnati, 35-24, at Nippert Stadium in Ohio on Friday.

The Owls (5-5, 3-3 American Athletic Conference) need to win at least one of their next two games to become bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season.

The Owls will have a chance to become bowl-eligible next Saturday against Central Florida at noon at Lincoln Financial Field. The Knights (8-0, 5-0 The American) have scored 40 points or more in five games this season.

Sophomore wideout Isaiah Wright returned a Cincinnati kick 98 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter. Then the Owls went for the 2-point conversion. Redshirt-junior fullback Rob Ritrovato received a direct snap and gave the ball to Wright. The left-handed former high school quarterback rolled to his left and threw to Nutile for the 2-point conversion.

Nutile isn’t known for his mobility, but he made several plays with his feet against the Bearcats in the fourth quarter.

On second-and-four during Temple’s first drive of the quarter, Nutile kept the ball on an option instead of pitching to redshirt-junior running back David Hood and gained the first down.

He did the same thing four plays later as he rushed for a 4-yard touchdown. Nutile completed 19-of-30 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown. He also had 28 rushing yards on five carries. Temple has a 2-1 record with Nutile as the starting quarterback.

Redshirt-junior wideout Ventell Bryant led the Owls in receiving. Nutile targeted him a team-high seven times. Bryant had four catches for 62 yards, including a third-down conversion in the fourth quarter. Bryant didn’t play last week against Navy because of an “internal matter,” coach Geoff Collins said.

Cincinnati threatened at the end of the fourth quarter. Junior safety Delvon Randall made a diving interception on junior quarterback Hayden Moore in the end zone that officials negated after replay review showed the ball hit the ground. The interception would’ve been Randall’s fifth of the season.

Four plays after officials overturned the interception, Moore connected with senior wide receiver Devin Gray on third-and-15 to set the Bearcats up on Temple’s 5-yard line. Senior running back Mike Boone stretched out into the end zone on a 3-yard pass on fourth-and-goal to cut the Bearcats’ deficit to 11 points.

The Bearcats followed the touchdown with an onside kick, but Kirkwood scooped up his second onside recovery in as many weeks.

After holding the Bearcats scoreless in the first half, Temple allowed touchdowns on its first two defensive possessions of the third quarter. Moore completed a 29-yard pass on fourth down to sophomore wide receiver Thomas Geddis to cut the Bearcats’ deficit to 13-7.

Cincinnati opted to go for the fourth-down conversion instead of trying a 46-yard field goal. Sophomore punter and kicker Ryan Jones missed a 46-yard try in the second quarter and hasn’t made a kick longer than 30 yards this season.

Cincinnati scored again with seven minutes, 40 seconds left in the third. Boone followed his 28-yard run with a 21-yard sprint to the end zone.

Redshirt-sophomore linebacker Chapelle Russell didn’t suit up against Cincinnati and is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, Marc Narducci of the Inquirer reported. Because of Russell’s injury, redshirt-freshman linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley got the starting nod.

After making a tackle, Graham-Mobley walked off the field with trainers in the second quarter. He went into concussion protocol, ESPN’s television broadcast reported.

Junior linebacker Todd Jones, a walk-on, replaced Graham-Mobley at linebacker. Later in the drive, he stopped Moore one yard shy of the first down as he scrambled. Jones finished with seven tackles.

Junior running back Ryquell Armstead didn’t carry the ball in the second half. He finished with 28 yards on four carries. He’s been dealing with injuries since the season opener against the University of Notre Dame on Sept. 2. Hood finished with 108 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown. He had his second 100-plus-yard game of the season.

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