WEST POINT, NEW YORK — Temple’s quarterback dilemma continues.
Frank Nutile made his starting debut in Temple’s 31-28 overtime loss to Army West Point on Saturday because of redshirt-sophomore quarterback Logan Marchi’s “lower extremity” injury, as coach Geoff Collins described it on Oct. 17.
The redshirt-junior quarterback completed 20 of 29 attempts for 290 yards and a touchdown. Nutile played well enough for the Owls to win, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said. A game-tying touchdown drive by Army with one second left and a missed field goal in overtime gave Temple its fourth loss in its past five games.
Despite Nutile’s no-turnover performance, Patenaude wasn’t ready to hand the starting-quarterback job to him.
“You can’t have an honest evaluation on it until you get in there and watch the tape and make an evaluation of where he is and where Logan’s health is,” Patenaude said.
Nutile put in some 16-hour days of watching film and preparing for Army leading up to Saturday. Patenaude said Nutile was still at Edberg-Olson Hall preparing when he left the facility one night.
Nutile doesn’t know how the quarterback situation will pan out, but he said he has been ready to be the starting quarterback since Sept. 2 when Temple played the University of Notre Dame.
“Obviously, being the competitor I am, I feel I should be playing,” Nutile said. “I want to be playing, but that’s really the least of my worries right now.”
Nutile helped orchestrate Temple’s go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
He dumped a screen pass to redshirt-junior running back David Hood on third-and-11 for a 36-yard gain. Junior running back Ryquell Armstead scored on a 43-yard rushing touchdown on the next play to give Temple its first lead of the game, 21-14.
Nutile also led the Owls on a touchdown drive midway through the second quarter to tie the game at 14.
After completing passes to redshirt-junior tight end Chris Myarick and redshirt-junior wideout Ventell Bryant for 18 yards, Nutile scrambled for 13 yards to position Temple at Army’s 47-yard line.
Three plays later, Nutile tossed a 37-yard touchdown to senior wideout Adonis Jennings.
Nutile connected with several receivers on quick outs or slants. Three of Nutile’s first four attempts were either screens or out routes toward the sideline.
Patenaude said a lot of the quick passes were run-pass-option plays because Army blitzed on every down.
“I thought he did really good,” Patenaude said. “He did a great job directing traffic. Like I said, they blitz almost every play so he had to check a lot of the protections, had to check a lot of the run game, so I thought he did a really good job there.”
“I think when you prepare as a starter and you don’t actually start, I think it makes you better because when your time shows up, you’re not missing a thing,” redshirt-junior offensive lineman Gordon Thomas said.
Three offensive linemen — Thomas and redshirt-juniors Jaelin Robinson and James McHale — made their first starts on Saturday. Redshirt-senior offensive lineman Leon Johnson, who left the game against Connecticut on Oct. 14 with an ankle injury, played limited snaps against Army at left tackle.
Despite injuries to offensive linemen, the Owls ran the ball effectively to help Nutile.
Armstead, who has dealt with nagging injuries since playing Notre Dame, rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He had his highest yardage total since he ran for 210 yards and two touchdowns against South Florida on Oct. 21, 2016.
“He’s been banged up for five weeks and just wills himself to be on the field and play for his guys,” Collins said. “And the one touchdown run, he came up to me and said, ‘Coach give me the ball, let me run power and I’m going to get the first down and probably score.’ And that’s what happened.”
Prior to Nutile’s start, he’d only played against South Florida on Sept. 21 and East Carolina on Oct. 7 this year. He passed 6-for-14 for 80 yards and one interception in the two games.
Marchi didn’t turn the ball over in the first three games of the season, but he threw eight interceptions in his past four starts. He passed for more than 300 yards against East Carolina and Connecticut before not taking an offensive snap against Army. He held the ball on field goals and extra points.
As the Owls enter the bye week with their next game against Navy on Nov. 2 and possible bowl implications looming, the coaching staff will have time to figure out the quarterback situation.
“It’s going to be one of those situations where you’ve just got to evaluate it, see where we are and we get a week to regroup,” Patenaude said.