When a player has a performance like the one Jullian Taylor had on Saturday, professional scouts take notice, coach Geoff Collins said.
Taylor had a game-high 10 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss in Temple’s 45-19 loss to Central Florida, which is No. 13 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and has the top offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
NFL and Canadian Football League talent evaluators will take notice of Taylor’s game against the Knights, Collins said, but they also want to see how he’ll do in his next game against Tulsa. For the redshirt-senior defensive lineman, it could be his last in college.
Temple (5-6, 3-4 American Athletic Conference) will play for bowl eligibility against the Golden Hurricane (2-9, 1-6 The American) at 4 p.m. on Saturday in Oklahoma. Taylor and the Owls’ seniors also have a chance to win their 32nd game, which would make them the all-time winningest senior class in school history. The group would also be the first in school history to be bowl eligible for four years in a row.
Taylor and redshirt-senior defensive lineman Sharif Finch were on the team in 2014 when Temple had to beat Tulane in its regular-season finale to earn its sixth win. Temple beat Tulane, 10-3, but it didn’t earn selection to a bowl.
Finch, who started against the Green Wave in 2014, said this year’s situation is different because of Temple’s new coaching staff and roster turnover. Forty-two different players have started a game this season. Only seven of those athletes played in the season-finale against Tulane in 2014.
Taylor is telling the younger players to prepare just like they’ve done for the previous 11 games.
“When we do extra stuff, that’s when people get out of character and do things they’re not really suited to do,” he said.
After Temple’s loss to Central Florida in its final home game of the season, redshirt-junior quarterback Frank Nutile said he’d “rather die than let those seniors down like that again.”
In order to send the senior class out with a chance to win a bowl game, Nutile bouncing back from his four-interception game against the Knights will be key.
“I definitely made some mistakes decision-wise,” Nutile said. “It’s really uncharacteristic of me. I really didn’t locate the ball that well, either, but I definitely learned from those mistakes, and I can’t wait to get out there with the guys this Saturday.”
‘The best two-win team in the country’
Finch called Tulsa “probably the best two-win team in the country.” The Golden Hurricane have lost four games in a row, but they’ve played stretches of good football throughout the season.
They’ve lost two games on last-second field goals. The University of Toledo beat them, 54-51, on Sept. 16, and the University of New Mexico edged out the Golden Hurricane, 16-13, the next week.
“I think we are better than our record indicates, but that being said, you’ve got to win games,” coach Philip Montgomery said on The American’s weekly coaches’ teleconference Monday. “Close doesn’t get you any consolation prize in this profession.”
They scored 14 points in the final seven minutes, nine seconds against Connecticut, but they couldn’t overcome their 20-point deficit on Oct. 21.
Tulsa held No. 22 South Florida (9-1, 6-1 The American), which has the eighth-best rushing offense in the FBS, to 82 yards in the second half on Thursday in their 27-20 loss. The Golden Hurricane held the Bulls to less than 30 points, which has only happened twice in South Florida’s past 27 games.
“They did a good job of loading the box to be able to cover on the perimeter and stop them, and then they were able to move the ball offensively, too,” Collins said.
Much like Temple, Tulsa has had some inexperienced players get time on the field. Twenty-one true freshmen or redshirt freshmen have played in a game, and 21 players have made at least one start on defense.
Tulsa has also used two starters at quarterback. Sophomore Chad President started the first six games, and redshirt-freshman Luke Skipper has started the past five and entered in relief in the first quarter against Tulane on Oct. 7.
Temple has been primarily studying Skipper, Finch said. Skipper has four rushing touchdowns. He also has seven passes for 50 yards or more in his past six games, and he has 19 completions for 20 yards or more.
Skipper suffered a concussion on Thursday against South Florida, but hasn’t yet been ruled out by Montgomery. If he doesn’t play, President will start. President has nine rushing touchdowns and a 54.9 completion percentage this season.
Regardless of who starts at quarterback, containing senior running back D’Angelo Brewer will be a key for Temple. He gained 163 yards last week against South Florida to become Tulsa’s all-time leading rusher and the all-time leader in The American.
“He’s got enough speed getting outside, and he’s a really strong runner inside,” South Florida coach Charlie Strong said during The American’s weekly coaches’ teleconference on Monday.
“They got the best running back in the conference statistically, downhill runner,” Finch said. “He’s a dangerous guy. So I don’t even understand how they’re a two-win team. I’d definitely say their offense is explosive, and they got a lot of talent.”