Temple concluded its allotment of 15 spring practices with the annual Cherry and White Game on Saturday at the Temple Sports Complex.
In past seasons, the defense would earn points for stops and forcing turnovers, while the offense earned points for touchdowns and field goals. This year, the event was more like a regular-season game with offensive and defensive players divided into two teams. The game didn’t have kickoffs, punts, field goals or extra points.
The Cherry squad, which was coached by honorary guest and former offensive lineman Brian Baldinger, beat the White squad coached by former Temple running back Paul Palmer, 28-24, in front of more than 5,000 fans.
“It was a very basic game,” coach Geoff Collins said. “We just wanted to see who would run, who would hit, who would tackle and who would block. That’s all I cared about today. And it was a great event in that regard. The kids competed. There was a bunch of different lineups that were involved.”
Collins said the game was “watered down” because he wanted the Owls’ young players to be able to play fast and get a simulated game experience.
Collins said the game intentionally had more pass plays than runs to avoid players getting in pileups near the line of scrimmage. Redshirt senior Frank Nutile completed 11-of-17 attempts for 117 yards. He lofted a 25-yard touchdown pass to junior wideout Randle Jones on the second-to-last play of the game.
Nutile lofts a beautiful pass to Randle Jones for a TD. pic.twitter.com/3Sj5suH4Gb— Tom Ignudo (@TomIgnudo) April 14, 2018
For the white squad, redshirt freshman Todd Centeio carried the ball nine times for 16 yards and completed two of his nine passes for 13 yards. Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Anthony Russo went 2-for-11 for 25 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Cherry squad.
Redshirt-freshman cornerback Ty Mason returned Russo’s pass 31 yards to the end zone for one of the White team’s touchdowns.
The Cherry team’s leading receiver and tackler were both redshirt freshmen. Wide receiver Jadan Blue led all players with six catches for 63 yards and three touchdowns. On the first play, which resembled the Philadelphia Eagles’ Philly Special from Super Bowl LII, redshirt-sophomore wideout Branden Mack threw a pass to Blue for a 20-yard gain.
In the second quarter, freshman quarterback Trad Beatty completed a fourth-down throw to Blue for an 11-yard gain over the middle then threw a touchdown to him on the next play.
Beatty, who completed 8-of-17 attempts for 49 yards, threw both of his touchdowns to Blue.
Trad Beatty to Jadan Blue for a score for the Cherry squad. pic.twitter.com/hs4v9MCbIc— Evan Easterling (@Evan_Easterling) April 14, 2018
“I did well, but at the end of the day, it’s all because of my coaches,” Blue said. “My quarterbacks throwing the ball, we have four phenomenal quarterbacks. Our offensive coordinators are great. Everything about this team that’s coming up for this 2018 season is going to be great. It’s not even because of me. I’m just out there doing my part.”
Defensive lineman Arnold Ebiketie led the Cherry squad in tackles and tied for a game-high with six, including two sacks. Only two other players — senior linebacker Todd Jones and redshirt-sophomore linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley — had five or more tackles.
Collins said Ebiketie and redshirt freshman Ifeanyi Maijeh will play on the defensive line this season as the Owls replace graduating seniors Sharif Finch and Jacob Martin. Finch and Martin combined for 16.5 sacks last season.
“I think this year I’m playing more physical, using my hands a little bit more,” Ebiketie said. “And I’m playing a little bit more smart, like not just using my speed all the time, like actually going over my read before the play even starts.”
“Ifeanyi and Arnold have really really good get off,” said redshirt-senior defensive lineman Michael Dogbe, who forced a fumble. “They’ve surprised me a lot. This summer, they obviously know what they need to work on to help us out, but those are two players I look out for to help us out come fall.”
Seven players carried the ball out of the backfield, including linebacker Shaun Bradley. The junior played running back during his high school career and had two carries last year. Bradley had two carries in the spring game for the Cherry team for 24 yards.
Senior running back Ryquell Armstead only had three carries, but he led all rushers with 33 yards and two touchdowns for the White team. He had a 20-yard score on a draw play in the first 12-minute quarter.
“They stepped up, they ran the ball well,” Armstead said of the other backs. “They hit their tracks and that’s all it’s about, just taking your coaching and doing what you gotta do.”
Temple added a little flair to its jerseys for the game.
Instead of having last names on the back of their uniforms, many players had their Twitter handles.
The team also had two guests from the university’s Athletes Helping Athletes organization that mentors special needs athletes. Matt Beckman from AHA scored one of the Cherry team’s touchdowns on the first play of the second quarter.
Blue hopes to carry the momentum from his spring game into the rest of the offseason.
“We’re going to have all summer, which I’m excited for,” Blue said. “We got the season coming I’m excited for, you got everything to be excited for.”