EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Temple University graduate student quarterback Frank Nutile gave Connecticut a glimmer of hope after throwing an interception in the second quarter.
The turnover by Nutile, who started in place of injured redshirt-sophomore Anthony Russo, gave UConn an opportunity to cut into its two-score deficit.
Seven plays later, however, redshirt-sophomore defensive end Quincy Roche hit UConn senior quarterback David Pindell as he threw a pass. Graduate student linebacker Todd Jones intercepted the weakened throw to give Temple the ball back.
Temple (8-4, 7-1 American Athletic Conference) scored two touchdowns and two field goals on its next four offensive drives to close the first half on the way to a 57-7 win against UConn (1-11, 0-8 The American) on Saturday at Rentschler Field. The 50-point win marks the Owls’ largest margin of victory against a Football Bowl Subdivision school.
Temple, bowl eligible for the fifth straight season, will learn its postseason destination on Dec. 2.
Graduate student tight end Chris Myarick and redshirt-freshman cornerback Christian Braswell both scored their first career touchdowns with less than five minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the first half.
Myarick caught a 5-yard pass from redshirt-freshman quarterback Todd Centeio, while Braswell intercepted a pass attempt by Pindell and returned it for a touchdown. Redshirt-freshman kicker Will Mobley added two field goals following the touchdowns to give the Owls a 33-point halftime lead.
In the first half, the Owls scored 40 points, their highest total in a half since September 2014. After being shutout by South Florida in the first half on Nov. 17, the Owls put an emphasis on starting quickly.
Temple scored offensive, defensive and special teams touchdowns in a single game for the third time this season.
“We talk about our culture and what a great family we have…and it doesn’t show anywhere more evident than on special teams,” coach Geoff Collins said. “Guys from offense, guys from defense, playing together, working together, executing at a high level.”
After UConn and Temple traded touchdowns on the first two drives of the game, junior wide receiver Isaiah Wright returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. Temple never surrendered the lead after that point.
Wright’s touchdown started Temple’s run of 50 consecutive points. Temple recorded more than 500 yards of total offense for the third time this season.
Saturday was Nutile’s first start since the Owls’ loss on Sept. 8 against the University at Buffalo. Collins told the team Nutile would start against UConn on Sunday.
Wright said Nutile not starting for more than two months did not affect any chemistry with the offense.
“It doesn’t matter what quarterback is in,” Wright said. “We know that each quarterback is going to get the job done, whoever they put in. We all have faith in our quarterbacks.”
Nutile faced a UConn defense that closed the season allowing the most points and yards during a single season in FBS history.
Nutile completed 9-of-12 passes for 184 yards. Five of his completions gained at least 17 yards. Prior to Saturday, Nutile averaged 6.4 yards per attempt compared to his 15.3 against the Huskies.
Centeio completed all three of his passes for 39 yards and carried the ball six times for 32 yards and a touchdown.
“[Nutile] has been an unbelievable teammate and unbelievable leader,” Collins said. “I was just really happy for him tonight. He went out there and played and did a really nice job for us.”
The play before Myarick’s touchdown, senior running back Ryquell Armstead ran for 31 yards but left the game with an injury. Collins said Armstead wanted to reenter the game in the second half, but the coaching staff kept him on the sideline.
Armstead was not wearing a boot or a brace like he was after he reinjured his ankle on Nov. 1 against UCF.
Temple will have 15 practices before its bowl game. That time will give players like Armstead and redshirt-sophomore center Matt Hennessy an opportunity to rest. Hennessy returned to the lineup after missing two games with an injury.
“I know the coaching staff has a great bowl practice schedule lined up,” Hennessy said. “They’re going to let us recover a bit. We’re gonna hit the ground running and get ready for whoever we’re going to play. Getting a few days off between now and then will be awesome.”
Hennessy said the bowl game should be a team’s “best game” and believes the Owls are playing their best football at the right time.
“I’m excited to see who we play, the destination that we play,” Collins said.
“I’m just happy we get to develop young guys even more and spend more quality time with these seniors and really enjoy the moments being with them and being able to coach them because it’s a special group,” Collins added.