Temple University has three “above the line,” or game-day ready quarterbacks, and each one of them played in Saturday’s 36-29 loss to the University at Buffalo at Lincoln Financial Field.
During the week, the Owls planned to have sub-packages for their two backup quarterbacks — redshirt sophomore Anthony Russo and redshirt freshman Todd Centeio — while graduate student Frank Nutile would remain the primary starter.
Nutile took the most snaps, including the Owls’ last offensive play. Buffalo senior defensive end Chuck Harris sacked Nutile and forced a fumble as Temple tried to make up a seven-point deficit with less than one minute left in the fourth quarter.
The three-to-four-play packages for Russo and Centeio are similar to what the Owls did with junior wide receiver Isaiah Wright last season, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said.
“Both [Russo and Centeio] had a really good camp, and it was an opportunity to get them out there and something different to look at, change the pace a little bit,” Patenaude said. “We got some good mileage out of it in the first drive, we hit a couple of throws and missed one big one to [junior wideout] Randle [Jones], so that’s what we were trying to set up.”
“Me and Toddy were really excited because we are competitors like everybody else, and we always want to be out there making plays and stuff,” Russo said. “We just wanted to go out there and do what we needed to do to help move the ball and put us in a good position to score.”
Nutile first ceded the offense when Russo entered with one minute, 45 seconds remaining in the first quarter. He threw an incomplete pass to freshman wide receiver Sean Ryan and completed an 18-yard ball to graduate student Brodrick Yancy. Both he and Centeio were on the field for the next play, a trick play pass by Centeio intended for Jones that fell incomplete.
Centeio quarterbacked the next three plays before Nutile returned. The drive ended with one of his two interceptions.
Centeio took the field again with the Owls trailing by five points with just less than eight minutes remaining in the third quarter. On the first two plays of the drive, Centeio handed the football off to redshirt-freshman running back Jeremy Jennings. Then Nutile returned for a third-and-4 that ended in an incompletion.
Nutile said rotating in and out of the game didn’t disrupt his rhythm.
“It’s really nothing to think about like that,” he said. “Toddy, Russo really did an unbelievable job making some big plays, moving the sticks, getting some explosive plays. It’s really a nice wrinkle we have that coach Patenaude put into the game plan and helped us out.”
Nutile had inconsistent play sprinkled throughout Saturday’s game, struggling to find his groove on offense and turning over the football three times. Other than a desperation Hail Mary to redshirt sophomore Branden Mack to end the first half for a 39-yard touchdown and a wide open touchdown throw to junior Randle Jones, Nutile was erratic.
Nutile completed 15-of-32 attempts for 216 yards, three touchdowns and two picks. Russo completed 2-of-4 attempts for 24 yards, while Centeio’s only pass fell incomplete. He also ran twice for six yards.
Coach Geoff Collins dismissed the notion that anybody but Nutile would be the starter for next weekend’s noon showdown against the University of Maryland.
“We have three really good quarterbacks,” Collins said. “Frank Nutile is the leader of this program and does a great job. He’s competitive, we just got to do a great job of protecting him, distributing the ball around and get our playmakers out in space.”
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