CINCINNATI — Temple was able to keep its bowl hopes alive and make its senior class the most successful in school history.
Junior Frank Nutile threw for one touchdown and ran for other, Isaiah Wright had a 98-yard kickoff return and Temple kept its bowl hopes alive with a 35-24 win over Cincinnati on Friday night.
“We would rather die out there than let our seniors down,” Nutile said.
With two games left, the Owls need one more victory to become bowl eligible. One more win and the senior class will be the best all-time.
“Our seniors are special. I’m lucky I got to be their coach,” first-year coach Geoff Collins said. “They’ve gone through a lot with this program. A lot of them had to wait their turn.”
The Owls (5-5, 3-3 American) held off an inspired second-half effort by Cincinnati (3-7, 1-5) to get the win.
Hayden Moore threw a 29-yard pass to Thomas Geddis and Mike Boone had 28- and 21-yard runs on consecutive plays to make it a one score game with 7:40 left in the third quarter but Wright took the kickoff back 98 yards to separate the Owls from the Bearcats. Wright then threw a two-point conversion pass to Nutile on a trick play.
“For the first time I told the guys I’m disappointed with the way we coached; disappointed with the way we prepared the,” Cincinnati’s first-year coach Luke Fickell said. “It is baffling to me. The defense can play really well in the first half and have really big stops in tough situations. The offense doesn’t move the ball in the first half. In the second half it completely flips. We have to find a way to break through some of this stuff.”
Nutile completed 19 of 30 passes for 224 yards.
“He studies film and works hard,” Collins said. “You could see it on several key plays tonight. He is a great kid.”
David Hood’s one-yard run midway through the second quarter gave Temple a 13-0 halftime lead. Hood was Temple’s leading rusher with 89 yards on 19 carries.
Hood has spent most of the season backing up Ryquell Armstead.
“I look at myself as the No. 1 back every week,” Hood said. “Our offense really came together tonight.”
Cincinnati had a 76-yard punt return called back for an illegal block in the back and fumbled to set up one of Aaron Bourmerhi’s two first half field goals.
Hayden Moore completed 20 of 36 passes for Cincinnati and was the leading rusher with 75 yards on 11 carries.
Temple: Ventell Bryant moved into eighth place on Temple’s all-time list for receptions with 117. His 62 yards r and yards receiving also put him eighth on the list with 1,721. . With the win, Temple’s seniors tied the team record of 31 wins by a class. … The Owls faced two triple option offenses in a row before coming to Cincinnati. Army rushed for 248 yards on Oct. 21 but they held Navy to 136. Cincinnati split the difference with 184 yards rushing.
Cincinnati: Luke Fickell and Geoff Collins are both in their first season as head coach. Both were on the defensive coaching staff at Alabama for the 2007 national championship season. . Cincinnati has lost nine of its last 10 AAC games.
Temple will host Central Florida at noon on Nov. 18. The undefeated Knights will be the final home opponent for the Owls, who need one more win to be bowl eligible.
Cincinnati will travel to East Carolina on Nov. 18 at a time to be determined. The Pirates and Bearcats are at the bottom of the AAC standing.