PHILADELPHIA – The Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl announced today that Temple (6-6, 4-4 American) has been selected to play in the 2017 Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl against Florida International University (8-4, 5-3 C-USA). The game will be played on Thursday, December 21, at 8:00 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
"We are very excited to participate in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl and we are certainly looking forward to spending time in St. Petersburg to see all it has to offer," said Temple head coach Geoff Collins
. "FIU is a strong team and will represent Conference USA well. Butch Davis will have them ready to play so we have to go down there, enjoy ourselves at the great events that the Bowl committee puts on, but take care of business come game time."
This is Temple's third straight bowl game and the seventh in school history. Temple has been bowl eligible for four consecutive seasons and seven times in the past nine years.
"I'm really proud of our guys for the season they put together," Collins continued. "For this senior class to be the winningest class in Temple history is quite an accomplishment. I've grown very close to this senior group. They know I love them and as my first group of seniors as a head coach, they know how much they mean to me and I will cherish the memories of this year always. I think we all would like to finish the season strong and win the game to send the seniors off the right way and give the returning players something to build upon in the spring. We have an incredible group of players coming back and the future is bright on Broad Street."
The main characters of any football story, the head coach and quarterback, would not return for Temple's sequel to a 2016 American Athletic Conference Championship, the program's first since 1967. The Owls immediately filled the head coaching position with a bright new star but auditions for the star quarterback role took a little longer.
On December 14, 2016, Collins took over as head coach and brought an innovative and energetic recipe formulated from 23 years of coaching experience, including nearly a decade in the Southeastern Conference.
The "Minister of Mayhem" arrived and, with his experience on the defensive side of the ball, that unit quickly took on his identity and was a fast, aggressive bunch throughout most of the season. Junior safety Delvon Randall
and senior safety Sean Chandler
starred for the defense, each earning all-conference honors. The veteran cast of defensive linemen led by seniors Sharif Finch
, Jacob Martin
and Jullian Taylor
, stole the show often, with Finch and Martin among the nation's best in both sacks and tackles-for-loss. Temple featured newcomers at the midlevel linebacker position, starting a trio of sophomores who not only played well, but should be one of the strongest units in the country moving forward.
Following last season's success, first-year offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude
inherited a blueprint for offensive success – a power run game behind arguably the best fullback in the country, Nick Sharga
, and led by junior running back Ryquell Armstead
. That formula was expected to help along an inexperienced quarterback. Phillip Walker
, Temple's four-year all-time leader signal-caller graduated, leaving Temple with a unit deplete of any college experience. Redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi
earned the opening day nod and held the position for seven weeks before an injury sidelined him, leaving the unit to flourish under redshirt junior Frank Nutile
. Not helping the situation, Armstead spent much of the year battling nagging injuries.
It was a switch after week four that ignited the offense, however, as Patenaude veered from the two-back sets to highlight a trio of wide receivers and open up the scheme. Seniors Adonis Jennings
(39-691-7TDs) and Keith Kirkwood
(39-575-7TDs), along with sophomore Isaiah Wright
(41-595-3TDs), gave the unit the spark it needed. The offense improved its output by 150 yards and 10 points between games 14- and games 5-12.
When Collins started the job he did not expect to have the 114th least experienced squad in the FBS, nor did he expect to start 42 different players. While injuries played a factor in that number, it was the second highest for a bowl-eligible team.
Ultimately, though, Temple found itself bowl-eligible for the seventh time in nine seasons and heading to the postseason for the third consecutive year. Along the way, the senior class became the winningest group in school history, earning its 32nd win at Tulsa in the regular season finale to eclipse the 2011 squad.