Gasparilla Bowl: FIU vs. Temple preview

Panthers running back Jacob Kraut (34) runs onto the field with the rest of his team, while he carries the American flag, during their Homecoming matchup against the UTSA Roadrunners on Nov. 4, 2017. Nicholas Poblete/Panther Press

By Brett Shweky/Sports Director


The FIU football program will make an appearance in the postseason for the first time since 2011, as the team prepares to take on the Temple Owls in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg, FL on Thursday night.

The last time the Panthers managed to attend a bowl game, they were defeated 20-10 by the Marshall Thundering Herd in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. Ironically, the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl was played at the same site as this matchup, Tropicana Field.

At the beginning of the season, senior running back and all-time leading rusher, Alex Gardner, explained how getting the team back to a bowl game was his number one goal before graduating from FIU.

Senior Running back Alex Gardner (1) takes a handoff against the UTSA Roadrunners on Nov. 4, 2017 at Riccardo Silva Stadium. Nicholas Poblete/ PantherNow

“Getting us back to a bowl game and getting this team more recognition is my biggest goal before I graduate”, said Gardner. “I want to have it where more people want to come play here, so that we can establish a tradition within the football program.” “In previous years, we’ve been so close to making a bowl game, to bring FIU back to a bowl game would be a huge accomplishment.”

FIU (8-4) became bowl-eligible on Nov. 4, when the team defeated the UTSA Roadrunners,14-7, in a thrilling homecoming matchup.

The Owls (6-6) on the other hand, managed to become bowl-eligible by winning three of their last four games of the season, marking the team’s third consecutive year being involved in the postseason.

During this four-game span, Temple’s offense scored a total of 112 points in wins over Navy, Cincinnati and Tulsa.

One of the biggest offensive threats for the Panthers’ defense, junior quarterback Frank Nutile, has thrown for 976 passing yards and 10 touchdowns in this span. Temple receiver Adonis Jennings has benefited from the offense’s recent success by hauling in 13 receptions for 320 yards and four touchdowns in this span as well.

The Owls’ running game has also seen an increase in production during this time span. Starting running back David Hood has been the workhorse for the team as of late, by taking 56 carries for 308 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Throughout the season, Temple’s offense averaged 252 passing yards per game, while also averaging 136 rushing yards per game. Offensively for FIU, the team averaged 165 rushing yards per game and 239 passing yards per game.

In recent games however, the Panthers’ offense has been firing on all cylinders. In the last two games, FIU has scored a total of 104 points by defeating Western Kentucky 41-17 and Massachusetts 63-45.

The rushing attack for the Panthers has played a significant impact in the offense’s recent success. Over the last two games, FIU has rushed for a total of 501 yards and also eight touchdowns.

Running backs Gardner, Shawndarrius Phillips and Napoleon Maxwell have all played in crucial moments for the Panthers this year and have accumulated 1,687 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns all together.

Quarterback Alex McGough has also had an impact on the team’s rushing attack. The senior has managed to rush for 411 yards and five touchdowns throughout the season to be the fourth-leading rusher on the team.

Senior quarterback Alex McGough (12) calls out a signal against the UTSA Roadrunners. Nicholas Poblete/PantherNow

McGough has also found success through the air as well, throwing for 522 passing yards, four touchdowns and only interception in the last two games.

Freshman wide receiver Bryce Singleton has been a breakout player for the Panthers, since senior wide receiver Thomas Owens was sidelined with a season-ending knee injury. In his most recent game against the UMass Minutemen, Singleton led the team with six receptions for 111 yards and three touchdowns.

Following the Panthers’ victory over the UMass Minutemen, Head Coach Butch Davis discussed how important it was to finish the regular season on a high note, but to also send the seniors out on top.

“What a great way to finish the regular season, but to send these seniors out,” said Coach Davis. “These kids have been through so many things during the course of their four years or five years here. For them to have a to have an opportunity to tie the school record for most wins in a regular season, was awesome.”

Elizabeth Soza/PantherNow

Temple Head Coach, Geoff Collins, was once FIU’s defensive coordinator back in 2010. During his tenure as the Panthers’ coordinator, he became notorious for going after opposing quarterbacks. In the 2010 season, Collin’s defense managed to secure 33 sacks, which is second all-time in FIU history.

This season, Temple’s defense played up to this standard by having a total of 32 sacks. Defensive linemen Jacob Martin leads the Owls with eight sacks, while defensive linemen Sharif Finch is second on the team with 7.5 sacks.

The Owls’ consistent pressure on the quarterback this season, has played a significant role in the team’s secondary finding success defending the passing game. Throughout the season, the Temple defense has only allowed 210 passing yards per game, compared to FIU’s defense which allows 243 yards per game.

Defensively, the Panthers have struggled as of late. In the last four games, the FIU defense has allowed a total of 151 points and 1,960 total yards.

For the Panthers to emerge victorious against the Owls, the defense must strengthen up and not allow the opposing offense to score at will against them.

Coach Davis explained that the team is excited at the opportunity to play in a bowl game and also how he feels the entire team has done an excellent job this year.

“We’re very excited to be headed to the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl,” FIU Head Football Coach Butch Davis said. “Our guys have worked really hard this year, and I’m proud that we’ll end this season in a bowl. We look forward to playing Temple. They’ve had a good season. It should be a great game in St. Pete.”

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