Here are some observations on Temple football before the Dec. 2 announcement of its bowl game opponent.
(We acknowledge that not all of these are about Saturday's game, since it wasn't much of one.)
Junior Isaiah Wright can make it as an NFL receiver, but he should definitely have an impact as a return man. Wright has a shiftiness about him and also has great vision and an ability to read blocks and then dart through a hole and accelerate. He had a 99-yard kickoff return in the 57-7 rout at UConn, his third return TD this season and fifth of his career. Wright has three punt-return TDs and two kickoff-return scores.
In the past, he has talked about how he doesn't feel he has flat-out great speed, and maybe he isn't the fastest player, but Wright is also no slowpoke. At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, he can take a hit and break his fair share of tackles. In the passing game, his best skill is running after the catch.
Looking at UConn, one wonders when the Huskies will become a competitive program. What it shows is that young teams have trouble winning, especially in the American Athletic Conference, where players tend to spend four or five years at school. UConn was 3-9 last year and 1-11 this season in the second year of coach Randy Edsall's second stint at the school. Edsall talked about how difficult it is to win with a young team. Against Temple, UConn started 14 players who were true or redshirt freshmen or sophomores. Nine of those players were on defense.
Temple, meanwhile, had five players who were true or redshirt freshmen or sophomores starting on offense and one on defense.
A lot of young players earned experience for the Huskies, but whether that translates to future success remains to be seen.
Senior safety Delvon Randall is playing his best football, similar to last year when he was a first-team all-AAC selection. Randall played well early this season, but he wasn't the big-play performer that he was a year ago. Then he had nine tackles and many big hits in a 24-17 overtime win over previously unbeaten Cincinnati on Oct. 20, and had one interception in each of his next three games. On Saturday, he added a team-high 11 tackles.
Last week, Randall was selected to play in the East-West Shrine game along with teammate Rock Ya-Sin. The offseason will be big for the 6-1, 215-pound Randall because some question his speed, but he has improved in coverage and is a big hitter.
Quarterback Frank Nutile is among the best teammates that the Temple program has had. He was the MVP of last year's 28-3 Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl victory over FIU, started the first two games this season, was injured and couldn't get his job back because of the fine play of Anthony Russo. With Russo out with a cast on his right hand against UConn, Nutile returned to the starting lineup. Yet it's what he has done while on the bench that has been impressive. Coach Geoff Collins has constantly praised his attitude, and so have his teammates.
It has been killing Nutile to be on the bench, but he prepared hard each week and also helped the other quarterbacks with his knowledge of the system. This season hasn't gone the way he envisioned, but Nutile has stayed the course as a teammate.
Quarterback Todd Centeio is a major running threat, and in the first drive against UConn, he entered the game when Temple got inside the red zone. The Owls had a first down from the UConn 18 when an option play was called. It appeared as if Centeio could have scored easily on that play, but he pitched to Wright, who ran for an 18-yard touchdown. Wright played high school ball at Kingswood-Oxford High in Hartford, Conn., and estimated that 20 family members and friends were at the game.
"I actually told Toddy he should have kept it and I was going to lead block, but he knew I was home and he wanted me to go out with a bang, so he pitched it to me," Wright said.