Geoff Collins’ first spring as Temple head football coach concluded on Saturday with a competitive annual Cherry and White game in which defensive coordinator Taver Johnson’s Greatness Never Quits team edged out offensive coordinator's Dave Patenaude's Temple Tuff, 17-14.
While there were some entertaining moments for a crowd that braved the persistent rain, it didn’t do much to shed much light on the camp’s most important question – who will be under center for the season opener at Notre Dame on Labor Day weekend?
Phillip Walker graduated after 3 ½ seasons as the starter, which meant this was the first game where a quarterback battle was the main drama in the game since Walker was still a senior at Elizabeth High School in 2013. Connor Reilly started separating himself as the man who would eventually start that year’s opener. … at Notre Dame.
Redshirt junior Frank Nutile, the most experienced of the quartet battling for the job, was just 2-for-6 for 43 yards, but one of those passes was a strike over the middle to freshman Freddie Johnson, who took it into the end zone for a 37-yard score.
Nutile also scored on an 18-yard TD run after some nice misdirection.
“I think it was a good day,” said Nutile. “The offensive line played terrific and it felt good after 14 days this spring to go out there and make some plays and just have fun. I’m really looking forward to camp starting up and the competition continuing.”
Freshman Todd Centeio opened some eyes by going 9-for-13 for 110 yards and an 18-yard touchdown to Marshall Elick, which ended up being the winning points in the game. Elick was the leading receiver with five catches for 105 yards.
Freshman Anthony Russo was 7-for-11 for 77 yards, and sophomore Logan Marchi went 4-of-10 for 92 yards and two interceptions.
Asked who would start if he had to play Notre Dame next week, Collins praised all the quarterbacks.
“We’re just worried about every single day,” said Collins. “Little Toddy Centeio did a nice job out there competing , Russo putting some nice balls, Logan barking to get the team into a two-minute drill, Frankie Juice with the big run.
“It was nice to see the guys spinning it out there, but I know I didn’t answer the question. A guy like P.J. who was the winningest quarterback in program history and a leader, guys have embraced (replacing him) and rallied around the quarterbacks and that will help in the long run.”
Junior running back Jager Gardner was the overall star of the game. He carried nine times for 67 yards and a touchdown, while also catching two passes for 34 yards.
On one run, Gardner faked out one defender, then hurdled another. On the touchdown run, the junior showed his power by bulling his way into the end zone.
“I’ve been thinking about the hurdle all week,” said Gardner. “I wasn’t anticipating doing it, I just felt like I was could do it.”
Backup kicker Jake Geiger converted a 39-yard field goal attempt with room to spare.
On defense, linebacker Zach Mesday had six tackles and two of the five sacks on the day. Mike Jones and Delvon Randall – who was awarded a single-digit number for touchness – had interceptions.
“The first part of camp we were establishing we were a physical, disciplined, tough football team and first 7-8 days we just got after it,” said Collins. “The last 4-5 days we focused on tempo. That was a big focus in the second half. Establish our culture and get ready for situations that come up. We hit everything we can hit and they’ve just gotten better They’re a great group to coach.”
Collins handed out several awards at halftime and one other noteworthy item – a scholarship. Redshirt tight end Chris Myarick was named the program’s Most Valuable walk-on and the first-year head coach announced the junior would be on scholarship going forward.
The other awards were the Bresani Spirit award which was given to defensive lineman Jacob Martin and six winners of Apex Predator Awarrds for dominating performances in camp: Defensive back Delvin Randall, defensive lineman Dan Archibong, defensive back Benny Walls, offensive lineman Matt Hennessy, wide receiver Keith Kirkwood and running back Ryquell Armstead earned those.
Last year’s seniors received their American Athletic Conference championship rings.