The Temple Owls finished their season with an 8 – 4 record, and were 7 – 1 finishing second in the American Athletic Conference Eastern Division. The only loss was to the #8 UCF Knights on the road, a game where they lead at halftime. The reward for their season was an invitation to the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA. The game will be played on December 27th. The opponent will be the Duke Blue Devils of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Owls are going to a bowl game for the fourth consecutive year, the eighth in program history. The senior class is going bowling for the fourth year. Coached by Geoff Collins the class is the winningest in school history with 35 victories.
The Blue Devils finished with a 7 – 5 record, going 3 – 5 in the ACC. Duke has wins over bowl-eligible squads Army, Northwestern, and Baylor. David Cutcliffe, the former Ole Miss coach, guides the Blue Devils. The Owls defeated Maryland from the ACC in the season’s third week.
“We are very excited to participate on the Independence Bowl,” said Collins. “Duke is a strong team and will represent the ACC well. Coach Cutcliffe will have them ready to play. “We have to go down there to play our Temple brand of football on gameday.”
This Temple team is getting ready for an appearance on national television. Since the senior class is experienced in this type of post-season play, they understand how to approach this type of game, and are ready to show the underclassmen how it’s done. The Cherry and White is anxious to go against a Power 5 Conference team.
“It gives you an extra edge playing a bigger team, playing at a high level shows what we are capable of,” said Armstead. We are excited to play Duke.”
“There is a fine line between having fun and being serious, and I’ll make sure my team is ready to go.”
Armstead will lead the rushing attack. He has run for 2,812 yards this season crossing the goal line 34 times. Armstead set conference records for most career rushing touchdowns and most running touchdowns in one game with six.
Quarterback Anthony Russo has a weapon in wide receiver Ventell Bryant who has at least one catch in every game played, currently 47. He holds the school record for receptions (169) and receiving yards at 2,413. Bryant knows it’s hard to get to a bowl game and feels their bowl experience will be a plus.
“”You want to finish with a bang, and last year I understood what it takes to win,” Bryant said. “Now, the older guys understand what it takes and we are ready to lead the team to a victory.”
The defense was ranked in the top ten in touchdowns (7, 1st), takeaways, fumble recoveries, and yards per play. Michael Dogbe, a senior, led the line in tackles with 69 and sacks (7). It is a special unit that had all-conference players at every level. He hopes to leave a lasting impression as this group will play their final game together.
“This was a very exciting group to be a part of,” said Dogbe. “There is a lot of energy on defense. We are up there in all categories. It’s going to be bittersweet playing my last game with these guys. We are going to go out there, have fun, and finish this thing off right.”
Isaiah Wright is the American Special Teams Player of the Year. He became the first Temple player to return both a punt and kickoff for a touchdown in consecutive seasons.
The trip will be part fun and part business. It will be a chance to play together again, and a chance to show what Temple football has become, and now has a chance to be a part of something great.
Written By: Glenn Papazian