By Annie Ross

It’s the spring after one of the most successful seasons in Tenple football history, and the annual Cherry & White Game attracted more than 3,500 fans in an offense versus defense competition.

After a slow start in the first quarter, the Owl offense took command, outpacing the defense by a score of 35-25. While the offense put points on the board in the normal fashion, the defense was able to rack up its own by forcing a takeaway (6), earning a red zone stop or blocked field goal (3) and shutting down the offense outside the red zone or with a blocked PAT (1).

A late defensive lead in the fourth quarter vanished behind the efforts of quarterbacks P.J. Walker (above) and Frank Nutile, as each architected quick scoring drives in two of the final four possessions.

First, Nutile showcased his range as he found redshirt junior receiver Keith Kirkwood for a 70-yard strike down the field’s centerline. The second, however, featured sophomore running back Jager Gardner, who, after a short screen from Walker, weaved between defenders for the decisive touchdown.

Kirkwood’s scoring grab marked his second of game, as he pulled down a 22-yard TD in the second quarter. Meanwhile, junior receiver Adonis Jennings and redshirt sophomore tight end Alex Carling each found the endzone as well, the first a 13-yard tightrope walk along the right sideline and the second a 7-yard catch on the play-action pass.

As for the ground game, an injury to senior starter Jahad Thomas allowed sophomore Ryquell Armstead to handle a majority of the first-team responsibilities, powering for 25 yards on 8 carries. Gardner followed suit with 35 yards of his own on just 7 carries while Travon Williams managed the second team duties with 13 carries for 22 yards.

The Temple defense showed up strong to begin the scrimmage, shutting down all the offensive possessions through the first four drives. Leading the team in tackles for the day, though, was Delvon Randall, who racked up 6 tackles from his safety position. As a unit, the defense compiled 6 sacks, with freshman defensive lineman Jeromy Reichner leading the squad with two of his own.

As for notable performances, redshirt sophomore linebacker Mike DiFrancesco notched a late first half interception while the defensive line sprang on a fumbled handoff early in the third quarter.

Specialist Alex Starzyk booted multiple impressive punts, including a booming coffin corner inside the ten-yard line. Meanwhile, kickers Austin Jones and Dan McDonald were perfect on five PATs, but failed to convert two 48-yard field goal attempts.

With spring practice concluded, Temple now turns its sights to the season opener against Army at Lincoln Financial Field on September 2.

The Owls last faced the Black Knights during Rhule’s first year on campus in 2013, knocking off the cadets in what became the head coach’s first victory with Temple.

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