Temple quarterback Frank Nutile insists he never varies the routine. Regardless of whether he's the starter — as he'll be for the first time Saturday when the Owls open against Villanova — or a backup, he always prepares as if he's starting.
Nutile, now a graduate student, never saw the field on opening day in his first four years (which included a redshirt season in 2014). In fact, for much of his career, he didn't see the field at all. But then Logan Marchi was injured in the seventh game last year, and Nutile started the eighth and never looked back.
The Owls went 4-2 with Nutile at quarterback. After the season, Marchi transferred to East Tennessee State, where he has been named the starting quarterback, and Nutile begins a season as the undisputed No. 1 for the first time in college.
Nutile, who does a great job of harnessing his emotions, concedes that running out of the tunnel for an opening-day start will be special.
"I can't wait," he said after practice earlier this week. "Everybody here is really excited. It's been long, going on nine months, since we played our last game, and we are all fired up to get back out there as a team and play as one."
Nutile always turns a question about an individual achievement into an answer about his team. To him, that is all that matters. It's why even when he had little chance of playing, he always prepared as the starter.
"If you don't prepare like that, you are letting your teammates down," Nutile said.
Even last season, after being named the MVP in Temple's 28-3 victory over Florida International in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, Nutile talked about everything but his play. He mentioned the offensive line, the receivers, the running backs, the defense. He probably didn't even know his own statistics in that game: 18-for-28 passing, 254 yards, one passing touchdown, one rushing TD, no interceptions.
According to coach Geoff Collins, Nutile has taken another leap since that MVP performance.
"He just makes everybody around him better," Collins said. "The further you get into the game plan, the better he gets."
Temple won four of its final five games to finish 7-6 last year. Nutile's insertion into the lineup and the Owls' success were not coincidental.
"Carrying that momentum to winter workouts, spring ball, summer workouts and going forward, I think it was huge for us," Nutile said of the late-season run.
>>READ MORE: Villanova-Temple prediction
When: Saturday, noon, at Lincoln Financial Field
Records (last year): Villanova, 5-6; Temple, 7-6, won the Bad Boys Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.
Coaches: Villanova, Mark Ferrante (second season, 5-6); Temple, Geoff Collins (second season, 7-6).
TV/Radio: ESPNews/97.5 The Fanatic.
Series history: The series is tied, 16-16-2. Temple has won the last four games.
1. Last year, Temple needed a 49-yard field goal by Aaron Boumerhi with a minute left to earn a 16-13 win over Villanova. The main reason the Wildcats were so competitive is quarterback Zach Bednarczyk threw for 382 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. He attempted 41 passes, and that is because Villanova averaged just 0.7 yards per carry. That said, if Bednarczyk, who often bought time with his scrambling ability, doesn't face more pressure, the Wildcats could again be in the game. Temple sacked him only once last year.
2. In last year's game, receiver Isaiah Wright had one reception for 32 yards for the Owls and didn't return any punts or kickoffs. He should be a much bigger factor in this game. While the 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior isn't a blazer, he runs great routes and is especially dangerous after the catch. He should also be a factor returning kicks and punts. Last year, he returned one of each for a score. During the preseason, Temple has talked about getting Wright more touches, and it will likely happen against Villanova.