Game 548: Temple shuts down triple-option and launches air attack to ground Navy, 34-26
Philadelphia – Temple fell to Army West Point on October 21 and had not played since, but before and after the Army game, HC Geoff Collins’s team drilled against the triple-option since mid-October and used that to their advantage last Thursday night in our Game 548. The Owl defense shut down the Mids’ potent option to hold them to 136 rushing yards on 52 carries to win, 34-26. The Naval Academy fell for its third straight loss. The Mids lost QB Zach Abey (25 carries for 60 yards) to an injury in the fourth quarter and went with back-up Garrett Lewis who was more effective passing the ball for USNA late in the game to mount a comeback that fell short. On the other side of the ball, Temple had Navy’s secondary well scouted and took advantage as QB Frank Nutile (Wayne, NJ) threw four TD passes and hit on 22 of 30 passes, 289 yards, and one INT. This was undoubtedly Temple’s best played game of the season. For Collegefootballfan.com, our game 548 was the first of two slated for week ten of our 2017 season.
WR Adonis Jennings took advantage with his speed against Navy’s slow secondary averaging 25.4 yards per his five receptions including two for touchdowns. To break an early 3-3 tie in the first, Nutile connected down the right sideline with Jennings for a 40-yard score.
In the second period, the Owls finished off an 88-yard drive with Nutile firing an eight-yard scoring pass to Keith Kirkwood to go up, 17-3. With 9:35 remaining in the first half, Navy methodically drove down field with short runs up the middle. Rarely did Abey pitch out on the option as they had the offense pretty well diagnosed. The Mids used all the time left in the first half before Keith Moehring booted a 24-yard FG as time expired to end the first 30 minutes. Navy would get the ball to start the second half, but they were going to have to display a sense of urgency to catch up with the Owls who had the explosiveness for quick scores against a Navy defense that applied little pressure on the quarterback and loose coverage against their speedy receivers.
Guest Game Analysts Brian Donnelly and “Air Force” Jay met with CCF.com for game 548 at the local Holiday Inn Parking lot on Packer Ave. where we found a bottom rate parking fee for only $5 – a new CFF record low! We snacked and drank while sharing tales around the tailgate before heading into Lincoln Financial Field for dinner. I had promised both that the Philly cheesesteaks from the concession stands in the stadium tasted much better those we purchased in the past from the Philly tourist traps. They came away very impressed to say the least. We all ordered with the chopped onions. The fresh bread and melted cheese combined with the delicious steak hit the spot. Collegefootballfan.com rates this and Premio sausage sandwiches as the best stadium selections of all time in our history. Brian and Jay might agree. They confirmed that they had eaten great Italian sausage sandwiches in Philly before, but they were unsure of the brand. I’m sure they were Premios. We’ve enjoyed them at Citizens Bank Park in Philly, Citi-Field in New York, and Rutgers High Point Solutions Stadium. They’ll both have to try them again for us to give us their feedback. If not too full from tailgating when we go back to Lincoln Financial on December 9 to see Army play Navy, maybe Brian and Jay can go in and each order one to give us their approval once they confirm they tried and actual Premio Italian sausage sandwich.
Widening the gap
Navy’s sense of urgency took a big setback to start the third. We didn’t clearly see what happened, but the officials ruled returner Zack Fraade signaled for a fair catch at the four. It must have been inadvertent if anything. Maybe shading his eyes in the bright lights of the Linc as he started to run up field after the catch, but we didn’t notice any evident signal. It nullified any early momentum for the Navy to build on to start the second half. Temple took over after the ensuing punt on their 41. Nutile connected again with Jennings on they fly easily beating his defender for a 34-yard TD to go up, 24-6. Without an effective option game thus far, things looked bleak for Navy. However, the Mids came back with a 75-yard drive and scored on a trick play similarly executed by the Owls earlier. At the TU five, Abey walked behind his linemen to his right apparently calling audibles. While doing so, the ball was snapped direct to the tailback who rolled left and pitched it to Malcolm Perry on a reverse end around. The third string QB passed it to Abey standing alone in the right side of the end zone for a Navy touchdown to pull to within 11. Temple reacted a little more conventionally. An 81-yard drive was highlighted by a 35-yard pass to Jennings who got caught from behind at the Navy one. Following a two-yard loss, Nutile threw his next TD pass to TE Jake Robinson to take a dominating 31-13 lead into Q4 of game 548.
Coming back, but…
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Navy HC Ken Niumatalolo finally decided that he needed more air in his game. The Mids drove to the TU 28. On fourth down, Abey got sacked. The Owls took over from their 38. A FG by Aaron Boumerhi from 32 gave the Owls a 34-13 margin. Again, Abey took to the air, but this time the result was worse. S Devlon Randle intercepted to give Temple the ball on its 33, and Navy’s training staff escorted Abey off of the field. Navy returned the favor with S Micah Farrar picking off Nutile’s pass on a tip to give Navy the ball at the Owl 37. Garrett Lewis took over for Abey. He led the offense on its next series into the end zone with a 16-yard touchdown pass to WR Brandon Colon to make the score, 34-19. Temple blocked the point after attempt. After that, the USNA defense finally forced a TU punt. Lewis completed a 48-yard pass to Perry to get to Temple’s 32. Again, the Mids got into the end zone through the air on an eight-yard scoring play to Tyler Carmona with 2:12 left. Navy was within striking distance now down eight. The onsides kick was recovered by the Owls and Navy never had another chance to catch up in game 548.
Despite the late scores, GGA Brian Donnelly lamented that after having Navy season tickets for 12 years now, he had never seen Navy play so bad. I had to think about this. Realizing he started attending Navy games back when Paul Johnson had this program on the upswing after his arrival from Georgia Southern back in 2002, I understood his perception. After about seven years of not attending Navy games before 2006 because they struggled so often before and during these years, memories started to come back. Navy teams had played a lot worse before then. Thankfully, the Navy football program has obliterated memories of some very futile years. Hopefully, this is only a short blip on the screen after many successful years under Johnson and now HC Niumatalolo. This program is still in the right direction, but it may be time for some tweaking to get this defense to be better prepared for teams that like to throw the football.
After a 5-0 start, the three losses probably knocked the Mids out of consideration for the Military Bowl on December 28. However, looking ahead, things may be looking desperate to be attending any bowl game at all. Next up is improved SMU at 6-3, 3-2. Talk about a passing team, QB Ben Hicks has 2,588 passing yards and 20 TDs. After that, the Mids travel to No. 3 Notre Dame who has its sights set on a CFP bid. Houston stands in the way next currently at 6-3, 3-2 when Navy travels for this clash in the Lone Star state. Lastly, the Mids will be play archrival Army for the Commander in Chief’s Trophy. The Cadets are 7-2, on a five-game winning streak, and just off a 21-0 shutout of Air Force in Colorado Springs. Navy has its work cut out to get a bowl invite against these four foes. Their defense needs to shape up quickly.
Temple heads to Cincinnati to play their AAC East foe Bearcats. Collegefootballfan.com looks forward to our first trip ever to Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, VA after game 548 to see an improved but faltering Virginia Cavalier team (5-3, 2-2) host Georgia Tech (4-3, 3-2) running the triple option under aforementioned former Navy HC Paul Johnson. Should be fun! (It was a great game. Come back to check out our story line this Tuesday morning)