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Navy Football Preview: The Midshipmen look to save the season against Temple

After an embarrassing loss to Air Force, Navy looks to rebound and win in an AAC showdown at home.

NCAA Football: Navy at Air Force Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Navy Midshipmen are now 2-3 entering week 7 of their 2018 college football campaign. Last week the Midshipmen fell to service academy foe Air Force in a lopsided affair, the first leg of the race for the Commander-in-Chiefs Trophy. It was Navy’s worst loss to Air Force since 2002, and largest margin of defeat for the Mids’ last 30 CIC matchups.

What’s next for the Men of Ken? Well it’s certainly not a tune up game, in the Owls of Temple, an American Athletic Conference East opponent. It will be the third match up in less than two years between these teams, in which Temple has had Navy’s number. They met in the AAC Championship game in Annapolis during the 2016 campaign. Navy lost their surprise superstar quarterback Will Worth and stud Slotback Toneo Gulley, in the same play early in the game. Temple’s stout defense was too much for Navy to overcome and the Owls easily sailed to a 34-10 victory. That game was the start of the Zach Abey era in Annapolis.

The Mids and Owls met again in 2017 as Navy traveled to a venue in Philadelphia they could potentially call their second home: Lincoln Financial Field. The revenge game for the Mids did not have a storybook ending, and they fell to the Owls again 26-34. This is not a score that is not reflective of the overall competitiveness of that game and Navy struggled to keep up all night.

The overall matchup history between these two programs had been lopsided for Navy in the early 21st century, but the last few years have been a different matter entirely. The series currently stands 7-6 in Temple’s favor. The Owls will look to extend their two game win streak against the Mids tomorrow in Annapolis. While this Temple program experienced a drop-off after head man Matt Rhule left for greener pastures down in Texas at Baylor, they didn’t just give up. After going 10-4 in 2016, the Owls finished 2017 at 7-6 with a Bowl win.

This is what Against All Enemies Contributor Gavin Jernigan had to say about the Owls so far in 2018:

Temple’s Season Review

The Temple Owls have had one of the most inconsistent seasons in the American Athletic Conference, but the general trend has been upward. The Owls opened the season with two losses against teams that should have been easy wins. Temple hosted both Villanova and Buffalo. Villanova is an FCS team, so there is no excuse there. Buffalo is having one of their better seasons in many years and has an incredible wide receiver in Anthony Johnson.

However after those two losses, Temple has won two of three games, including a road win against Maryland. Earlier this season, Maryland beat the currently ranked No. 9 Texas Longhorns. The point is, the Owls seem to be finding their rhythm. Last week, Temple blew out fellow AAC opponent, East Carolina, 49-6.

The Owl Offense

Under center for the Owls is Anthony Russo. Russo saw his first action of the year in their second game against Buffalo. So maybe we can credit Temple’s success to the change at quarterback. However, Russo’s statistics haven’t been great. He has thrown for five touchdowns (four coming from last week against ECU) and six interceptions. Additionally, Russo’s completion percentage is less than impressive. Before last week’s game, the sophomore quarterback was averaging only 46 percent on the year. This is good for Navy because the secondary has been the Midshipmen’s most vulnerable position.

Ryquell Armstead is one of Temple’s senior leaders on offense and also their top rusher. Armstead is averaging 5.1 yards per carry on the year and already has six touchdowns. However it has been reported that he is suffering a minor ankle injury. His status for this week’s game is questionable. However as mentioned before, the Navy defense can use all the help it can get.

Temple Defense

The Owl’s defense has been up and down, allowing anywhere from six points a game to 45. However their ability to stop a triple-option offense has yet to be seen. Defending the triple-option is all about discipline and the ability to beat blocks. Defensive coordinators generally all know what needs to happen to stop Navy’s run game. It is simply upon the defensive players to execute and not be deceived by the Midshipmen’s scheme.

How To Watch:

Time: 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday, Sep. 15.

Watch: CBS Sports, AFN

Location: Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, MD

Rankings: Navy enters week six of the S&P+ rankings at 95; Temple is at 49

Betting Lines: Temple is favored by 7 points on the road.

Keys to Success

This season has been rough so far, but we have been here before. Yes, there seems to be a bit of an identity crisis with the option, due in large part to the three headed monster at QB, with three outstanding athletes who are all really good at what they do. Zach Abey runs as hard and strong as Navy’s best fullbacks, except he’s a lot faster. Garrett Lewis has a great arm, but that’s a tertiary skill set for an option team like Navy. Malcolm Perry might be the one of the most prolific and dynamic Navy players of all time, but the experiment with him at QB has been stalled by multiple injuries.

Ivin Jasper has demonstrated time and again he will figure things out as the season progresses, and I don’t think anyone can blame him personally for the offense thus far this season. To do so would be incredibly short-sited and disrespectful of what he has done for this program for the better part of two decades. Have faith in him and the rest of the coaching staff. There is no lack of talent on this team, right now the issue has been stringing all the pieces together, which is a lot harder than you probably realize. Let’s not forget that this team could very easily be at 3-2 or even 4-1 if it weren’t for some sloppy turnovers at SMU or an ugly first quarter at Hawaii to begin the season.

Yes, getting crushed by Air Force is particularly painful, but that’s what happens in a rivalry on occasion. Don’t forget Navy has been handing out many more of those than they have received in recent history. It’s not fun, believe me, I got more than my fair share of fun Facebook messages and texts from Air Force buddies last weekend. There is still at least seven games left this year, including some big matchups against Army and Notre Dame, and Navy isn’t even close to out of the AAC Championship picture yet.

There are a lot of things that need to be worked out, I will freely admit. But I have seen Niumat and Jasper do too many incredible things, with less talented teams, to completely give up hope. Finding an identity as an offense is of paramount importance right now. This Navy defense more or less shut down a powerful Memphis offense, so they have what it takes as well. Don’t act like a win tomorrow at home wouldn’t feel like a massive turn around that breathes new life into this season.

The Hype

Look at this face. He looks like he’s ready to take someone’s head off!

For those of little faith, this is what your football team thinks of their Brotherhood.

If you aren’t motivated and inspired by what these young men have to say about each other, I don’t know what else to say.

Predictions

Temple is coming off a very lopsided win over a hapless Eastern Carolina Program.

Navy is in the exact opposite position.

After watching that brotherhood video, I have no doubt this team still believes in each other. They know that although they cannot win the CIC outright this season, there is still a great deal to fight for. Watch for the Mids to come out with their hair on fire tomorrow.

I think it’s going to be a hard fought battle and come down to a field goal on the final possession of the game.

Niumat will go back to deferring the kick during the first half, something he has done historically. The Navy D will get a quick stop on the Owls first series and the Triple Option will strike a quick score on a big Malcolm Perry run. After that it gets much murkier, and becomes a battle in the trenches. The Mids will get the ball Tied 21-21 with 2 minutes left in the 4th quarter deep in their own territory. All three QB’s will be involved in a hybrid drive of perfection getting just to the outer edges of field goal range for Bennett Moehring , who will drill a no-doubter 50 yarder, setting a new record for himself and breathing new life into this season for the Mids.

NAVY WINS 24-21!