Another week, and another game for Navy in which its opponent is playing its season opener.
After an ugly loss to C.I.C. rival Air Force last week, the Midshipmen are hoping to bounce back at home against Temple. The question is, what version of this Navy team will we see? The one that looked completely unprepared vs. BYU, the one that was dominated by Air Force, or the one that showed real grit and talent down in New Orleans to beat Tulane?
The good news for Navy is that Dalen Morris will apparently be back under-center against the Owls. After an incredible performance against Tulane, the senior quarterback did not travel to Colorado Springs to face the Falcons. According to Bill Wagner’s reporting at the Capital Gazette, Morris has “a lifelong medical condition that can potentially be exacerbated by high altitude.”
Five different quarterbacks have played this year for Navy, and three different ones have started through as many games — the latter is a first for the Mids since the 1992 season. Ken Niumatalolo confirmed this past week that Morris is the clear No. 1 on the depth chart going forward and Morris doesn’t plan on relinquishing the position.
“I plan to be the starting quarterback for the rest of the season,” Morris told the Capital Gazette. “I plan on being the guy and I have to assert myself in practice as the leader of this team.”
Inconsistent play at quarterback hasn’t been the only problem for Navy though. On offense, the fullbacks struggled mightily against Air Force. So far this season, Jamale Carothers and Nelson Smith have combined for 241 yards on 60 carries, just a hair over a four-yards-per-carry average, which isn’t bad, but they haven’t carried the offense. Carothers hasn’t scored yet, while Smith has found the end-zone twice. Navy ball carriers have also been tackled behind the line of scrimmage 19 times through three games.
Aside from the second half against Tulane, the Navy defense has allowed 119 points. The Mids have the worst – yes, the worst – rushing defense in the country out of the 75 FBS teams that have played games, allowing 311.7 yards on the ground per-game.
Because Temple hasn’t played a game yet, Navy didn’t get a chance to scout the Owls. But on offense, not much has changed for Temple as it returns its top rusher, passer and best receivers from a season ago. Anthony Russo is entering his third season under-center for the Owls after throwing for 2,861 yards and 21 touchdowns a season ago. Saturday will be his 24th career start.
A victory for Navy would give Niumatalolo his 100th career win, making him the sixth active FBS coach to do so at one school. If he gets it, the Brigade of Midshipmen will be there to celebrate.
Kickoff: 6 p.m. EST
Where: Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland
Watch: CBS Sports Network | John Sadak and Randy Cross will have the call while Sheehan Stanwick Burch reports from the sidelines.
Spread: Most books have Temple favored by three points.
AFN COLLEGE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE UPDATE ⤵️⤵️— American Forces Network (@AFNtelevision) October 8, 2020
Note: The Missouri/LSU game has been removed from our weekend lineup as it has been rescheduled due to Hurricane Delta. pic.twitter.com/P4fPYmeGVK
Temple and Navy last met in 2018 and Russo threw for 300 yards and a touchdown in a 24-17 win for the Owls. Temple also had two rushing touchdowns on the day in Annapolis, but the play that sealed the victory for the Owls was a pass from Russo to Ventell Bryant in the fourth quarter that went for 62 yards, capping off an unanswered 17-point run for the Owls.
Garrett Lewis started at quarterback that day for Navy, while Nelson Smith paced the offense with 108 rushing yards. Navy won the turnover battle and the time of possession, but still fell short on the scoreboard.
This will be the 15th all-time meeting between Navy and Temple, and the fourth since both joined the AAC. Temple beat Navy in Annapolis in 2016 in the AAC Championship game.
They said it
- Temple head coach Rod Carey: “Obviously we have had a ton of time to prepare for this one, going all the way back to March… We have some more information now on Navy, which is a good thing for us with them playing three games. Certainly, will put that information to good use.”
- Navy defensive coordinator Brian Newberry: “They’re a blue-collar operation. They’re a tough, gritty football team with a big, physical offensive line. It’s going to be a huge challenge coming off a very physical football game against Air Force.”
- Navy safety Kevin Brennan has to sit out the first half of Saturday’s game after being penalized and ejected for targeting against Air Force.
- Navy defenders Alefosia Saipaia, Diego Fagot, Tama Tuitele and Evan Fochtman are all questionable to play, according to the Capital Gazette.