TEMPLE HOST NAVY ON THURSDAY NIGHT
Following a tough road loss against Army in a 31-28 overtime decision and a well-deserved bye week away from the action, Temple aims to recover from consecutive losses with a matchup against Navy, hosting the Midshipmen in a Thursday night contest at Lincoln Financial Field. The game is set to kickoff at 8:00 pm EST and will be televised nationally on ESPN and broadcast locally on 610 WTEL Radio.
Two weeks ago, Temple (3-5, 1-3 American) battled a resilient Army squad into the program’s first overtime game since 2012, faltering in the first period on a missed field goal to grant the Black Knights the 31-28 victory. By all accounts, the Owls faced an uphill battle considering the perceived handicaps they entered the game with, including five first-time starters (QB, LT, LG, C & DE) and a slew of injuries on both sides of the ball. Instead, Temple rallied from down two touchdowns early to a late lead, only allowing Army to knot the score with one second remaining before falling in overtime.
Offensively, the Owls returned to their roots as junior RB Ryquell Armstead compiled a season-best 151 yards and two touchdowns, heading a unit that decimated the Army front throughout the game. First-time starter at QB Frank Nutile threw for a career-best 290 yards on 20-of-29 passing while sophomore WR Isaiah Wright electrified behind his big play ability, notching a career-long rush (50) and reception (51). As for the defense, the linebacker duo of sophomore Shaun Bradley and redshirt sophomore Chapelle Russell led a unit that held the Black Knights to just 248 rushing yards, a season-low for Army.
Moving forward against Navy (5-2, 3-2 American), Temple regrouped and recovered during its bye week, steeling itself for the final four-game push. The Owls’ passing game continues to spread the ball around, featuring a catch by an average of 8.7 wide receivers per game, including a season-best 11 against UMass. Defensively, the unit has showcased its resiliency game in and game out, as the combined efforts of tackle leaders Russell (62) and junior S Delvon Randall (54) have granted Temple the title of one of the conference’s top defenses (3rd in total yards allowed, 4th in points allowed).
As for Navy, the Midshipmen have struggled similarly to the Owls over the past two weeks, falling in consecutive games to UCF (31-21) and Memphis (30-27). Previously, Navy appeared locked in, breaking off five straight victories to kickoff the year including a notable three-point win over rival Air Force.
LAST TIME vs. NAVY
Temple last battled the Midshipmen in the 2016 American Athletic Conference Championship, knocking off Navy in a dominant 34-10 victory. The usually potent Navy triple option never found traction against the stout Owl defensive front, compiling only 168 rushing yards in the title game loss. The victory saw multiple current Owls notch solid performances, with notable stats coming from WR Keith Kirkwood and WR Ventell Bryant, who each grabbed five receptions and one touchdown for a combined 145 yards.
AN APPLE A DAY…
Longtime team doctor and a cornerstone at Temple University Hospital as program director of the Orthopaedic Surgery Residency Program, Dr. J. Milo Sewards, MD, has served a vital role with the Owls’ football program the past nine years. Come November 3rd (the day following the game), Sewards will deploy as a member of the Naval Reserve, where he will serve as a Commander within the Medical Corps.
A HARD-IN CONNECTION TO OVERLOOK
The roots between the Temple and Naval football programs are more historically intertwined than they appear on the surface. Former head coach Wayne Hardin, who passed away earlier this year, guided the Owls on the gridiron from 1970-82. Widely regarded as one of the program’s top head coaches, he deservedly received induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2013. Prior to taking over Temple, however, Hardin led the Midshipmen for six seasons from 1959-64, coaching the academy’s only two Heisman Trophy winners (Joe Bellino in 1960 & Roger Staubach in 1963) and leading the team to appearances in both the Orange and Cotton Bowls. All said and done, Hardin compiled a career 118-74-5 mark over a 19-year collegiate coaching stint.
BODY BLOWS MENTALITY
The idea of body blows, boxing terminology rooted in the concept of absorbing punishment while dealing out more than you’re taking, serves as the foundation of the blue-collar psychology ingrained into the Temple football program. Junior RB Ryquell Armstead has taken this mindset to heart, showcasing his best work when he has more opportunities in the ground game. Per his career numbers, Armstead averages 6.7 yards per carry when his number is called 15-plus times a game, compiling nine touchdowns with an average of 118 yards per game. The most recent example of this trend came versus Army, as Armstead rushed for 151 yards and two scores on 18 carries.
NU PASSER, SAME RESULTS
Despite an injury sidelining starting QB Logan Marchi, back-up Frank Nutile never allowed the Temple air attack to lose a step versus Army. The redshirt junior put together a career-best 290 yards on 20-of-29 passing, working to spread the ball around the field as nine different wide receivers pulled in a catch against the Black Knights. On the season, the passing game has averaged 8.7 wideouts per game with a reception (only Washington State at 10.0 averages more for schools having played seven games).
In perhaps a coincidental tribute to Temple’s beloved mascot, Stella, the Owls have performed particularly well at night, scoring a 13-9 mark since 2013 in games kicking off after 6:00 pm. In an unrelated note, Temple also plays solid football on Thursdays, going 4-2 in Thursday night contests dating back to 2010.
Stella, a three-pound, eight-year-old great horned owl from the Elmwood Park Zoo, made her debut as the mascot for the Temple Owls’ football team in 2013 and continues to do so through this season. After her first year as Temple’s mascot, Stella was named one of the top five feathered mascots by the NCAA. Weekdays, she works as an educational animal, teaching the virtues of wildlife conservation. Having been raised as a pet illegally in Utah, she is accustomed to humans and, in fact, views herself as one. She shares an enclosure with her boyfriend, Sherlock, who gets jealous when Stella basks in the limelight, but there’s always a price to pay for being a celebrity.
On the Naval Academy football roster of 175 Midshipmen from 31 states, three should stand out to the greater-Philadelphia area. Sophomore LB Elan Nash attended Unionville HS in Glen Mills, Pa., sophomore LS Michael Pifer hails from Jeannette, Pa., and went to Penn Trafford HS and sophomore LB Aleksei Yaramus grew up in Moon Township, Pa. and attended Moon Area HS.
AHEAD AGAINST THE ACADEMIES
Temple has a long history on the gridiron against the East Coast military academies, Army & Navy. Across 25 matchups dating back to 1943, the Owls currently stand a combined 13-12 against the Black Knights (7-6) and the Midshipmen (6-6). Further, this year’s scheduled games with the two academies marks the fifth time Temple has faced both Army & Navy in the same season (2007, 2008, 2009 & 2016), not to mention the first time the Owls have matched wits with them in back-to-back matchups. Despite faltering two weeks ago against Army, the Owls’ most recent bout with Navy fell their way, sinking the Midshipmen 34-10 in the 2016 AAC Title Game. As for Air Force, the third and final military academy, Temple has yet to schedule a game with the Falcons.
A MUTUAL ADMIRATION
Naval Academy head coach Ken Niumatalolo has faced off against Temple five times during his career leading the Midshipmen, finishing a respectable 3-2 in those contests. Now in his 11th year with the program, Niumatalolo has developed a certain respect for the Owls and their hard-nosed approach to the sport, and is quoted as saying as much last season prior to Navy falling to Temple in the American Athletic Title Game:
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for Temple, their football program and their culture. They are very similar to us – tough, hard-nosed kids who are disciplined.”
The Owls take to the road once again, this time traveling to Ohio to face division opponent Cincinnati in a nationally-televised Friday night matchup on November 10.