Army needed just one yard for a first down halfway through the fourth quarter.
But on successive drives, a third-and-1 from their own 25-yard line and a fourth-and-1 from their 25, the Black Knights’ offense stalled against the Temple defense.
And after officials overturned an interception ruling because of defensive pass interference, redshirt junior quarterback Vaughn Charlton connected with senior tight end Steve Maneri on a six-yard touchdown pass for the go-ahead score.
The Owls extended their winning streak to four games and now stand at 4-2 overall. Army dropped to 3-4 with the loss.
“There’s a confidence right now. There’s an ebb-and-flow on the sideline that wasn’t there before,” coach Al Golden said. “To not lose is a big deal. We have four wins in our first six games, and the average win total in the first six games in this decade is like 1.2, so it is significant that we’re winning games, no matter how it turns out that we’re winning games. But we wake up tomorrow and think about Toledo. We’ve got a big-time opponent on the road. We’re going to focus on Toledo tonight if not tomorrow.”
Temple might have to handle Toledo without freshman running back Bernard Pierce, who left the game in the second quarter with an injury and did not return. Pierce had 65 yards on 11 carries up until that point. His 23-yard run to lead off the game and subsequent touchdown sparked an Owls offense that went dormant after he exited.
“I thought the offense kept their poise, though,” Golden said. “It could’ve been a trainwreck.”
Despite 14 penalties for 100 yards (10 of which came prior to the crucial defensive pass interference call), Army kept it close. The Owls opened the game with the Pierce one-yard touchdown run and jumped out to a 13-0 lead after a 37-yard touchdown pass from Charlton to senior wide receiver Jason Harper. Freshman kicker Brandon McManus missed the point-after-touchdown attempt.
The Black Knights chipped away with a 24-yard field goal in the second quarter and then a 23-yarder to open the third before senior wide receiver Alejandro Villanueva caught a four-yard touchdown pass to tie it.
“He’s 6-feet-10-inches and catching the ball, so that’s going to be tough for anyone to deal with,” Golden said. “[The penalties] are uncharacteristic of them, but we had at least three critical, critical penalties, too.
“But it shows growth that we’re competing,” he added. “The fourth quarter was big for us. They score, and they tie it up, and really, we hadn’t produced any offense for quite some time. We kind of came alive and fed off each other, which good teams do.”
And, for what it’s worth, Golden said that had he been in Army coach Rich Ellerson’s shoes, he too, would have gone for it on fourth-and-1 from the 25-yard line.
“Fourth-and-1, they make them more than they don’t in that situation, to be quite honest, and that’s how they play,” Golden said. “It’s hard to be critical of their coach in that situation because that’s the style of offense they play. They like to get third-and-short, fourth-and-short, and they believe they can convert on that. We just came up and made a big play at that time, got a couple hits that knocked them back. The third-down play was more impressive to me. It was a really great tackle, and it was a heck of a play.”
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at email@example.com.
Game Notes: The Owls last won four straight games in 1985…1986 was the last time Temple opened its season at 4-2…Like Eastern Michigan, Ball State and Army, Toledo and Miami (Ohio) also have first-year coaches.