Football has ‘championship mindset’ entering Navy game

With four games left on the schedule, the Owls have a 40 percent chance to beat Navy and a 28.1 percent chance of finishing bowl eligible, according to SportSource Analytics.

Army West Point senior defensive back Max Regan (left) makes a diving tackle attempt at senior running back Ryquell Armstead in the Black Knights’ 31-28 overtime win on Oct. 21 at Michie Stadium in West Point, New York. | HOJUN YU / FILE PHOTO

After Temple’s last matchup against Navy, junior safety Delvon Randall remembers the confetti raining down on the field as Temple became 2016 American Athletic Conference champions.

But Leon Johnson doesn’t want to be attached to last year’s victory.

“If we do, then we’re making a sad mistake and we’re putting ourselves at a great disadvantage,” the redshirt-senior offensive lineman said. “So coming into this year, we’re studying the film from them this year. We’re not even going to watch the game from last year. We’re studying this film.”

Temple (3-5, 1-3 American Athletic Conference) will host Navy (5-2, 3-2 The American) at 8 p.m. on Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field.

With four games remaining, Temple needs to win at least three to become bowl eligible. Temple has a 40 percent chance to beat Navy and a 28.1 percent chance of finishing bowl eligible, according to SportSource Analytics.

“Our mindset going forward is just a championship mindset, giving everything that we got each game,” redshirt-junior quarterback Frank Nutile said. “Just letting it all out each game for guys like Leon Johnson, [senior defensive lineman] Jacob Martin, [senior safety] Sean Chandler, [redshirt-senior wideout Keith] Kirkwood, [senior wideout] Adonis [Jennings].

“These next four games coming up, are very, very important,” Randall told The Temple News. “They might be the most important games of our careers here at Temple because we can be historic for this to come back.”

Nutile will make his second-career start against Navy because redshirt-sophomore quarterback Logan Marchi is still dealing with an injury, coach Geoff Collins said.

Nutile made his starting debut against Army West Point on Oct. 21 and completed 20 of 29 attempts for 290 yards and a touchdown.

Collins said Marchi might be able to play in an emergency situation against Navy. He said Marchi will still be the holder on field goals just like against Army.

Redshirt-freshman quarterback Anthony Russo has been getting the backup reps at quarterback behind Nutile, Collins said.

Navy allows 174.7 rushing yards per game, which ranks in the bottom half of the Football Bowl Subdivision. Against Army, which allowed 170 yards rushing yards per game entering its game against Temple, the Owls got their running game in a rhythm with junior running back Ryquell Armstead.

Armstead had 151 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns against the Black Knights, despite Temple replacing three starters on the offensive line.

Redshirt-junior offensive linemen Gordon Thomas, James McHale and Jaelin Robinson all made their first starts against Army. Johnson and redshirt-freshman offensive lineman Matt Hennessy both said they’re starting against Navy.

Hennessy said Army and Navy’s defenses are similar but there’s also some slight schematic differences like different types of blitzes.

“I thought they responded to Army’s movement very well,” Hennessy said. “They had a lot of movement going on. So if you can take care of that, you can definitely gash some big runs, and that’s what they did.”

Another similarity between Army and Navy are their triple-option offenses, which are the top two rushing attacks in the FBS. The Owls held Army to a season-low 248 rushing yards.

Randall said while Army’s defense preferred to run the ball up the gut, the Midshipmen’s offense runs the ball to the outside more often.

Navy’s offense also passes the ball more than Army, Collins said. The Midshipmen have 63 passing attempts, while Army had 38 prior to playing Temple.

The Owls got a glimpse of Navy’s quarterback, junior Zach Abey, in the conference championship game in 2016 after former quarterback Will Worth went down with an injury. Abey ranks sixth in Division I in rushing yards and averages 163.1 per game.

Facing Army and Navy in back-to-back games is both positive and negative, Collins said.

“It is good for us, because a lot of our young players on defense hadn’t played that offense in a full live setting. …I think we did a really good job defending it, but we also are kind of giving them the answers to the test on how we think is the best way to defend it,” Collins said. “So obviously, we’ve got to come up with some new wrinkles to combat what they’ve seen to what they do.”

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