ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Haven’t we been down this road before?
The football team blew a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost in overtime, 33-27, to Navy Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Crops Stadium.
The Owls were leading comfortably, 27-7, but the Midshipmen stormed back and tied the game on a 42-yard fumble return by junior linebacker Clint Stovie.
Freshman cornerback/running back Kee-ayre Griffin coughed up the ball on third-down, as the Owls were one play away from essentially running out the clock and winning the game.
In overtime, junior tight end Steve Maneri dropped a sure touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, and Navy answered with a game winning one-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Ricky Dobbs.
The Owls now drop to 3-6 on the season, while the Midshipmen advance to 6-3 and a bid in the Eaglebank Bowl.
After the game, a depressed Griffin stood up and put the loss on his shoulders.
“Absolutely, I fumbled,” he said. “I know football is not an odd thing, but you’ve got to have some accountability for something. And I take that fumble very hard.”
Meanwhile, some questioned whether Griffin should have ever touched the ball in the first place, as the Owls could have easily kneeled-down and put the game on their defense.
But coach Al Golden didn’t see it that way.
“That’s what running backs do, running backs carry the ball,” the Owls’ third-year coach said. “I don’t question that, I think you’ve got to give it to your running backs.”
Griffin did have a stellar game, rushing 29 times for 99 yards and one touchdown. His 16-yard scamper in the beginning of the fourth quarter gave the Owls that commanding three-possession lead.
But Navy answered with touchdowns on back-to-back drives, first from senior wide receiver T.J. Thiel on a 22-yard pass from Dobbs, and next on a 1-yard run by senior fullback Eric Kettani.
The ensuing extra point was blocked by Owls’ senior defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, who evened out redshirt junior Jake Brownell’s missed extra point after Griffin’s touchdown.
But the loss for the Owls was undoubtedly a difficult one, which seems to be a running theme this season. The Cherry and White have suffered through several tough, heartbreaking defeats this year, as they’ve lost two games in overtime, one on a last second Hail Mary, and another by four points.
“The first three quarters we won the game, and they beat us in the fourth quarter,” redshirt senior quarterback Adam DiMichele said. “They made one more play than we did.”
“It’s frustrating,” senior wide receiver Travis Shelton added. “But we’re taught to have tunnel vision and just keep moving forward.”
The Owls can take a few positive things from this game, as DiMichele hooked up with senior wide receiver Bruce Francis for two 49-yard touchdown passes in the third quarter. DiMichele finished with 340 yards passing and three touchdowns, while Francis accumulated 151 yards on five receptions and two touchdowns.
That, along with solid play from the defense, gave Golden something to look forward to as the Owls head back into Mid-American Conference play for the rest of the season.
“I’m excited about the way they’re competing,” he said. “I think they’re starting to enjoy the fight. I think they’re starting to enjoy the give and take. And when you start from where we started at such a depressed state…I’m pleased.”
The Owls got on the scoreboard with a 4-yard touchdown pass from DiMichele to Maneri, which answered a 2-yard touchdown run by Midshipmen senior quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, who left in the game in the second half with an injury.
Temple returns to action Nov. 12 against Kent State in a game that will be seen on ESPN360.com.
Four former Temple graduates, included Maryland Speaker of the House Michael Busch, were listed as guest coaches for the game…This was Navy’s final home game of 2008…Sophomore defensive back Jamal Schulters blocked a field goal attempt at the end of the first half, but left the game with a leg injury late in the fourth quarter…Shelton declined to talk about missing the last game against Ohio…Maneri just simply declined to talk to reporters.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at email@example.com.