ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Coach Bobby Wallace treated the football team’s game at Navy on Saturday the same as any other game in his eight-year career at Temple. Wallace said he stuck to his game plan, which contained nothing fancy, and focused on execution.
But the Owls’ season finale was not a regular game. A win would have kept the Owls from finishing a season winless for the first time since 1959.
That became a reality as Navy scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to overtake the Owls, 38-17. The Owls have lost their last 12 games, dating back to Nov. 13 of last year. They haven’t won a road game since an Oct. 4, 2003, date at Middle Tennessee State.
“I was a little disappointed,” said senior defensive tackle Antwon Burton. “I wish we could have come out with a win and try to end it on a good note, but it didn’t happen that way. We played really hard and it’s just a little disappointing.”
The game also marked Wallace’s final appearance as the Owls’ coach. Wallace finished his Temple career with a 19-71 record. The Owls (0-11) won just three games during Wallace’s final three seasons. After the loss, Wallace said the emotional impact of coaching his final game at Temple had not yet hit him.
“Eventually the clock [goes] down to zero and you know your career, for now, and could be permanently, is over,” Wallace said. “But I’m excited. I’m excited about where I’m headed and what I’m going to do.”
Wallace said he hopes to land a job outside of football, but said he could see himself coaching again if the right opportunity comes along.
“I’m not saying I’ve particularly ruled [coaching] out,” Wallace said. “I’ve just learned to never say never.”
Wallace commended his seniors for the adversity they went through over their Temple careers. The graduating class dealt with getting booted from the Big East Conference, the university potentially cutting the program, and this year’s schedule, which Sports Illustrated dubbed “The Cruelest Season.”
“If you look at the guys we recruited five years ago and four years ago, you have to have a lot of respect for them because they still go out there and fight everyday,” Wallace said.
Wallace specifically mentioned senior running back Umar Ferguson, who became a full-time starter this season.
“It’s been hard all my years not winning many games,” Ferguson said. “It’s just hard. There ain’t a way you can deal with it except to take it how it is.”
The Owls had a legitimate chance at their first win. They ended the first half with a 17-14 lead, the first time this season the Owls led at halftime.
The Midshipmen tied the game with a 25-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.
But the game didn’t unravel for the Owls until the fourth quarter. Trailing 24-17 with just under six minutes left, the Owls had stopped a Navy drive and were about to get the ball back, but a roughing the kicker penalty revived Navy’s drive. The Midshipmen (6-4) capitalized, as fullback Adam Ballard ran for a touchdown seven plays later.
On the Owls’ next possession, defensive end John Chan sacked senior quarterback Mike McGann, forcing a fumble. Chan recovered the ball and ran 41 yards for Navy’s third fourth-quarter score.
“We went in at halftime on top,” Ferguson said. “When we came out, I don’t know what happened. We couldn’t finish.”
With the win, Navy became eligible for a bowl game.
Despite the loss, two Owls notched career statistical bests. Senior defensive tackle Antwon Burton had a career-high 14 tackles. He also forced and recovered a crucial fumble with the Owls defense pinned on their own 5-yard line. Junior wide receiver Bruce Gordon notched career bests in receptions (10) and yards (125).
Kicker Ryan Lux’s 42-yard field goal to end the first half was his first field goal of over 40 yards this season. The senior had missed his three previous attempts. … The Midshipmen had scored on their seven previous second-half opening drives, before the Owls forced them to punt. … McGann connected on his first eight passing attempts. He was 24-for-38 with 245 yards and a touchdown. … Ferguson ended his Temple career with another solid performance, with 158 all-purpose yards. He played part of the second quarter and the entire second half on a sprained ankle.
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.