Owls defense struggles to stop run in Navy loss

Navy finished the game with 253 total rushing yards while the Owls finished with just 166 rushing yards.

Redshirt junior defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh defends against a player from Tulane University during the Owls' game at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 11, 2019. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

With a little more than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter and needing a two point conversion to tie the game, graduate student quarterback Anthony Russo dropped back to pass, throwing a line-drive toward redshirt-sophomore running back Re’ Mahn Davis in the flat. 

Navy sophomore linebacker Terrell Adams batted the pass away, thus extinguishing the Owls’ bid to survive that Davis had briefly revived after scoring on a one-yard touchdown run the play before.

Temple University football (0-1, 0-1 The American Athletic Conference) lost 31-29 to Navy (2-2, 2-0 The American) in Annapolis, Maryland in their first game of the season Saturday night. 

“It’s my call. I made the call,” head coach Rod Carey said of the two point conversion attempt. “Coach [Mike] Uremovich had a different call and in retrospect, we should have gone with that. They covered it so [Russo] didn’t have anywhere to go with the ball.”

The failed conversion capped a 75-yard drive by the Owls that began with just under five minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. Navy senior fullback Nelson Smith ran in a 22-yard touchdown with one minute and nine seconds remaining in the third quarter to put Navy ahead 28-17. 

The Midshipmen led the entire game, using their triple-option rushing attack to run for 253 yards. Smith recorded 120 rushing yards and two touchdowns while junior fullback Jamale Carothers recorded 53 rushing yards and one touchdown. 

On their first drive of the game, Navy ran 17 plays and covered 75 yards in nine minutes and 38 seconds. They capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run by Carothers. 

Temple struggled to keep a good “pad level,” or stance, on the defensive line, allowing Navy to run the football effectively, Carey said. 

Although Temple’s defense struggled to stop Navy, the offense generated 407 total yards. Russo completed 21-of-30 passes for 206 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for 20 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns. 

Russo’s touchdown pass to graduate student wide receiver Branden Mack came with five minutes and 43 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Temple ran a run-pass option with Russo finding Mack for a seven-yard touchdown on a slant route. 

Russo threw his interception with 45 seconds remaining in the second quarter at the Navy 16 yard line when Temple was trailing 21-10. 

“That one is gonna be tough to watch on the film tomorrow,” Russo said. “I knew right away after I threw it that it was a bad throw and a bad decision. I can promise you I won’t make that same mistake twice this year.” 

Mack finished the game as the Owls’ leading receiver. He recorded seven catches for 80 yards and one touchdown. Redshirt-sophomore tight-end David Martin-Robinson finished second on the team with five catches and 72 yards. 

The Owls’ next game is at home against South Florida (1-3, 0-2 The American) on Oct. 17. 

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