Owls have their wings clipped in comeback effort at Navy

Temple was unable to stop the Navy triple-option when it mattered, losing to Navy 27-20 in its first overtime game since 2018.

Temple Football struggled with two turnovers on Oct. 29. ERIKA MONN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

In the second play during overtime, Navy junior quarterback Xavier Arline cut to the left and found a gap for a 23-yard rushing score to seal the game. While holding Navy to 224 rushing yards, averaging only 3.2 yards-per-carry, the Owls did not stop the Midshipmen in the biggest moment of the game. 

“It’s always [a positive thing] when you hold a triple-option offense to under 200 yards rushing,” said Temple Football chief of staff Everett Withers. 

Temple Football (2-6, 0-4 The American Athletic Conference) lost to the United States Naval Academy (3-5, 3-3 The American) 27-20 on Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Withers assumed coaching duties for the Owls while head coach Stan Drayton was out with a viral infection. However, Withers could not pull through, losing to Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo’s triple-option offense. 

In a back-and-forth affair against Navy, Temple freshman quarterback E.J. Warner led the Owls down the field for a nine play, 66-yard drive concluding with a 22-yard field goal by graduate kicker Camden Price with one minute remaining. Junior wide receiver Amad Anderson Jr. bounced back from a muffed punt in the first half, hauling in an acrobatic one-handed catch for 40 yards to set up the Owls in the red zone. 

Temple’s two turnovers did not do any favors for their defense in this matchup, setting Navy up in the red zone on two consecutive drives in the first. Navy went up 13-0 in the first quarter, possessing the ball for all but two minutes and 33 seconds in the period. 

Anderson Jr. muffed a Navy punt, which was recovered by Navy’s sophomore cornerback Mbiti Williams Jr. at the Temple 17-yard line and marked the Owls’ first turnover. Navy’s sophomore cornerback Elias Larry caught an interception after a throw by Warner. Temple redshirt freshman wide receiver Malik Cooper dropped the potential-Temple-catch as the ball fell into Larry’s arms. 

“When you drop a ball in critical situations it is gonna affect what you do on the next possession,” Withers said. 

Even with an injury to junior quarterback Tai Lavatai early on, Navy’s offensive scheme remained true. Navy moved the ball with sophomore running back Daba Fofana and other backs like sophomore back Maquel Haywood, creating short gains which set up splash option reads early on. 

Navy’s only scores were on the ground with sophomore running back Anton Hall Jr. and Fofana scoring 16 and 15-yard touchdowns, respectively. 

Entering the second half, Temple only had three points from a 38-yard Price field goal. 

Even with a lead, Navy was seemingly unable to move the ball like they have all season, producing only 224 yards from scrimmage, which is 146 yards below their season average of 370 per game. 

For the Owls’ defense, redshirt sophomore linebacker Yvandy Rigby had 16 tackles while redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Magee had 12. 

“We prepared very well for the triple-option,” Magee said. “We just didn’t get the outcome.”

Temple outside linebacker Layton Jordan also contributed in a big way. The redshirt junior scored his third touchdown of the season with a forced fumble and recovery for touchdown to begin the second half for the Owls. Jordan single-handedly has Temple tied for fourth in the country in defensive touchdowns, and shifted the momentum in Temple’s favor a little more than a minute into the half. 

Coming off of a 3.5-sack performance, sophomore defensive lineman Darian Varner had six tackles. 

After a shaky start, Warner thrived in the second half by throwing for 203 yards. The Owls were without three key offensive linemen and redshirt senior wide receiver Adonicas Sanders, Temple’s second-leading receiver heading into the game. Warner made a couple throws with defenders in his face and found his rhythm in the third quarter. 

Anderson Jr. had eight catches for 114 yards, including a key 20-yard touchdown grab with nine minutes and 43 seconds remaining in the game. The touchdown capped off a six play, 70-yard drive for the Owls in which redshirt freshman wide receiver Zae Baines had an important 35-yard catch-and-run. 

The Owls return home to take on the University of South Florida (1-7, 0-4 The American) on Nov. 5 at Lincoln Financial Field. 

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