When Temple University football took the field against Navy in Annapolis, Maryland Saturday night, it was their first time facing an opponent on the turf in nearly 10 months. It showed in their play.
The Owls (0-1, 0-1 The American Athletic Conference) lost to Navy (2-2, 2-0 The American) 31-29 to open the season, forfeiting four touchdowns and more than 250 rushing yards.
Granted, the Owls weren’t able to scrimmage until Sept. 15, so Temple being rusty isn’t surprising.
But every team dealt with a shortened offseason, and it doesn’t give Temple an excuse to be as unprepared as they were against Navy. They need to clean up some easy mistakes like poor run defense and bad decisions on offense if they want to compete in The American this season.
The Owls’ coaching staff showed accountability after the game instead of blaming their performance on the pandemic.
“I won’t do this,” head coach Rod Carey said. “I will not use COVID or our circumstances in Philly as any type of an excuse, it is what it was. Other people had to deal with things too. We are all dealing with things.”
All game, Temple’s defense couldn’t stop Navy’s triple option rushing attack allowing 251 yards on 60 carries. The defensive line played with too high of a pad level and the linebackers were struggling to get off of blocks.
“You want your pad level to be low the whole time starting from the defensive lineman to ourselves,” said graduate student linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley. “The triple option is a very different offense. We probably won’t be seeing it for the rest of the year.”
Graham-Mobley is correct. Navy’s offense is unique and Temple probably won’t see it again this season, but if they play with poor pad level and fail to get off blocks any opponent will be successful running the ball against them.
The Owls’ offense struggled with execution against the Midshipman as well. Graduate student quarterback Anthony Russo finished the game completing 21-of-30 passes for 206 yards, one passing touchdown and he added two rushing touchdowns. However, Russo made two key mistakes that cost the Owls points.
Russo threw an interception at the end of the second quarter at the Navy 16 yard line while the Owls were down 21-10. A touchdown would’ve brought them within one score.
Russo’s fatal flaw the past two seasons is his bad habit of not seeing zone defenders sitting directly in his throwing window. He needs to do a better job checking the ball down to his underneath receivers and not forcing the ball into coverage going forward.
The offense also failed to score on a two-point conversion attempt when Navy sophomore linebacker Terrell Adams batted away Russo’s pass intended for sophomore running back Re’Mahn Davis.
“That play is more of a zone play,” Russo said of the two-point conversion. “We were hoping to have a two on one with that will-linebacker. They ended up playing a cover zero man which isn’t ideal for that play.”
Navy deserves credit for calling a defense Temple wasn’t expecting and the Owls’ original play call wasn’t good, but Russo needs to throw the ball into the endzone and not two yards short no matter what Navy’s defense was doing.
Carey took responsibility for the play call after the game, but either way, the Owls needed to score and they didn’t.
All things considered, Temple only lost the game by two points despite their inability to stop Navy’s triple option and missed opportunities for points on offense.
However, if the Owls’ are unable to improve in those areas for their next game at home against South Florida (1-3, 0-2 The American) on Oct. 17 the outcome will likely be the same. A loss.