Preview: Keys to Temple vs. Navy

Temple Football is yet to win a conference matchup. Can they pull off their first AAC win in a calendar year? Here’s what you need to know.

Temple Football looks to break its five-game losing streak with a win against Navy Saturday afternoon.| JOSH CRELLIN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Two weeks ago, Temple Football took to Lincoln Financial Field looking to keep its bowl game hopes alive against Southern Methodist. Quarterback E.J. Warner was ruled out as he remained in concussion protocol, and the offense continued to struggle without him, leading to a 55-0 blowout loss to the Mustangs.

Temple Football now sits at 2-6 (0-4 American Athletic Conference) with any hopes of qualifying for a bowl game nearly out the window. 

The Owls have not won a conference game in nearly a year when they beat South Florida 54-28. This weekend, they face Navy (3-4, 2-2 AAC) and its triple-option offense, who leads the AAC in total yards. 

Temple is coming off of a much-needed bye week healthier and well rested. Head coach Stan Drayton believes his team is in a better position to snap their five game losing streak.

“We needed it, both physically and mentally,” Drayton said. “It was late during the course of the season obviously, but it was well needed. We’ve got some guys feeling better, some of the knicks and bangs got cleaned up on some guys. It was really good for us, so hopefully it pays off.”

Here is what you need to know before Temple’s matchup with the Midshipmen, which kicks off at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday at 2 p.m.


Warner entered concussion protocol the week prior to Temple’s matchup against North Texas. Drayton moved second-string quarterback Quincy Patterson under center, but Patterson could not replicate Warner’s arm despite an impressive performance on the ground. Forrest Brock took his first Division I snaps against SMU, but also struggled at the helm.

In those two games, Temple’s quarterbacks threw for just 212 yards combined, and the offense totaled 478 yards. The Owls were outscored 100-14 without Warner.

Warner had his best game of the season against UTSA before entering concussion protocol, throwing for 472 yards and five touchdowns in Temple’s 49-34 loss. The Owls will need that version of Warner to have a chance against Navy’s defense. 

“It doesn’t look like [Warner has] skipped a beat, it really doesn’t,” Drayton said. “He came back into practice and was ready to go. The timing was still there, the processing was still at a high level. He’s been fighting like crazy to get back on the field. It’s really good to have him back.”

Warner is vital to the success of the offense, and he provides Temple its best opportunity to beat Navy for the first time since 2018.


The run game has been nonexistent this season for Temple’s offense. The unit averages just 101 rushing yards per game, which is just outside the top 10 lowest rushing averages in the country.

Freshman running back Joquez Smith has struggled since his breakout game against Norfolk State, where he rushed for 144 yards and two total touchdowns. Smith has averaged less than 19 rushing yards in his five games since Sept. 16, totalling just 112 rushing yards in that span.

The Owls’ offensive line holds a large part of the blame for the struggling run game. Temple’s lineman have missed assignments and failed to create holes for the running backs for the majority of the season. They have not found their footing as a unit, as several combinations have seen the field without any real consistency.

Navy is among the middle of the pack in the AAC against the run, but the team is ranked third in scoring defense, allowing just 22 points on average. If the Owls hope to stick with the Midshipmen, they will need to sustain long drives, and running the ball effectively would be a good way to keep the Midshipmen’s strong secondary guessing.


Navy is known for its triple option offense, which utilizes three different rushers on any given play. The Midshipmen have the ability to lull defenses to sleep with their extended possessions, keeping opposing offenses off the field. 

The Midshipmen’s offense is led by quarterbacks Tai Lavatai and Blake Horvath, and they’re paired with fullbacks Alex Tecza and Daba Fofana. The four have combined for 221 carries and 1,136 rushing yards so far this season. 

Two of the most important elements when stopping a triple option offense are communication and not missing assignments. However, those are two issues Temple’s defense has struggled with all season. The Owls had 21 missed tackles against North Texas alone, and teams are averaging more than 200 yards per game on the ground.

For the Owls to record their first conference win in nearly a year, they will need to take advantage of every possession, as they may not get many. 

Navy excelsat chewing the clock and dominating the time of possession. They are fourth in the AAC in time of possession, averaging just under 31 minutes of possession per game, while Temple is third-to-last.

“The one thing they still do a great job of is time of possession,” Drayton said. “They will still find ways to chew time off the clock when they’re operating on offense.”

The Owls will have their hands full this weekend. Navy presents a tough matchup on both sides of the ball, and Temple will need to play well in all three phases to pull out a win at home.


Declan Landis, Sports Editor: “Navy’s offense succeeds where Temple’s defense struggles most. While it will be easier for the Owls to commit to stopping the run, Navy’s ability to control the ball and make teams play at their level gives them the advantage.”

Navy wins 27-24.

Johnny Zawislak, Assistant Sports Editor: “I believe that E.J. Warner will be able to come out strong against Navy and get the Owls on the board early, forcing Navy to throw the ball and get away from its run game. I also think that Temple’s defense will come out stronger out of the bye week, leading them to their first conference win in nearly a year.”

Temple wins 28-24.

Ryan Mack, Assistant Sports Editor: “I think the return of E.J. Warner will give the Owls the offensive aggressiveness they lacked the last two games. Even if E.J. has a good game like he did against UTSA, I do not trust the Owls defense to stop Navy’s run game at all.”

Navy wins 31-27.

Jaison Nieves, Sports Social Media Manager: “With a much needed bye week, I believe that Temple has worked to establish the run and used that to make Warner comfortable. Regardless, the Owls have had trouble finding their rhythm, something that Navy will take advantage of and really control the pace of the game for a Midshipmen win.”

Navy wins 34-17.

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