After navigating through “the world’s longest fall camp” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Temple University football is finally ready to play their first game of the season, head coach Rod Carey said.
The Owls will play Navy (1-2, 1-0 The American Athletic Conference) on Oct. 10 in Annapolis, Maryland.
“It’s time to play a game for sure, football-wise,” Carey said. “We are rounding into shape. We are hitting that point where … you practice so much in the preseason you are really done with your evaluations of your team. You really can’t evaluate the next part of your team until you play.”
The Midshipmen are a unique opponent because they run the triple option offense, which focuses on the running game and includes very little passing from the quarterback.
Temple runs a spread offense, which focuses on establishing a quick tempo and forcing defenses into bad matchups by using formations with three or more wide receivers.
In their last game against Air Force (1-0, 0-0 The Mountain West Conference) on Oct. 3, Navy ran the ball 36 times, but they only threw the ball 18 times. Navy lost the game 40-7.
The Midshipmen’s leading rusher this season is junior fullback Jamale Carothers, who’s recorded 176 rushing yards on 42 attempts. Senior fullback Nelson Smith is second on the team with 65 rushing yards.
Navy’s offense is struggling compared to last season. After three games this season, they are averaging just 12.33 points per game, while last season they averaged 37.15 points per game.
The coaching staff started preparing an individual game plan for each of Temple’s conference opponents once in March, Carey said.
“One of the things you have to do when you play a triple option team is you have to get your offensive scout team practicing that long before they go against our defense,” Carey added. “Our scout team has been practicing Navy’s offense since the first day of practice.”
Temple’s defensive line play will be a key factor in the outcome of the game because the triple option offense is designed to force defensive linemen to choose between tackling either the quarterback or the running back during a play.
“The triple option is obviously a different beast,” said graduate student defensive tackle Daniel Archibong. “It’s not a traditional offense, so you can’t play it like a traditional defense. The biggest thing to key on is gap integrity.”
After losing Quincy Roche, who transferred to the University of Miami, and Dana Levine, who graduated, Temple will have to rely on Archibong and redshirt-junior defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh to step up in their place.
Maijeh finished third on the team last season, recording 10 tackles for loss while Archibong finished 15th, recording 1.5 tackles for loss.
“We bring back some experience on the inside upfront in Archibong and Maijeh,” said defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Jeff Knowles. “I think we are strong up the middle with our defensive tackles.”
The last time the Owls played Navy was October 2018. Temple won the game 24-17, but the Midshipmen were able to rack up 278 total rushing yards, including 108 yards from Smith.
“If everyone does their job, then we will be alright,” Archibong said. “Once people start playing bad eyes, meaning your eyes are on the wrong guy or your hands are placed wrong, that’s when we can get gashed.”