On a blustery December day, the Temple Owls traveled to Annapolis to face the Navy Midshipmen in the AAC Championship Game. This one was never a contest as Temple scored the first 21 points, while showing why they have one of the best all around defenses in the country, easily holding on to beat Navy, 34-10, winning their first AAC Championship.
1st QTR Domination for Temple:
Temple scored early and ofen.
The first drive, which featured a 4th and 7 conversion pass by Phillip Walker to Keith Kirkwood from the Navy 28, that got them to the 15 where Jahad Thomas on a sweep, ran it in to make it 7-0, 12 Plays, 75 yds, 5:17, 9:43 left in the 1st qtr. The Owls defense then pitched the SDI stopping Navy on their own 4th and 7 try, to get the ball on their 41. The following 6 play, 59 yd, 3:17 drive ended with Ventell Bryant (4th TD of the season) walking into the end zone after a 22 yd pass, to make it 14-0, 3:01 left in the 1st pd.
On the fourth play of the ensuing drive, as Navy seemed to find a rhythm, the Owls got their 1st turnover (they would wind up with 3) on their FBS leading 17th forced fumble. They totally dominated the 1st qtr holding the ball for 9:35.
2nd QTR Holding Serve:
In the wrap-around drive, Walker found Kirkwood all alone at the 10, for a 56 yd TD pass to increase the lead to 21-0, 5 Plays, 70 Yds, 2:07 13:44 until halftime. It was Kirkwood’s longest career catch, and the 3rd longest TD pass of the season for Walker.
After an exchange of punts, Navy finally had an extended drive deep into the red zone. Temple D then stiffened on 3rd and 5 at the 7 for one yard. Army had to settle for a 23 yd FG to get on the board to make the score 21-3, 10 plays, 68 yds 5:43, 5:12 left until half time.
After Aaron Boumerhi missed from 50, Navy’s back up QB Zach Abey, who came in early in the 2nd qtr, threw an int on the first play, and Boumerhi made the next attempt from 48 yds out to put the Temple lead back to 21 points. 5 plays, 20 yds, 0:29, and just 0:22 left in the half.
3rd Qtr Navy Marches Back:
The teams went back and forth until on a pass play scramble by Abey for 47 yds, Navy was at the Temple 17 with a little over 5′ left in the 3rd pd. The Middies, who had a 95.2% 1st and goal TD conversion coming into the game, got their first TD of the game on an Abey keeper from 1 yd out to cut the Owls lead to 24-10, 7 plays, 64 yds, 3:03, 2:18 left in 3rd pd. Temple started a nice drive and as the 3rd pd ended they had 3rd and 1 at the Navy 45.
Final Qtr Finished Business:
The Owls finished off the wrap-around drive with an Aaron Boumerhi FG from 42 Yds out to make it a 3 score game, 12 plays, 40 yds, but most importantly 7:01 TOP, with 10:17 left in regulation. On the next drive Navy could only get as far as the Temple 45 as the 4th and 14 pass fell harmlessly to the ground and Temple took over with 6:08 left in the 4th qtr. As an exclamation point Ryquell Armstead went 30 yds for his 14th rushing TD of the season at the 3:04 mark of the 4th pd. Navy would not score again so your final was 34-10.
Temple Stats Wrap:
Walker who earlier in the week had a walking boot on showed no effects of the injury going 16/25, 199 yds, 8.0 YPC, 2 TD, 0 Int. His leading receiver was Kirkwood, 5 catches for 98 yds, 19.6 YPC, 1 TD. Bryant also added a TD on 5 catches for 47 yds. Overall they ran for 189 yds on 36 attempts, 5.3 YPC, one TD each by Armstead and Thomas. Armstead was the leading rusher going 76 yds on 10 carries, augmented by the 30 yd TD run late in the game.
As good as the offense was it was the defense that really shone, once again holding a prolific offense to well below their averages. Navy did have 168 yds rushing on 44 carries, 3.8 YPC. They also held them to 138 yds in the air on 8 receptions. Total Navy offense of 306 yds while over Temple’s average, was well below Navy’s and a lot of that was well after Temple built an insurmountable lead.
This and That:
The Owls have scored 427 points this season – the most in team history. This was their first conference championship since earning the MAC title in 1967. Their second ten win season in a row, tied last year’s team record, and the first time ever for the program. Those 20 wins over the last two seasons are the also a team record. Boumerhi’s 48 yd FG was a career long for the 2nd Team AAC Walk-on FR. With 10:50 left in the 2nd, Avery Williams was ejected for targeting. He was also injured on the helmet to helmet hit.
Beating a # 19 team in Navy so soundly should get Temple into the top 25, FWIW. Also to toot my own horn, check out how close I came to predicting this season here.
We will find out Sunday which bowl Temple will go to. Most signs point to them returning to this same field for the Military Bowl on 12/27 but it could depend on some other games yet to be played. The Birmingham Bowl on 12/29 is another possible landing spot. The full AAC tie-ins are as follows: bowl ties are as follows: AutoNation Cure Bowl (vs. Sun Belt in Orlando, Florida), Miami Beach Bowl (vs. MAC in Miami), Boca Raton Bowl (vs. Conference USA in Boca Raton, Florida), St. Petersburg Bowl (vs. ACC in St. Petersburg, Florida), Military Bowl (vs. ACC in Annapolis, Maryland), Birmingham Bowl (vs. SEC in Birmingham, Alabama). It seems unlikely w/ Western Michigan winning yesterday, but there is an outside chance they could be invited to the Cotton Bowl and an intriguing rematch with Penn State.