Unfinished Business will be the order of the day, as the Temple Owls (9-3, 7-1, 1st Place AAC East) travel to Annapolis, Md to face the #19 Navy Midshipmen (9-2, 7-1, 1st Place AAC West), in the second AAC Championship Game. Temple is looking to do what they could not in the innaugural game, losing to the Houston Cougars 24-13.
Both teams are coming in off easy wins. Temple beat ECU 37-10, clinching the AAC East, while Navy rolled over SMU 75-31. All time the Middies edge the Owls 6-5, with the last meeting being a Navy W, 31-24 in 2014. The last time they played at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in 2009, Temple prevailed 27-24.
SR QB Will Worth (1,181 yards rushing, 4.6 avg., 25 TDs, 71-115 passing, 1,363 yards, 8 TDs, 3 INT), who got his chance when original starter Tago Smith was injured in the opener, is theFBS scoring leader, 13.6 PPG. His 25 rushing TDs is also the country’s best.
“They don’t throw the ball much, but he has been very accurate,” Temple defensive coordinator Phil Snow said. “He knows the offense, he is tough as hell, smart, and gets them in the right calls,” Temple coach Matt Ruhle added “He is a tremendous competitor. “He is physical, he is elusive, he is an extremely accurate quarterback who throws the ball well.”
As noted above Navy’s MO is to run the ball. They are ranked second in rushing offense, 342 YPG. They spread the ball around among mostly four guys. Their leading rusher is JR. FB Chris High (473 yards rushing, 6.7 avg., 5 TDs). Not far behind are Seniors SB Dishan Romine (412 yards rushing, 9.4 avg., 1 TD), SB Toneo Gulley (409 yards rushing, 10.0 avg., 4 TDs), and FB Shawn White (397 yards rushing, 6.1 av., 7 TDs). Anchoring the line are first team All Conference SR OG Adam West, 6-3, 297, and second teamer’s SR. LT Blake Copeland, 6-4, 281, and SR. C Maurice Morris. When Worth does throw to protect the run, his main target is SR. WR Jamir Tilman (32 receptions, 533 yards, 2 TDs).
For the first time in school history Navy has rung up more than 500 yards of total offense in each of the last three games. That being said ECU had come into the game last week with Temple, amassing over 400 yds of offense in 11 consecutive games and Temple held them to 225, a bit over their average of under 200 in their last three.
While Navy’s offense is prolific, their defense has given up a ton of points – 31, 31, and 40 – the last three games. They did have big leads – except the Tulsa game where they won 41-40 – in those games, but still Temple should be able to score on them. The Middies leading tackler is JR. LB Micah Thomas (82 tackles, 2nd team all-conference). The other players rounding out their secondary which is the strength of the defense, are FR. FS Alohi Gilman (56 tackles), SO. SS Sean Williams (52 tackles) and JR. LB D. J. Palmore, 6-3 (45 tackles, 5.0 sacks)
The AAC announced their season honors this week and a good amount of Owls made the lists.
ALL-CONFERENCE FIRST TEAM
OT Dion Dawkins 2 Sr. 6-5 320 Rahway, N.J./Rahway
DL Haason Reddick H * Sr. 6-1 230 Camden, N.J./Haddon Heights
ALL-CONFERENCE SECOND TEAM
RB Jahad Thomas 1 Sr. 5-10 180 Elizabeth, N.J./Elizabeth
DL Praise Martin-Oguike 2 Sr. 6-1 255 Woodbridge, N.J./Woodbridge
LB Avery Williams Sr. 5-10 224 Baltimore, Md./Archbishop Curley
S Sean Chandler 2 Jr. 6-0 190 Camden, N.J./Camden
K Aaron Boumerhi Fr. 6-0 195 Phillipsburg, Pa./Phillipsburg-Osceola
ALL-CONFERENCE HONORABLE MENTION
TE Colin Thompson Temple Sr. 6-4 255 Doylestown, Pa./Florida
LB Stephaun Marshall Temple Sr. 5-11 206 Montclair, N.J./Montclair
1 2 H indicates previous selections to first team, second team, or honorable mention * unanimous selection
Bourmerhi is an especially well earned honor for a walk-on FR, only playing because of an injury to Austin Jones early in the season. Dawkins, Reddick, and Thomas also are also All American Candidates.
This may be the toughest pick of the season. Temple is anywhere from a 2-3 point underdog, which says they have a good chance to win on the road, which Temple has done their last three games away from the Linc. The Owls though have had problems with good running teams, especially early this season, but they have done better lately. Temple’s D does lead the conference in scoring defense (17.8/PPG) – which is also fourth nationally, total yards (273.4/YPG), passing yards (145.8/YPG) and ranks third in sacks (34) and second in third down conversions (33.3), and second in rushing yards (127.7/YPG).
Since I must make a choice, I will drink the Cherry and White Kool-Aid and believe that this group of Temple Seniors, who have overcome adversity to become bowl eligible three seasons in a row, and going to B2B bowl games, both school firsts, will find a way to hold down the Navy Marching Machine. Temple 28-Army 21
TV: ABC PBP Joe Tessitore; Analyst Todd Blackledge; Sidelines Holly Rowe
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic PBP Harry Donahue; Analyst Paul Palmer; Sidelines Harry Mayes
National Radio: IMG Radio PBP Tony Castricone; Analyst Tony Pike
Join me as I tweet from the couch as @pattisonavenue during the game and catch my recap here after the Final Whistle. Also to toot my own horn, check out how close I came to predicting this season here.