Temple shocks Navy, 27-24

There was a scene midway through the third quarter of Navy's 27-24 loss to Temple before 28,305 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday where Navy quarterback Kriss Proctor was receiving treatment for an ankle injury on the sideline. Nearby, sophomore quarterback Mike Stukel began taking warm-up snaps from center and put on a headset to communicate with the coaches in the press box.

As Stukel put on his headset, junior Ricky Dobbs began taking snaps from center.

The Midshipmen (6-3) were discombobulated for much of the afternoon. Navy finished with 227 yards rushing, on 62 carries (3.7 average).

It was a stark contrast to Navy's past three meetings against Temple, all Navy wins.

Last year, Navy had 57 carries for 293 yards (5.1 yards) and won, 33-27 in overtime. In 2007, Navy had 56 carries for 361 yards (6.4) in a 30-19 victory. And in 2006, Navy had 56 carries for 420 yards (7.5) in a 42-6 win.

The failure to convert on third and fourth down particularly hurt Navy. The Midshipmen failed to convert a third and four, third and three (twice), third and one and fourth and one.

"We couldn't get those third and shorts," said junior fullback Vince Murray, who finished with 115 rushing yards and one touchdown. "That sums it up."

Part of it is that Temple (6-2) is greatly improved. It has won six in a row, its longest winning streak since 1974. The Owls also became bowl eligible for the first time since 1990 and appear on pace for their first bowl appearance since the 1979 Garden State Bowl.

Navy's problems were exacerbated by two main sources. Temple freshman running back Bernard Pierce had 29 carries for 267 yards and two touchdowns, including a 41-yard scoring run with 2 minutes 41 seconds to play for the winning points.

But as the scene in the third quarter spelled out, Navy also had some issues with its quarterbacks. Proctor started his second consecutive game following a leg injury to Dobbs, the starter. Dobbs was said to be available only in an emergency.

Early in the second quarter, Navy led 3-0 and faced a 4th and 1 from the Temple 32. The Midshipmen called timeout.

During the huddle on the sideline, junior Joe Buckley took a few pantomime practice kicks; but the Mids eschewed a 49-yard field goal (Buckley's career-long is 50 yards) and inserted Dobbs into the game.

Dobbs ran to the left but was stopped by linebackers Alex Joseph and Elijah Joseph for no gain.

"That was a horrible mistake on my part," Niumatalolo said. "I could see the mood swing on our team after we didn't get it. ... Short yardage is not one of Kriss's strengths, but it is for Ricky."

Two plays later, the Owls led 7-3 following a 68-yard scoring run by Pierce.

The long run may have solidified Temple's game plan. On its first two drives, the Owls alternated between a two-tight end set and a shotgun set with three and four wide receivers.

The 68-yard touchdown run came from the two tight-end set. From that point until the game's end, Temple used its shotgun formation three times and put its quarterback under center, with at least one tight end in the game, for 31 plays.

Unofficially, Pierce gained 261 yards on 25 carries from the two tight-end set. He gained six yards on four carries with one or no tight ends.

"Pierce was a big running back," said Navy junior Wyatt Middleton, a starting safety. "He's strong. He broke a lot of tackles and had good vision. I think the coaches put us in good position. We have to make plays."

Navy's up and down day was summed up by a sequence late in the first half. Temple punter Jeff Wathne fumbled a snap in his end zone, then hit a short punt that wound up being a three-yard punt return touchdown by sophomore David Wright. It was Navy's first punt return for a score since 1996.

The momentum lasted less than one play. On the ensuing kickoff, sophomore James Nixon returned the kick 100 yards and the Owls led 14-10.

"We have had some great team wins," Niumatalolo said. "This was a great team loss. There is blame to go all around and it starts with me. I did a horrible job getting this team ready."

Ricky Dobbs passes. (GM/Alison Althouse)

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