In a game where it was clearly outplayed, the Temple University football team had a chance to steal Saturday’s home opener against Navy, rallying from a 17-point deficit with a chance to tie or win on the final play.
The Owls fell 10 yards short.
Down 31-24, Owls quarterback P.J. Walker scrambled for 14 yards to the Midshipmen 10, then lateraled to guard Brendan McGowan, who turned the ball over on a pitch back after gaining a yard to end the game. The final play was snapped with one second left because Walker scrambled for seven yards on first-and-10 with no timeouts and the clock ticked down.
Head coach Matt Rhule and Walker admitted both plays should have resulted in Walker throwing the football.
“I was trying to scramble, run around and let them get set in the end zone,” said Walker of the last play. “I saw (Brandon Shippen) open as I passed the (line of scrimmage) and didn’t want to take a chance (that I was past).
“On the previous play, I thought I’d get the first down and stop the clock, but I cut back when I should have out-run it.”
Said Rhule: “(The last play) was four verticals into the end zone. All four guys were in end zone. The quarterback is going to throw it up. It’s not a run, scramble play. For the game to end that way … That’s indicative of the way we played all day. Those (last two plays) were critical mistakes.”
A week after a near-perfect performance against Vanderbilt, the Owls were gashed for 517 yards – 487 rushing – by Navy’s triple-option offense. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds ran for 173 yards and two touchdowns, including 129 yards and a 48-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
“Obviously not the result we wanted, I think we rallied at the end to make it closer than it looked,” said Rhule. “They were the tougher team, the better team. They out-executed us. Just not the way we wanted to play today. It’s on me, it’s my job to make sure we’re executing and we’re the tougher team.”
The Owls started strong when Sharif Finch tipped a pitch by Reynolds near the goal line and fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game. But the Midshipmen scored the next 17 points as the Owls offense struggled.
After making a stop on fourth-and-1 at their own 20, the Owls moved 90 yards in 1:40, capping it when Walker hit Romond Deloatch on a fade in the corner of the end zone with three seconds left in the first half. DeLoatch was originally called out of bounds, but on review it was determined he just dragged his toe.
“Last week, I didn’t get my feet down and stepped out of bounds, and this time I just focused on getting my foot down,” said DeLotach.
The momentum from the score –which made it 17-14 Navy at the half – didn’t last. The Midshipmen went 80 yards on the first drive of the second half and 78 yards on the ensuing possession for a 31-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
“We didn’t play well today, we got out-physicaled and that’s disappointing,” said Rhule.
Added linebacker Nate D. Smith, who had a team-high 13 tackles: “It was just following your keys. It wasn’ t until the second half that we started playing ball, knowing our assignments and staying true to our gaps. We prepared for it all camp. It’s on us.”
The Owls chipped away with an Austin Jones 28-yard field goal and 13-yard TD pass to Jalen Fitzpatrick with 9:44 to play that made it a one-score game.
Navy, though, played keep-away until Reynolds went off with a minor knee injury, helping to stall a drive at the Owls’ 26. Facing fourth-and-1, the Midshipmen attempted a 43-yard-field goal, which Nick Sloan pushed wide right with 2:08 to go.
Walker – playing on a sore right ankle - brought the Owls into Midshipmen territory but couldn’t finish the drive and the comeback.
The sophomore signal-caller was 25-of-49 for 240 yards, two touchdowns and an interception and also rushed for 71 yards. Like the defense, it wasn’t as sharp a performance as a week ago.
“We’re beyond the point of it’s OK to lose,” said Rhule. “That was last year. This year it’s about finding ways to win. I don’t mind losing to teams that are significantly better than us, and Navy might be, but that was not the way we wanted to play.”
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