By Lewis Gould
Temple coach Matt Rhule was very clear in his post-game comments:
“We’re beyond the point where it’s OK to lose. That was last year. This year, we need to win and find ways to win. We rallied to make it look closer than it was.”
In a game that Navy controlled, Temple found a way to keep it close and had a chance to tie the game on the final play of a 31-24 loss at Lincoln Financial Field.
A year ago, Temple (1-1) lost several close games in which it could argue it should have won. While that wasn’t the case on this day — Navy (1-1) held a 487-156 advantage in rushing yards and 517-396 in overall yards — the Owls had a chance to win, and that final drive, as much as anything else, pointed to where Temple has to get better.
With 2:08 left in the game, the Owls took over on their own 26 after Navy missed a 43-yard field goal that would have given the Midshipmen a 10-point lead. Temple commenced on a 64-yard, 18-play drive to the Navy 24-yard line without a timeout.
Temple’s had used all three timeouts, one on a field-goal attempt that took too long as the kicking team waited for a replay that never came. Without a timeout, the Owls and sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker made two management mistakes.
The first came on a 7-yard scramble on second-and-10 that kept the clock running in the final 10 seconds of the game.
“I thought I could get the first down,” said Walker, who threw for 240 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 29-for-49 passing. “That would have stopped the clock.”
Instead, Temple had to move quickly, and Walker, who got the snap off with a second to go, again tried to scramble. A pair of laterals led to a fumble and the end of the game.
“That’s a call (on the final play) to throw it up in the end zone,” Rhule said. “We practice it every week. We went right to it. It’s four verticals into the end zone. All four guys were in the end zone. The quarterback has to throw it up. I don’t look at it as if there is an issue with (Walker). It’s on us to get him over the hump, and he’ll find a way.”
“I was actually waiting for him to throw it up in the end zone,” Navy safety Parrish Gaines said. “It was chaotic, all over the place, but it was a good way to end the game. I thought it was fun.”
Navy dominated the first half after it fell behind on its first offensive play when Temple’s Sharif Finch recovered a fumble he forced in the end zone for a quick 7-0 lead.
From there, the Midshipmen option offense, led by quarterback Keenan Reynolds (21 carries, 181 yards, two touchdowns), dictated play. Reynolds’ 48-yard touchdown run with just over four minutes left in the first quarter gave Navy the lead for good at 10-7.
“It was just not staying disciplined and following our keys,” Temple redshirt junior linebacker Nate D. Smith said. “It wasn’t until the second half that we understood our assignments and stayed true to our gaps.”
In a message that harkens back to last year’s 2-10 campaign, the Owls didn’t quit and rallied, which was one positive to take from the game. Still, it’s not what the coaches are looking for with a week off before Delaware State comes to town.
“There was a point at 31-14 that I thought we were going to quit,” Rhule said. “Literally, I’m challenging them not to quit, and they came back. They’re young kids and they have to learn, and we’re close.”