By Mary Cunningham
The Temple Owls are going bowling as conference champs!
Phillip Walker threw two touchdown passes, Temple’s defense stuffed Navy’s running game and the Owls claimed their first American Athletic Conference title with a 34-10 victory yesterday at Annapolis.
After Temple (10-3) scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, protecting the 21-0 lead became easier when No. 20 Navy (9-3, No. 19 CFP) lost standout quarterback Will Worth to a second-quarter ankle injury.
Although the defeat took Navy out of the running for the Cotton Bowl, the Midshipmen are expected to play in the Armed Forces Bowl after facing Army next Saturday.
The Owls extended their winning streak to seven and earned their first league title since finishing atop the Middle American Conference in 1967. Temple lost to Houston in last year’s AAC Championship game.
This time, the Owls dominated from the outset. Not only did Temple open with TD drives of 75, 59 and 70 yards, but the defense quashed a Navy attack that was averaging 61 points over its previous three games.
The Midshipmen had scored on 34 of 38 drives – including 33 touchdowns – before being denied on their first three possessions by Temple. Worth was injured at the end of the third drive and did not return.
Backup quarterback Zach Abey went 7 for 13 for 104 yards and two interceptions. He ran for 70 yards. He was operating without running backs Toneo Gulley and Darryl Bonner both of whom left with first-half injuries.
The result was the end of Navy’s 15-game home winning streak.
Walker went 16 for 25 for 199 yards, and middle linebacker Jarred Alwan led the Owls defense with 13 tackles.
Temple took the suspense out of the game with an early show of offensive firepower. After Walker completed a 13-yard pass for Keith Kirkwood on fourth-and-7 from the Navy 28, Jahad Thomas ran for a 15-yard score.
A 22-yard touchdown pass to Ventell Bryant made it 14-0, and Walker followed a Navy turnover with a perfectly thrown long pass that Kirkwood caught in stride for a 56-yard score.
The injury to Worth occurred on Navy’s next possession.
After falling behind 24-3 at halftime, the Midshipmen got a 47-yard run from Abey during a drive late in the third quarter that ended with the quarterback scoring from the Temple 1.
A 42-yard field goal by Aaron Boumerhi with 10:17 left ended any hope of a Navy comeback.