HEAD TO HEAD: NAVY VS. TEMPLE

HEAD TO HEAD: NAVY VS. TEMPLE

Navy meets Temple on Saturday in Philadelphia. GoMids.com's Jim Lawler compares the two teams in several critical areas. He also makes a prediction on the game's final score.

The Navy Midshipmen, off their losing opening day battle with fifth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, travel to Philadelphia to face the Temple Owls. Temple surprised the college football world with its 37-7 dismantling of Vanderbilt on the road. Temple earned its first win over a Southeastern Conference team since beating Florida in 1938. Last year the Owls finished just 2-10. Navy and Temple engaged in some memorable battles when Al Golden was their head coach. The Navy 33-27 overtime win at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium was one for the ages. Temple and Navy have split the series (5-5) with the Owls winning the last match-up in 2009.

NAVY PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
TEMPLE PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds completed 2-of-4 passes for 20 yards against Ohio State. Reynolds set up Navy's first touchdown with a 17-yard completion to direct admit plebe Brandon Colon. Reynolds rolled out and scrambled away from pressure then hit Colon in a very tight window on the sideline. Colon made a nice catch and kept his foot in bounds. The real passing line was 1 for 2 with two sacks allowed since the two other passes were forward pitches. Navy couldn't block Ohio State's talented defensive front when forced to pass. The Mids have struggled to protect Reynolds against top defensive lines. Navy ranked 123rd in the nation in sacks allowed last year. In 2013, Reynolds completed 68 of 128 passes (53.1%) for 1,057 passing yards with eight touchdown passes and just two interceptions. He had a streak of throwing at least one touchdown pass in six straight games. Reynolds new wide receivers Brandon Dudeck and Jamir Tillman had no catches. Tillman had one ball thrown to him but he caught it out of bounds.

Temple’s pass defense was ranked a miserable 121st in the nation last season allowing over 296 passing yards a game. It’s obviously a new year and the Owls shutdown the Vandy passing attack in the opener. Three Vanderbilt quarterbacks combined were just 16 for 34 for 224 passing yards and three interceptions. Cornerback Tavon Young (51 tackles, INT in 2013) picked off two passes. The other cornerback is long time starter Anthony Robe. He has made 25 straight starts. He made the 2013 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team. Safety Will Hayes came off the bench and made six tackles. Junior defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis led the Owls with three sacks last year and posted one of the Owls four sacks against Vanderbilt.

NAVY RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
TEMPLE RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Navy's rushing offense ran for 370 rushing yards, 5.9 per carry and 2 touchdowns against Ohio State. The Mids were the first team since Penn State in 1997 to run for over 300 yards against the Buckeyes. Last year Navy finished second in the nation in rushing averaging 325.4 rushing yards per game. Keenan Reynolds finished last season with 1,346 rushing yards and a quarterback record setting 31 rushing touchdowns. He scored a touchdown in the opener but struggled to find running room for himself and missed some reads. Senior slotback Ryan Williams-Jenkins had a career best 118 yards on seven carries. DeBrandon Sanders (6 att., 30 yards, TD) showed his terrific speed and athleticism in managing to outrace three Buckeyes and dive for the pylon on his touchdown. Demond Brown (4 for 41) had a key 16-yard run to set up the field goal. Both Sanders and Brown had trouble handling some pitches cleanly. Sanders’ fumble, which he recovered, put the Mids in second and long and killed the momentum of a drive that forced Navy to settle for a field goal. Geoffrey Whiteside had 5 carries for 44 yards and blocked well against the Buckeyes. At B-back most of the positive yardage in the opener came off the fullback option. Noah Copeland carried 7 times for 22 yards. Chris Swain had three carries for 35 yards and ran hard.

Temple's 4-3 defense is ranked 72nd in the nation allowing over 173 rushing yards per game. The Owls best defensive player is junior outside linebacker Tyler Matakevich. He is a tackling machine who made 137 tackles in 2013 including 11 1/2 for a loss. Last week Matakevich made six tackles in the win over Vandy. Middle linebacker Nate D. Smith (66 tackles, 3 sacks in 2013) had 4 tackles and forced a fumble last week. Temple has experience playing against an option teams besides Navy. The Owls have beat Army six years in a row. The Owls defense shut out Vanderbilt, their lone touchdown came off a special team’s miscue, and forced seven turnovers.

TEMPLE PASSING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY PASSING DEFENSE
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Sophomore P.J. Walker is an exciting dual threat quarterback. Temple began to turn their fortunes around when he was named the starter at midseason last year. He led the Owls to their only two wins and had them in every game. Walker showed a strong arm as he completed 152 of 250 passes for (60.8%) 2,084 yards while tossing 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. In the upset against Vanderbilt he was 23 for 34 for 207 yards and two touchdowns. Temple usually lines up with three wide receivers, a tight end and a single running back. Wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick (38 receptions for 429 yards, 3 TDs in 2013) is a possession receiver. He had five catches against Vandy for 46 yards and a touchdown. New wide receiver Brandon Shippen (2 for 60) caught a 35-yard pass to open the scoring last game. Wide receiver Nate Harrison led all receivers with 7 receptions for 48 yards. Temple's offensive line returned only one starter. They gave up one sack in the opener after having some issues in pass protection last year.

Navy was ranked 38th in pass defense last season. The Mids secondary had a costly rare breakdown against Ohio State on Devin Smith's 80-yard touchdown reception. Brandon Clements (2 tackles) sat on the route and free safety Kwazel Bertrand (7 tackles) let him get over the top and missed the tackle at the 25-yard line. On the day OSU’s J.T. Barrett completed 12 of 15 passes for 226 yards with an interception. Parrish Gaines (3 tackles, INT) just missed an interception because Barrett's throw was off the mark on a bubble screen. He didn't miss later in the same series when he ended the OSU drive by picking off Barrett. Quincy Adams (5 tackles) could not get off his block on Michael Thomas's 9-yard bubble screen touchdown reception. The Mids front did a good job creating pressure in the first half. Paul Quessenberry (3 TT, 2 TFL, sack) sack helped force Ohio State to settle for a field goal. The Mids drew two other holding penalties and did a nice job early in the game creating pressure.

TEMPLE RUSHING OFFENSE
VS.
NAVY RUSHING DEFENSE
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Temple’s pro spread offense offers a lot less physical rushing attack than the Owls had in the past. The Owls use the running back by committee approach. Senior Kenneth Harper is the Owls’ starter. In 2013 he led them in rushing with 613 yards on 136 carries, a 4.5 average and nine touchdowns. Sophomore Jahad Thomas had the most carries against Vandy with 12 for 33 yards. Speedy Jamie Gilmore led all runner with 67 yards on nine carries in the opener. Quarterback P.J. Walker scored the Owls touchdown against Vandy and must be accounted for by the defense because of his speed.

Navy's rushing defense ranked 79th in the country last year .They allowed 178.8 rushing yards per game. The Mids allowed Ohio State just 194 rushing yards, 4.8 yards a carry and two touchdowns. Striker linebacker Chris Johnson (11 tackles, TFL) made a huge play when he fought off a block and dropped Elliott for a 7-yard loss on third-and-2 from the 4-yard line and forced OSU to settle for a field goal. Johnson played a tremendous game and was all over the field. Defensive end Will Anthony (6 tackles, TFL) had a huge short yardage stop on fourth-and-1 when he dropped Elliott for a two yard loss. The new inside linebackers Jordan Drake (5 tackles) and James Britton (4 tackles, TFL) held up well until the entire front seven struggled the last few series in the fourth quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Temple's field goal kickers were horrible last year. This year they have a new kicker in Austin Mayes who hit 2-of-3 field goal attempts in the opener. Freshman punter Alex Starzyk had a solid debut averaging 41.6 yards on seven punts and nailing one 58-yards. The new kickoff and punt returner is Khalif Herbin. Kick off specialist Jim Cooper doesn't drive the ball very deep. Temple has good team speed and does a nice job covering kickoffs and punts.

Navy kicker Nick Sloan hit one of two field goal attempts against Ohio State. Sloan's 36-yard miss before the half was deflating after the Mids put together a nice two minute option drive. Sloan hit 10-of-14 field goals last season. Punter Pablo Beltran rebounded from a poor first punt of 35 yards to average 45.6 yards on five punts including a 51-yard punt. Beltran earned honorable mention All-East in 2013. Demond Brown returned four kickoffs for 64 yards and didn't have much room. DeBrandon Sanders should have fair caught Ohio State's first punt at the 15-yard line. It caused Navy's first drive to start inside their own 1-yard line. Myer Krah (1 tackle) had a nice hit on kick coverage. Austin Grebe had two touchbacks on his four kickoffs. Navy did a solid job covering all other kicks since Dontre Wilson is a dangerous return man with serious speed. The Mids coverage units allowed 19.8 on kickoffs and 6.5 on punt returns last fall.

COACHING
EDGE: NAVY
REMARKS: Second year Temple head coach Matt Rhule struggled early last year as his team lost to two FCS programs. His team's fortunes changed after he installed P.J. Walker to run his offense. Ruhle was a former Temple assistant hired by Al Golden in 2006. Rhule was the offensive coordinator from 2008-10 at Temple. The Owls went 22-15 during his three seasons as offensive coordinator. Rhule spent the 2012 season as the assistant offensive line coach with the New York Giants. Rhule has recruited well since his return. Temple fields a young but athletic team.

Head coach Ken Niumatalolo had his team ready to compete and play in the opener. It was a great effort. His time management and use of his timeouts are the only concern. Ivan Jasper countered Ohio state with some heavy and tight formations to run for 370 yards. Buddy Green had a solid game plan as always and his charges implemented it well except for a few breakdowns. Niumatalolo and the entire staff have done a tremendous job recruiting and developing talent the past few years as you can see the upgraded athleticism on both sides of the ball.

INTANGIBLES
EDGE: EVEN
REMARKS: Navy and Temple engaged in some memorable battles when Al Golden was their head coach. The 33-27 overtime win at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium was one for the ages with Clint Stovie returning a fumble 42-yards for a touchdown to tie with just 37 seconds left after Temple ran the ball instead of taking a knee. Ricky Dobbs had the game winning score in overtime. Last year Matt Rhule, a former Al Golden assistant, struggled to a 2-10 record in his first year as Owls head coach. After Temple inserted freshman quarterback P.J. Walker they played well down the stretch and beat Vanderbilt in the opener. The Mids are undefeated (10-0) at Lincoln Field. Temple's lackluster fan base should be pumped up for the home opener after their beat down of Vanderbilt.

PREDICTION: NAVY 35, TEMPLE 24. Rhule has done a solid job recruiting but this is a young team that Navy should beat. Navy's should pull away at the end.

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