'Nobody stops' Navy's ground game, but Temple up for challenge in AAC title game

'Nobody stops' Navy's ground game, but Temple up for challenge in AAC title game

There will be no surprises, no new wrinkles, no tricks up the sleeve.

When Temple plays Navy in Saturday’s American Athletic Conference championship game, the Midshipmen will line up and run the triple option over, and over, and over again.

“This is a team in the Naval Academy that challenges you to your core,” Temple coach Matt Rhule said Tuesday. “They physically come at you every single play.”

Navy has the No. 2 rushing offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Midshipmen average 342 yards rushing. They ran for 496 yards and nine touchdowns last week in a 75-31 win over Southern Methodist and rushed for 460 yards and nine touchdowns against East Carolina the week before in a 66-32 win.

Their triple-option attack forces opposing defenses to play mistake-free football. Each defensive player is responsible for one offensive player, which results in 11 one-on-one matchups on the field. If one guy is out of position or misses a tackle, the Midshipmen break off a big play.

“Nobody stops them,” Rhule said. “They have an answer in this offense for everything, no matter what you’re in. If you watch, every week somebody comes up with something different and they have an answer for it. It’s going to come down to, in our mind, whether we can get off the blocks and tackle.”

“It’s mainly going to be us with technique and it’s just us getting off blocks, making a big tackle that we need to make and knocking them back,” redshirt senior linebacker Avery Williams said.

The Owls last played Navy in 2014 when Temple lost, 31-24. The Midshipmen rushed 63 times for 487 yards and four touchdowns in the game.

Temple got another taste of the triple option earlier this season when the Owls faced Army at Lincoln Financial Field in their season opener.

It didn’t go too well. 

The Black Knights ran 67 times for 329 yards and four touchdowns in Temple’s 28-13 loss.

Since then, the Owls have grown into one of the best defenses in the country. Temple ranks No. 3 in the FBS in total defense and No. 10 in scoring defense. Only Alabama and Michigan rank higher in both categories.

“I think we weren’t expecting a fight,” senior linebacker Jarred Alwan said of the Army game. “This game we've definitely got to expect a fight until the end.

“I think we’re one of the best defenses in the country anyway. So I don’t know, I mean, this offense is going to be tough to stop, we've just got to play our technique and just do what the coaches tell us. Watch extra film, watch tape and just prepare like every other game.”

Temple’s best defense against the triple option might be its offense. The longer Temple can sustain drives, the longer the Owls can keep the Midshipmen offense off the field. 

The Owls rank No. 5 in time of possession, holding the ball for more than 34 minutes per game. 

“To have a chance, we need to play well on offense,” Rhule said. “You have to control the clock, you have to put up some points and score, so your defense isn’t consistently under siege.”

Penn State holds off Marquette to reach NIT semifinals

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Penn State holds off Marquette to reach NIT semifinals


MILWAUKEE -- Lamar Stevens tied his career high with 30 points, Tony Carr added 25 and Penn State beat Marquette 85-80 on Tuesday night to advance to the NIT semifinals.

The Nittany Lions (24-13) will face Mississippi State (25-11) at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 27. They advanced to the NIT semis for the first time since winning the 2009 tournament.

Stevens hit three crucial buckets in the final three minutes, including a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Josh Reaves for an eight-point lead with one minute left. The 6-foot-8 Stevens then maneuvered through a couple Marquette players to secure a rebound off Andrew Rowsey's missed 3 with 46 seconds left.

Carr went 5 of 8 from the foul line over the final 30 seconds to give Marquette another chance. Rowsey hit a 3 and a layup to get the Golden Eagles as close as 83-80 with six seconds left before the Golden Eagles ran out of time.

Shep Garner scored 19 points and set two Penn State records, including most 3s in a season (112). Garner's 73 career wins are the most in a four-year span since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1992-93.

Rowsey, a senior, scored 29 points for Marquette (21-14).

The Golden Eagles had whittled a 14-point deficit early in the second half to 72-68 with 2:39 left on three foul shots by Rowsey. Penn State went nearly three minutes without a bucket and got sloppy with the ball and the sharpshooting Golden Eagles started hitting 3s to get back in the game.

Villanova, Penn with polar opposite NCAA Tournament draws

Villanova, Penn with polar opposite NCAA Tournament draws

No surprises on the Main Line and well, the Quakers have quite the hill to climb to advance.

Villanova on Sunday night was awarded the 1-seed in the East Region and will face the winner of the LIU Brooklyn/Radford game Thursday in Pittsburgh. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:50 p.m. on TNT.

The Wildcats have been a top-two seed since 2014 and it's the second straight year they're a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova was the No. 1 overall seed in last year's tournament.

Penn was named the 16th seed in the Midwest Region and will face the No. 1-seeded Kansas Jayhawks on Thursday at 2 p.m. on TBS in Wichita, Kansas.

Steve Donahue has the Quakers back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007 in his third season as Penn's head coach.

The Quakers are 24-8 and this will be their 24th-ever appearance in the tournament.

'Nova survived a scare from Providence on Saturday night to win its second straight Big East title and its third in the past four years.

If the Wildcats beat LIU Brooklyn/Radford, they'll face the winner of the No. 8-seeded Virginia Tech and No. 9 seed Alabama. Purdue is the No. 2 seed in the East.

Also in the East are No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 4 Wichita State.