With new AAC pairings, Temple plays Wichita State, Cincinnati twice

With new AAC pairings, Temple plays Wichita State, Cincinnati twice

The addition of Wichita State brings changes to the American Athletic Conference’s basketball scheduling. Teams are now paired with four opponents that they will play just once and seven that they’ll play twice for a total of 18 league games. Those pairings were announced Thursday.

Temple will play East Carolina and Memphis at home and travel to South Florida and SMU.

ECU and USF finished below eighth-place Temple in the league standings last season, while Memphis and SMU finished ahead of the Owls. SMU lost just one conference game last year.

These pairings mean Temple will have a home-and-home series with Cincinnati and newcomer Wichita State, two teams that made it to the NCAA Tournament in March and should do the same again next season.

The dates of all league games are to be announced.

The Owls went 16-16 last season, and will return three players who averaged double figures in points: junior guard Shizz Alston, Jr. (13.9), senior forward Obi Enechionyia (13.1) and sophomore guard Quinton Rose (10.1).

Instant Replay: Temple beats No. 19 Navy for 1st American Athletic Conference championship

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The Associated Press

Instant Replay: Temple beats No. 19 Navy for 1st American Athletic Conference championship

BOX SCORE

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Temple bided its time, waiting a year for a chance to wash out the sting of last year’s American Athletic Conference title game defeat to Houston.
 
And on Saturday, the Owls let out a year’s worth of frustration as they achieved the goal they’ve talked about for months now.
 
They can stop talking about it because Matt Rhule and his Owls can finally call themselves the AAC champions.
 
On the backs of seniors Phillip Walker and Jahad Thomas, Temple (10-3, 8-1 AAC) rocketed out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, leaving No. 19 Navy (10-3, 7-2 AAC) in the dust Saturday afternoon in a 34-10 rout in the AAC title game at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.
 
It’s the second conference title in program history and first since the Owls brought home the Middle Atlantic Conference crown in 1967.
 
Walker ripped Navy’s lackluster passing defense apart for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He was named the game’s Most Outstanding Player for his efforts.
 
But just as impressive was how the Owls handled Navy’s potent triple-option attack, especially after the way Army dominated Temple for 328 yards and four touchdowns on the ground in a 28-13 loss at Lincoln Financial Field in the season opener.
 
The Owls held Navy to just 168 rushing yards Saturday. The Middies came in averaging 342 yards on the ground per game, second most in the nation. A big reason for that was an ankle injury to Navy quarterback Will Worth, the leader of the triple-option, who left in the first half with an ankle injury and did not return.
 
Temple now has 24 hours to celebrate a mission completed before learning of its postseason fate.
 
Bowl outlook
Let’s start here since this is the most pressing issue after Saturday’s result.
 
Is Temple still eligible to be invited to the Cotton Bowl, this year’s New Year’s Six at-large bowl? Yes.
 
But with MAC champion No. 17 Western Michigan sporting a 13-0 record after Friday’s win over Ohio in the conference title game, the odds of the selection committee picking a three-loss Temple team over an undefeated WMU squad are slim.
 
But anything is possible. On the slight chance Temple is selected for the Cotton Bowl, a rematch from September with No. 7 Penn State is possible.
 
We’ll find out Sunday afternoon when the bowl selections are announced.
 
Turning point
On the opening drive of the game, Temple wideout Keith Kirkwood dropped a Walker dart on 3rd-and-7. Instead of having freshman kicker Aaron Boumehri kick into the wind from the Navy 28, Rhule decided to go for it on 4th-and-7. Kirkwood made up for his mistake with a 13-yard reception. Thomas bounced to the outside on the next play and set the tone for the day for Temple with a 15-yard touchdown run that put the Owls up 7-0.
 
With the Owls leading 14-0 two drives later, Worth hit Dishan Romine down the seam for 24 yards, setting Navy up at the Temple 25-yard line. The only reason the play didn’t end in the end zone was because of safety Sean Chandler’s touchdown-saving tackle. On the next play, Navy tried a screen to Darryl Bonner, who was stripped by Chandler. Temple recovered the fumble and Walker hit Kirkwood on 56-yard bomb for a touchdown three plays later to extend Temple’s lead to 21-0.
 
You could have started shining up the trophy from there.
 
Big men on campus
Walker, a four-year starter, was stellar in his penultimate act as an Owl. He completed big pass after big pass to lead to Owls. His 56-yard touchdown rainbow to Kirkwood was a beauty as he put just the right amount of touch on it. He also had a clutch 3rd-and-12 completion to Ventell Bryant in the fourth quarter that eventually led to a field goal that made the score 27-10.
 
Thomas was his usual productive self with 19 rushes for 62 yards and a score.
 
Kirkwood had a big day in the receiving department with five catches for 98 yards and a score.
 
On defense, Chandler had a monster afternoon with eight tackles and a forced fumble. Linebacker Jarred Alwan led the Owls with 12 total tackles.
 
Abey filled in admirably for the Middies with 104 passing yards and 70 rushing yards, but there was only so much he could do against a vicious Temple defense.
 
Injury report
Temple senior linebacker Avery Williams, the Owls’ leader on defense, was hurt in the second quarter after hitting Abey following a pitch. Williams limped off the field, but he couldn’t return even if he wanted to as he earned a targeting call for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Abey after the pitch and was disqualified from the game. It was a good call as Williams forcefully drove the crown of his helmet into Abey’s chin.
 
Navy’s offense was depleted by injuries in the first half.
 
Worth, who captains the Midshipmen’s triple-option attack and entered Saturday as the nation’s leader in rushing touchdowns with 25, left limping early in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. Needless to say, losing Worth was a critical blow to Navy’s chances of a comeback.
 
Navy senior running back Toneo Gulley and junior back Darryl Bonner, the latter of whom is the Midshipmen’s second leading receiver, both left Saturday’s game in the first half with injuries and did not return.
 
History has been made
In addition to winning the first conference championship for the program since 1967, the Owls now have back-to-back 10 win seasons for the first time in program history. They’re also heading to a bowl game in consecutive seasons for the first time ever.
 
Temple also set a record for points in a season with 427, breaking last season’s record of 417.
 
The Owls’ 20 wins over the last two seasons are the most in consecutive years in program history. Matt Rhule also now has 28 wins as the Owls’ head coach, tying him with Bruce Arians for sixth most in school history.
 
That 2-10 season in Rhule’s first season in 2013 seems like ancient history now, doesn’t it?
 
Up Next
Its regular season complete, Temple now awaits its bowl fate. The AAC’s bowl ties are as follows: AutoNation Cure Bowl (vs. Sun Belt in Orlando, Florida), Miami Beach Bowl (vs. MAC in Miami), Boca Raton Bowl (vs. Conference USA in Boca Raton, Florida), St. Petersburg Bowl (vs. ACC in St. Petersburg, Florida), Military Bowl (vs. ACC in Annapolis, Maryland), Birmingham Bowl (vs. SEC in Birmingham, Alabama).
 
It’s entirely possible the Owls could be right back here in Annapolis for the Military Bowl on Dec. 27.
 
The American also has a tie to the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, but Navy is already scheduled to head there to face a Big 12 team. The Midshipmen will head there after their annual showdown with Army next week in Baltimore.

Temple at No. 19 Navy: Owls go for first AAC title

Temple at No. 19 Navy: Owls go for first AAC title

Temple (9-3, 7-1 AAC) at No. 19 Navy (9-2, 7-1 AAC)
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Md.​
Saturday, noon, ABC

It would have been hard to picture Temple in the American Athletic Conference championship game after the Owls’ first game of the season, a 28-13 loss to Army.

But that’s exactly where they are three months later, as Temple will take on No. 19 Navy in the conference championship game Saturday.

The Owls and Midshipmen have both been handling opponents as of late. Temple’s won its last four games by at least three touchdowns, while Navy has outscored opponents 141-62 in its past two games.

Let’s take a look at how one of the country’s top offenses and one of the country’s top defenses match up.

Scouting Temple
The Owls' defense seems to get better every week. Temple ranks No. 3 in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense and No. 10 in scoring defense. The only two teams that rank higher than the Owls in both categories are Alabama and Michigan.

Teams haven’t scored more than 13 points against the Owls in their last four games, and Temple is outscoring opponents 123-23 during that stretch.

Redshirt senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick was named a first team all-conference selection earlier this week. He leads the FBS in tackles for loss. Redshirt senior Praise Martin-Oguike is coming off one of his best games of the season last week against East Carolina, in which he had two sacks, including a forced fumble. He has seven sacks this season.

On offense, Temple’s goal this week will be to sustain drives and keep Navy’s offense off the field. The Owls are currently No. 5 in the FBS in time of possession, holding the ball for more than 34 minutes per game.

Earlier in the week, coach Matt Rhule said senior quarterback Phillip Walker was questionable for Saturday’s game. Walker will likely play, but the Owls might be without one of their top offensive weapons.

Rhule said sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead is doubtful. Armstead has 842 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.

Scouting Navy
The Midshipmen have one of the simplest — yet at that same time one of the best — offenses in the country. Navy ranks No. 2 in rushing yards at 342 per game.

Quarterback Will Worth runs the triple option for Navy. He has 2,544 total yards of offense and 33 total touchdowns. He’s passed for 1,363 yards and rushed for 1,181 more. Worth has a touchdown in 11 straight games.

Worth has attempted 258 rushes compared to 115 passing attempts. Four other Navy players have at least 40 rushing attempts this season.

Senior wide receiver Jamir Tillman is the Midshipmen’s best receiving threat. The 6-foot-4 wideout has 32 catches for 533 yards and two touchdowns.

Navy’s defense hasn’t been quite as elite as its offense. The Midshipmen have allowed 30 or more points in four of their last five games.

The Midshipmen are allowing 265 passing yards per game. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 313 yards and three touchdowns in their last three contests.

Storyline to watch: Can Temple find a way to stop the triple option?
The last time these two teams played was in 2014, when Navy ran for 487 yards and four touchdowns in a 31-24 win over the Owls at Lincoln Financial Field. Temple’s most recent matchup against the triple option was when it lost to Army in its season opener. The Black Knights ran for 329 yards and four touchdowns. With only a week to prepare, Temple will have to find a way to cure its option woes if it wants a chance to win Saturday (see story).

What’s at stake?
The Owls have won only one other conference championship in program history, when they won the Mid-Atlantic Conference in 1967. A win would also give Temple its third 10-win season in program history. 

Prediction
Temple has to figure out this option thing at some point, right? The Owls’ ability to convert on third down and sustain long drives will help slow Navy's offense. This one will most likely come down to who has the ball last, but the Owls are a little bit more well-rounded, so they get the edge. 

Temple 31, Navy 28