This time, Temple football didn't look like a sideshow in prime time.
The Owls on Thursday night snapped a two-game losing streak with an almost flawless effort in a 34-26 win over the Navy Midshipmen at Lincoln Financial Field.
In an ESPN Thursday night game Sept. 21, the Owls were embarrassed in a 43-7 loss to then-No. 21 South Florida. Tonight, Temple had its biggest win of the season.
Temple improved to 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the American Athletic Conference. Navy has now lost three straight games and dropped to 5-3 and 3-3 in conference.
• The triple-option has given Temple fits in the past, but the Owls essentially had three weeks to prepare for Navy with their last game against Army and a bye week.
Temple won this game in the second quarter by holding the Midshipmen to three points on a 19-play, 68-yard, nine-minute and 35-second drive to close out the second quarter.
It allowed Temple to take a 17-6 lead into halftime, which was huge since Navy got the ball to start the second half. Holding Navy to a field goal on its first drive was equally as big, especially after a 58-yard kick return, but the second-quarter stop was bigger.
Allow the Midshipmen a touchdown there and it's a 17-13 game. Whole different ballgame.
• Credit goes to Temple’s front seven, who didn’t get pushed around much at all in this game. But also credit the coaching staff for preparing this team for it. It certainly helps to have a dual-threat quarterback like true freshman Todd Centeio on the roster.
Temple held Navy to 136 yards on 52 carries — a lot of volume but not much damage. The Midshipmen averaged just 2.6 yards per carry. The Temple D held strong.
• Frank Nutile made his second straight start and the second of his Temple career with Logan Marchi (foot) still not healthy enough to play. Marchi did handle holding duties for field goals and extra points, however. Nutile was in control.
Nutile threaded the needle perfectly on a 40-yard touchdown pass to Adonis Jennings in the first quarter. He completed 13 of his first 16 passes for 164 yards and two TDs. Nutile and Jennings hooked up for another big TD in the third quarter, a 34-yarder. Nutile finished 22 of 30 for 289 yards, four TDs and one interception.
In two starts, Nutile has now completed 42 of 59 passes for 579 yards, five TDs and one INT. It will be hard to go back to Marchi after what Nutile has shown.
• A major reason the Owls won was third downs. Temple finished 8 of 13 on third downs. After failing to convert on its first drive, TU converted eight straight.
Converting on third downs are huge against the triple-option because it beats down defenses. It's important to move the chains when you have the ball. Temple did just that.
• The Temple offense was much less conservative with Nutile. Both of Jennings' TDs were big-yardage plays — 34 and 40 yards — and Keith Kirkwood had catches of 19 and 24 yards.
It was an excellent game plan by Temple offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude. The Owls weren't afraid to attack the Midshipmen, and they did so aggressively.
• One more note on big plays and third downs. What a gutsy play call on a 3rd-and-8 on the Navy 34-yard line with 1:50 left in the third when Nutile delivered a strike. The 33-yard hookup with Jennings put the Owls on the 1-yard line and sealed the win.
• With the victory, Temple needs two wins with three games remaining — next Friday at Cincinnati, Nov. 18 against No. 18 UCF and Nov. 25 at Tulsa — to become bowl eligible. Two wins doesn't guarantee a bowl game. Winning out would give TU a much stronger case.