WRITTEN BY TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA – When facing a military academy on the field, Temple head coach Matt Rhule reminds his players to accompany the servicemen in the singing of their alma mater, whether they win, lose, or draw.
On Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field, Rhule wanted his players not only to partake, but also to endure the same vexation and humiliation that he felt after his team’s season opening loss.
As a team that is expected to take the next step forward in 2016, Temple, a two-touchdown favorite on opening night, was only pushed in the opposite direction by Army, as the Black Knights upset the Owls 28-13 in front of a deflated Philadelphia crowd.
“I wanted our team to see them celebrate. I’m hurt right now,” Rhule said. “I hate this. I’m embarrassed by it. I feel terrible for all the people that came to the game that had to see us play so poorly.”
Temple’s inability to detain Army’s triple option cost them early and often, as the Black Knights tallied 329 yards on the ground, while throwing the ball just five times in 60 minutes. But Rhule insists that the lack of preparation on the defensive side was only part of a bigger issue.
“They didn’t beat us with the triple-option,” Rhule said. “They physically beat us. They beat us with their line, with their quarterback and with their running back. They were just knocking us off the ball, and we weren’t able to knock them back.”
While the Owls’ defense took the heat, the team’s earliest miscue came on the offensive end. After marching 47 yards downfield to Army’s 28-yard line on the opening drive of the first quarter, senior quarterback Phillip Walker’s intended pass to Brodrick Yancy careened off the receiver’s hands, resulting in an interception for cornerback Marcus Hyatt. It was the first of three interceptions on the night for Walker, who finished 12-of-26 with 168 passing yards and no touchdowns.
“I thought we moved the ball well. We just didn’t execute in the red zone,” said Walker, who became Temple’s all-time passing leader with 7,542 yards in the third quarter.
“The way we were moving the ball I felt like we were in a good position just to put up points at times. But we couldn’t really settle for three points because three points wasn’t enough tonight. We had to score touchdowns and we weren’t effective tonight in the red zone.”
Sophomore halfback Ryquell Armstead drew first blood on the ground, finding the goal line on a six-yard touchdown run to make the score 7-0 at the beginning of the second quarter. This would be the Owls lone touchdown on the night, only tallying six more points on two field goals by kicker Austin Jones. The Black Knights immediately matched on offense, as Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw capped off a 12-play, 75-yard drive with a 10-yard run to knot the score at 7-7.
Trailing 10-7 at halftime, the Black Knights opened the second half with a near identical drive, this time with help from halfback Andy Davidson, who punched in a 3-yard touchdown to hand Army the lead, 14-10 with 8:18 left in the third.
In the fourth quarter, Army would see the end zone two more times. With nine minutes remaining, Tyler Campbell’s 12-yard run extended the lead to 21-13, and six minutes later, Davidson sealed the victory with a 17-yard dash after a costly interception by Walker deep in Owls’ territory.
It was Army’s first-ever win at Lincoln Financial Field in 14 tries, and Temple’s third consecutive loss dating back to last December in the American Athletic Conference championship game.
On Tuesday afternoon during his weekly press conference, Rhule commended Army’s efforts in 2015, insisting that the Black Knights’ record of 2-10 last season didn’t tell the entire story of their ups and downs.
“What they did to us is what we did to Vanderbilt,” Rhule said, drawing parallels to Temple’s 37-7 victory over the Commodores in the 2014 season opener. “That’s three losses in a row, and you can probably hear our team. We’ve got to do something here quickly to get ourselves back on track because we’re still not playing the way we’re capable of playing.”
The Owls, who play three more home games in September, will host Stony Brook next Saturday at 1:00 p.m. They will also play without the services of first-team all-conference halfback Jahad Thomas, who is out indefinitely with an apparent hand injury.