By: Cayden Steele, Photos Courtesy of the Associated Press
Annapolis, Maryland– Temple’s (0-1) run defense struggled mightily on Saturday night.
Navy fullback Nelson Smith had a productive night, he rushed for a career-high 120 yards for two touchdowns and lifted Navy to a 31-29 victory over Temple.
Smith broke through the Owls’ defensive line and ran for a 26-yard touchdown right before the half to put Navy up 21-10.
After Temple pulled within one score, Smith ran for a 22-yard touchdown right down the middle and put Navy up 28-17 in the third quarter.
Smith consistently broke the line of scrimmage and found daylight.
Head coach Rod Carey believes the pad level of his defense has to improve moving forward.
“Our pad level is just too high, it was a real simple thing, like this isn’t an X and O thing, this isn’t a personal thing, this is a really fundamental thing in football,” Carey said. “Our pad level was just too damn high and we had it defended up and our guys restrained it, but when your pad level is three inches high, you are going backwards.”
Smith wasn’t the only Navy running back to have success on Saturday, junior fullback Jamale Carothers rushed for a one-yard touchdown to open the game and gave Navy the early 7-0 lead.
Carothers finished the game with 15 carries and 53 yards and junior running back Chance Warren ran for 15 yards and a touchdown in the victory.
The Owls’ defense was outplayed, but the offense kept them in the game and had a chance to win on their final possession.
The Owls’ offense controlled the clock and had a long sustaining drive where sophomore running back Re’Mahn Davis ran for a one-yard touchdown and cut the lead to two.
It was 31-29 with 1:02 remaining and the Owls had a chance to go for two and tie up the game, but they called up a pass play that would backfire.
Quarterback Anthony Russo from the pocket stepped back and threw the ball to Re’Mahn Davis in the flat where he was quickly wrapped up and the two-point conversion failed.
After the game, Rod Carey explained that he should have gone with co-offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Mike Uremovich’s play call, Carey believes it would have worked in retrospect but he takes full responsibility for the call and doesn’t believe Russo had a real opportunity to make a play.
“They covered it. So, he didn’t really have any place to go with the ball,” Carey said. “ Bad call, it wasn’t Anthony. It was my call, I will eat that one.”
Russo went 21-of-30 for 206 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The redshirt senior was also effective on the run, he ran for 20-yards and two touchdowns.
Although Russo played well for the majority of the game, his one interception right before the half ended all the momentum of a long-drive that was inside Navy’s 16.
Russo tried to force a difficult pass into good coverage and was intercepted by Navy sophomore linebacker/safety John Marshall with 45 seconds left on the clock in the second quarter.
Russo knows that he cannot make that type of decision, especially as a third-year starting quarterback.
“I knew right away after I threw it that it was a bad throw and decision,” Russo said. “I promise I won’t make that same mistake twice this year.”
The rest of the Owls’ offense was productive and found success against Navy’s defense.
Davis ran the ball 23 times for 97 yards and one touchdown and redshirt-senior Tavon Ruley ran five times for 46 yards.
The passing offense was productive as well, the passing attack finished with 241 yards combined and a touchdown.
Senior wide receiver Branden Mack led the team with seven receptions for 80-yards and a touchdown. The versatile wide receiver also threw a 35-yard pass to redshirt-sophomore tight-end David Martin-Robinson on a trick play.
Martin-Robinson caused a mismatch for Navy linebackers and finished the game with five receptions for 72 yards.
Moving forward, Temple will work on their run defense struggles and try to build upon their offensive success.
“We have to go back and work and get some things corrected,” Carey said. “ Nothing is broke, a couple of things are bent and we have to get them straightened out, but we could certainly do that.”
Next, the Owls will play South Florida (1-3, 0-1) at Lincoln Financial Field, on Saturday at 12:00pm.