Temple cruises past Nay 34-10 to take the AAC Championship
Photo’s By Benjamin Rogers, Jr Pointed Magazine Staff
For the first time as an FBS program, Temple is the champion of its conference.
The Owls went into Annapolis, Maryland, Saturday to knock off No. 19 Navy in its home stadium, 34-10, to seal the American Athletic Conference title. The win is the seventh in a row for the Owls, who overcame a 1-2 start to reach the 10-win mark for the second straight season, another program first.
Navy was the favorite entering the game, and there was even talk the Midshipmen could supplant unbeaten Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl with a win over the Owls. Instead, Temple controlled things from the start.
The Owls scored on their first two drives and stopped the explosive Navy offense on a fourth down play in between. Temple expanded its lead to 21-0 on a 54-yard Phillip Walker touchdown pass to Keith Kirkwood early in the second quarter and never looked back.
Navy lost quarterback Will Worth to an ankle injury in the second quarter. Without him, backup Zach Abey did what he could, but the Owls put the clamps on Navy’s explosive offense that scored 42, 66 and 75 points in its previous three games.
It was 24-3 by the time halftime rolled around. That was all the Temple defense, which entered the game third nationally in total defense, would need. The Midshipmen’s vaunted option attack could muster only 3.8 yards per carry and 168 yards total on the ground, 174 yards fewer than their season average. Temple also forced three Navy turnovers.
Navy would eventually reach the end zone on an Abey touchdown run late in the third, but any chance of a comeback was thwarted when the Owls tacked on a field goal on the subsequent drive. A 30-yard touchdown run by Ryquell Armstead was the icing on the cake of a convincing 34-10 victory.
Temple’s win — its first conference title win since 1967 as a member of the Middle Atlantic Conference — is music to the ears of 13-0 Western Michigan. Navy was just two spots behind unbeaten MAC champions WMU in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. The Broncos barely got past four-loss Ohio in Friday night’s MAC title game, perhaps leaving the door open for Navy to seize that top Group of Five ranking and a spot in the Cotton Bowl.
At the very least, a Navy win could have warranted a delay in the Cotton Bowl announcement until after Navy’s game against rival Army next Saturday. Temple was unranked, so now it looks like a slam dunk for Western Michigan, the first Group of Five team to go undefeated since 2010, to play in the Cotton Bowl.