ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Behind all game, Temple kept clawing back, but an ill-advised pass on a two-point conversion ended any comeback hopes for the Owls.
Navy linebacker Terrell Adams batted away Anthony Russo’s two-point conversion pass to Re’Mahn Davis with 1 minute, 2 seconds remaining to preserve a 31-29 win over the Owls at Navy-Marine-Corps Memorial Stadium.
Afterward, coach Rod Carey took the blame.
It turns out that Carey overruled offensive coordinator Mike Uremovich on the call.
“I made the call. Mike had the call, and I should have gone with his,” Carey said. “They covered it, [Russo} didn’t have any place to go with the ball, so that was my call. Bad call. I will eat that one.”
It surely won’t taste good.
“We ran the play and tried to execute it, and unfortunately we didn’t,” said Davis, who had scored on a 1-yard run to set up the two-point conversion and had 23 carries for 97 yards and that one score.
Even though nobody was open, Russo said that the throw was on him.
“For me, I have to have the football IQ. Even if Ray caught the ball, he would have been tackled at the 2. So I must throw in the end zone,” said Russo, who completed 21-of-30 passes for 206 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
While this was Temple’s opener, Navy is 2-2.
Even though no other fans were permitted into the game, the 4,400 Brigade of Navy Midshipmen were allowed, offering a little atmosphere to the game.
The brigade members were socially distanced and situated all around the stadium. The Navy cheerleaders were also there to add support behind one of the goalposts.
The Owls missed a chance on their first possession of the second half when Randle Jones got open deep and dropped a third-down pass.
Temple scored on its next possession, cutting the lead to 21-17 when Russo hit Branden Mack in the end zone for a 7-yard scoring pass with 5:43 left in the third quarter.
Navy raised the lead to 28-17 on the next possession when Nelson Smith scored his second touchdown up the middle, with the Midshipmen blowing the Owls off the ball. This one went for 22 yards.
Temple scored early in the fourth quarter on Russo’s second rushing touchdown, from 9 yards, when he carried a few tacklers into the end zone with him. In this opener, Russo equaled the number of rushing touchdowns he had all last season.
The Owls then went for two points, and Russo’s end zone pass to Jadan Blue was caught, but he had stepped out of bounds before coming back and making the catch, nullifying the completion. That kept the score 28-23 with 14:02 left.
Navy went up, 31-23, when Bijan Nichols hit a 50-yard field goal with 4:56 left.
The Midshipmen entered the game averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. For a team running the triple-option, that is not optimal. Then again, that isn’t good for any offense.
Against Temple, Navy rushed for 253 yards (4.4 avg.) and four touchdowns.
The struggles of the first three games weren’t evident in the first half for Navy. First three possessions, three touchdowns.
The opening drive was classic Navy, 17-plays, 75 yards, ending with a 1-yard fourth-down run by Jamale Carothers. The drive ate up 9:38 and set the tone for a first half of dominance.
Temple moved the ball on its first possessions but was stalled after a first-and-goal from the 8 and had to settle for a Will Mobley 25-yard field goal.
Navy’s next two touchdowns were set up by of all things, the screen pass.
Early in the second quarter, on a third-and-14 from the Owls' 38, C.J. Williams weaved through the Owls defense for a 36-yard gain on a screen. That set up a 2-yard run by Chance Warren.
After Temple cut the lead to 14-10 on Russo’s 1-yard keeper, Navy made it 21-10 on Smith’s 26-yard run up the middle when Temple was blown off the ball by the Navy offensive linemen, an indication of things to come. That drive was kept alive when, on a fourth-and-6 from the Temple 45, Dalen Morris hit Mychal Cooper with a 12-yard screen pass for the first down.
Temple had a chance to narrow the score by halftime, but Russo, who was looking for Blue in the end zone, was intercepted by John Marshall, who made the first pick of his career.
Last year, Temple was 116th out of 130 teams in red-zone efficiency, and the Owls trailed, 21-10, at the half.