The Temple Owls defeated Navy's triple-option offense on Saturday in Annapolis.
Here are five observations from the win:
Courageous effort by Booth-Lloyd
With 9 minutes, 58 seconds left in the third quarter, Temple defensive lineman Freddie Booth-Lloyd had to be helped off the field with his arms around two teammates. He looked done for the day if not longer. Booth not only returned, but was in on one of the biggest plays of the game. He returned later in the quarter, and when Malcolm Perry scored an apparent 30-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-8 play, it was called back for an illegal block in the back. The player who was blocked illegally was Booth-Lloyd, hustling down the field. At 6-foot-1 and 330-pounds, Booth-Lloyd was still motoring down the field, hustling despite not being 100 percent. It may turn out to be one of the biggest plays of the season.
Unsung effort by Ritrovato
Rob "Nitro" Ritrovato still plays with the fire of a walk-on who is trying to earn a scholarship. Of course, that was his position until earning a scholarship last year. With Ryquell Armstead out due to injury (believed to be his ankle), Ritrovato got the start at running back. At 5-foot-11 and 240 pounds, he isn't going to outrun many defenders outside, but he gives maximum effort in whatever job is asked to perform. On Saturday he rushed 12 times for 35 yards and a 1-yard touchdown. He also did his usual outstanding job blocking and is one of Temple's key special teams performers. It is hard for a former walk-on to be among the leaders of the team, but that is the case with Ritrovato, whose effort is infectious.
Junior Sam Franklin is listed as a linebacker. He has played a lot of defensive end, and is often has been used as a nickel back. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, he has more than held his own where ever he plays. One of the Owls' fastest defenders, Franklin is often downfield making tackles. That was the case on Saturday where he had a team-high 10 tackles, including two for loss. Because of his speed, the Owls coaches can utilize him in a variety of ways and he has been a player that has flown under the radar, but not from the coaches. His job on Saturday was to funnel the Navy triple option inside, not let the Midshipmen get to the outside. The other thing about Franklin, as he showed on Saturday, is that he never gives up on plays. That is why he makes so many downfield tackles, even when lining up at defensive end. Even with Navy holding a 33:07 to 26:53 edge in time of possession, Franklin showed great energy throughout.
Ventell Bryant entered Saturday with 18 receptions for 196 yards and no touchdowns in six games. Granted, he played sparingly in the previous game, a 49-6 win over East Carolina, due to an undisclosed injury (although he said he couldn't lift his arm). Saturday, he had his best game since the end of his sophomore season with eight receptions for 147 yards and one touchdown. Bryant isn't known as a burner, but he says he is more than a possession receiver. On Saturday he showed great deep speed, especially on his game-winning 62-yard touchdown reception, where he ran a go route and quarterback Anthony Russo hit him in stride. It's too soon to say that Bryant has regained the form of his sophomore year (54 receptions, 895 yards, four touchdowns), but he seemed both happy and relieved to end a touchdown drought that had lasted 17 games. If Bryant can get going, it will open things up even more for the receiving corps. He doesn't even have to be a deep threat. He works the middle of the field as well as any Temple receiver and even though he has had better statistical games, this might have been his best, considering the competitiveness of the game. He also helped set up another TD with a 40-yard reception. Bryant (6-3, 200) is also one of Temple's best blocking receivers. The competition over the final five games will be more difficult so if Bryant can build off Saturday's performance, then Temple will be even more dangerous offensively.
Anthony Russo made his fifth straight start at quarterback and he keeps showing improvement. Yes, he got on himself for that end-zone interception with Temple leading 24-17 and ready to put the game away in the fourth quarter. But one can see his confidence growing. In the last two weeks he has thrown a total of 12 incompletions, having completed 44 of 56. Saturday he was 23 of 31 for 300 yards and the one touchdown pass to Bryant. And he isn't just dinking and dunking. Russo has taken several shots on deep balls. One can sense a better rhythm with the receivers and confidence in him as a leader. And one can also sense the confidence he has in himself now that he has five games under his belt.