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Temple should have a passing advantage against Navy

Temple quarterback Anthony Russo threw four touchdown passes last week and faces a Navy team that has surrendered 11 scoring passes in five games.

Temple wide receiver Ventell Bryant watches the football against Tulsa cornerback Reggie Robinson II on Thursday, September 20, 2018 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Temple wide receiver Ventell Bryant watches the football against Tulsa cornerback Reggie Robinson II on Thursday, September 20, 2018 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff PhotographerRead moreYong Kim

A major concern for Temple is stopping the Navy triple option in the teams' American Athletic Conference game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, but the flipside is that Navy has to deal with the Owls offense, specifically the passing game.

In last year's 34-26 win over Navy, Temple did a good job shutting down the run game, mainly because Navy had to pass more than usual because it had fallen behind early. Temple threw four touchdown passes and led by 34-13 early in the fourth quarter.

Now, Temple is coming off a 49-6 win over East Carolina in which Anthony Russo threw four touchdown passes to different receivers.

Navy doesn't figure to get a strong pass rush on the Owls. The Midshipmen are 129th and last in the nation in tackles for loss per game, averaging 2.6. Navy has recorded just six sacks, while Temple has 20.

Russo has started four games and been sacked four times, so it appears as if he will get ample time to throw against a Navy defense that is allowing 33.4 points per game. The Mids have surrendered 11 touchdown passes. Temple has allowed nine in one more game.

"Last year, we felt we could throw deep on them, and hopefully we can do that this year," Temple receiver Ventell Bryant said.

Last year, two of the Temple touchdown passes against Navy went for 34 and 40 yards.

Bryant could be a big part of the game plan. The redshirt senior saw limited action last week because of an undisclosed injury.

"I feel great, 100 percent, ready to go after Navy," said Bryant, who has 19 receptions for 207 yards but is looking for his first score this year.

Temple (3-3, 2-0 AAC) is coming off its best passing game of the year, as Russo had as many touchdown passes as incompletions, completing 21 of 25 passes for 254 yards, the four scores and one interception.

Navy (2-3, 1-1), meanwhile, is coming off a 35-7 loss at Air Force after being outscored by 21-0 in the second half.

Recent history suggests the Mids can bounce back from a bad loss. After opening this year with a 59-41 loss at Hawaii, Navy upset defending AAC West Division champion Memphis at home the next week, 22-21. Even last year after suffering a 14-13 loss to Army in Philadelphia, Navy then trounced Virginia, 49-7, in the Military Bowl.

Coach Ken Niumatalolo is on his game when it comes to throwing bouquets to Temple.

"We just got beat by a team thoroughly, and Temple is probably better than Air Force," Niumatalolo said earlier this week on the AAC media call.

Asked what impressed him most about the Temple offense, Niumatalolo replied, "Unfortunately, too much impressed me."

In reviewing Navy's defense, Temple has been impressed with the intensity.

"Anytime you play a service academy, they are going to play hard," Russo said. "They are flying around and disciplined, and they won't have a lot of penalties, if any at all."

The statistics bear this out. Navy leads the nation in fewest penalty yards per game (31.20).

So despite Navy's defensive struggles, Temple has the utmost respect for the Mids, even though the Owls offense, especially the passing game, clearly has the edge.