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Mids shut down by Owls in AAC title game

Ken Niumatalolo couldn't figure out how to attack a well-prepared Temple Owls defense and struggled to make adjustments after quarterback Will Worth and running back Toneo Gulley both suffered season-ending leg injuries.

Ken Niumatalolo couldn’t figure out how to attack a well-prepared Temple Owls defense and struggled to make adjustments after quarterback Will Worth and running back Toneo Gulley both suffered season-ending leg injuries.

What makes the Navy triple option so effective is that it’s so rare and typically teams don’t know how to defend against it. Against the Temple Owls, the Mids didn’t have that advantage. Temple was gashed by the Army Black Knights, which have adopted the option offense, in the first week of the season. Then they played the Tulane Green Wave and shut their version of the triple option down two weeks ago.

The Owls knew how to stop the Mids and in the American Athletic Conference Championship game at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, and Temple did just that to win the conference title, 34-10, thus eliminating Navy from Cotton Bowl contention.

Navy was actually out-rushed in the game after being limited to just 3.8 yards per carry. Making matters even worse for the Mids were second quarter injuries to both starting quarterback Will Worth and fullback Toneo Gulley.

But Temple set the tone of the game with their physical and very veteran defense even before those two were taken off the field, into the back and returned to the sidelines on crutches.

The Owls drove 75 yards on 12 plays on their first drive of the game. It included a fourth-and-seven conversation that then set Jahad Thomas up for a 15-yard touchdown run. Navy was shut down on their ensuing possession, held to only 28 yards on seven plays and stuffed on a fourth-and-seven.

After the Mids turned the ball over just seven yards past midfield, the Owls once again powered their way down the field with a strong rushing attack. But following big runs by Thomas and Adonish Jennings, the Owls took advantage of a Mid defender slipping when Phillip Walker completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Ventell Bryant for another early score.

Navy has had a dominant offense all year long that playing from behind hasn’t been something they have been faced with too often, but they did show that ability in a win over South Florida. The Mids came back from down 21 points to earn a win over the Bulls. But Temple wasn’t letting that happen. The Mids fumbled the ball away on their next drive. Baltimore native and Archbishop Curly graduate Avery Williams scooped the ball up to get the Owls possession back. Temple quickly took the ball up the field again with Walker completing a 56-yard touchdown pass to Keith Kirkwood.

With not even two minutes having run off the clock in the second quarter, the Mids were down 21-0. But finally after forcing a three-and-out and seemingly getting momentum on their rise, both Worth and Gulley were injured on the same play and didn’t return. Both have already been ruled out for the rest of the season with leg injuries, though no specifics of the injuries have been announced.

Sophomore Zach Abey, a Pasadena native who played at Archbishop Spalding, came into the game and ended up leading the team with 70 yards rushing and a touchdown along 104 yards passing, but he was unable to lead a comeback. Navy was put in a position where they had to pass more while trying to comeback and it just wasn’t something Abey was comfortable with against a defense that was dominating the way they were. He was intercepted twice.

He was able to lead two scoring drives, however. The first ended with a 23-year field goal by Bennett Moehring, capping off a 68-yard drive. Then in the third quarter Abey ran the ball into the endzone after a 64-yard drive. That cut Navy’s deficit to 14 points at 24-10. Temple scored 10 more points in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.

The Mids have already secured a berth in the Armed Forced Bowl on December 23 in Forth Worth, Texas against a Big 12 team that will be determined on Sunday, Dec. 4 during the college football bowl game selection show. Prior to that game the Mids will take on arch-rival Army West Point in Baltimore at M&T Bank Stadium next Saturday at 3 pm as the lone college football game of the week.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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