Temple finally set to kick off season against Navy

Temple's long-delayed 2020 season opener arrives Saturday when the Owls visit Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and American Athletic Conference counterpart Navy.

Saturday's contest in Annapolis, Md., was originally scheduled for Sept. 26. The conference announced the move in early September, shortly after Temple coach Rod Carey said the Owls needed more preseason preparation time.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted both the practice schedule and game docket for Temple, as the Owls had the entirety of their nonconference slate scratched, as well.

"It's time to play a game," Carey said on his Sept. 29 teleconference. "We're rounding into shape. We're hitting that point ... in every preseason, even in normal years, where you're really done with your evaluation parts. You really can't evaluate the next part of your team until you play."

Although the Temple coaching staff has had an extended preseason evaluation period, Carey said Monday that the initial depth chart could still see some shake-ups.

Navy (1-2, 1-0 AAC) has faced its own roster fluctuation through three games. Quarterback Dalen Morris, who led a comeback from down 24-0 to beat Tulane 27-24 on Sept. 19, missed the Midshipmen's 40-7 loss last week at nonconference rival Air Force with an undisclosed medical condition.

Morris is slated to return to the lineup this week against Temple.

"It'll be nice to have a guy who has two starts and not changing quarterbacks every week," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said Monday.

Tyger Goslin started at Air Force and went 6-of-15 passing for 137 yards with a touchdown. It was the only score Navy mustered, as its usually prolific option rushing attack was limited to 90 yards.

The lack of offense came to a head in the fourth quarter, when Air Force piled on 21 of its 40 points.

After scoring just three points in their other nonconference game -- a 55-3 loss to BYU on Sept. 7 -- a Temple defensive line with standouts Ifeanyi Maijeh and Daniel Archibong is a major concern for the Midshipmen.

"The big concern for us, we're not a very physical team right now," Niumatalolo said. "Temple's always a physical team. ... This team, over the years, is probably the most physical team in our league."

Navy and Temple last played in 2018, a 24-17 Owls win. Temple gave up 270 yards and 5.1 yards per carry, its second-highest yield that season, but limited scoring opportunities.

In 2019, when the teams did not play, the Temple defense held opponents to 3.8 yards per carry. Navy comes into Saturday's matchup averaging just 3.2 yards per carry, a precipitous drop from the Mids' 6.1 per-carry output last season behind 2,017-yard rusher and quarterback Malcolm Perry.

Jump-starting its rushing attack begins for Navy with that line battle. Containing Maijeh is its one challenge, with the Temple tackle coming off a 2019 in which he tallied 6.5 sacks.

"It's been a big emphasis for us from the beginning (and) after the BYU game, the first half (against) Tulane, they won the line of scrimmage," Niumatalolo said.

--Field Level Media