After losing to Ohio State last week, the Navy Midshipmen looked for redemption, but most importantly they just needed to bounce back and get a win.
The Mids did that on Saturday as they held off all comeback efforts from Temple and beat the Owls 31-24 at Lincoln Financial Stadium in Philadelphia. The win was not only the first of the year for the Mids, but it marked Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo's 50th win in the program; the fastest Navy coach to reach that mark.
The Mids got the ball back in third quarter after a short Temple possession and threw a haymaker to their opponent to go ahead by three possessions. Slot-back DeBrandon Sanders received a pitch from Reynolds and took it down the right sideline for 24 yards as he waltzed into the end zone.
But Temple struck back in the fourth quarter to bring themselves within a touchdown of the Mids, and Owls quarterback P.J. Walker began marching the offense down the field inside of the two-minute mark to try and tie the game up. An 18-play, 64-yard drive ended for Temple when the Midshipmen's defense made one final stop inside the red zone as linebacker Chris Johnson picked off a last ditch lateral from Owls offensive lineman Brendon McGowan as time expired.
Prior to Temple's comeback attempt, the Mids' star junior quarterback Keenan Reynolds left the game with around five minutes to play. While the defense battled the Owls on their final drive, Reynolds was holding ice on his right knee on the sidelines.
The two teams were matched fairly evenly throughout the game, trading tackles and touchdowns. While the Mids ran the ball with ease - 487 yards on the ground for four touchdowns - the Owls best plays and scoring opportunities early came courtesy of the Mids turnovers.
In 2013, Navy was tied for the fewest turnovers in all of the FBS with just 10, but today, for the second straight game, Reynolds and a back would mishandle a pitch and it wind up in the hands of the defense for a touchdown. On the Midshipmen's first snap, Owls' freshman linebacker Sharif Finch forced and recovered the fumble, taking it seven yards for the Owls' opening score early in the first quarter.
Finch came up with another fumble recovery in the second quarter when Navy's Ryan Williams-Jenkins coughed the ball up; the ensuing possession resulted in a turnover for Temple, as they failed to convert a fourth-and-one opportunity. Last week in Temple's opening-game upset win over Vanderbilt, the Owls forced the Commodores to cough the ball up seven times.
The tables quickly turned though as Navy responded with a field goal, and then a 48-yard rushing touchdown from Reynolds on the drive after to give them the lead. On the Owls' next drive, quarterback PJ Walker was intercepted by Mids' safety Parrish Gaines, giving the Mids the ball on their 20-yard line, leading to another touchdown.
The Owls struck back with a touchdown in the final seconds of the second quarter, but Navy quickly knocked Temple back down a peg to start the third quarter and then built their three-possession lead that the Owls were unable to completely overcome.
Navy will look to get their second win in a row next week when they take on Texas State, while Temple will remain idle at 1-1 with a bye week.
UPDATE ON REYNOLDS:
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Just to be totally clear Navy fans. QB Keenan Reynolds said he's fine and "sees no reason why he won't" be able to play next Saturday.</p>— Bill Wagner (@BWagner_CapGaz) <a href="https://twitter.com/BWagner_CapGaz/status/508366230592700417">September 6, 2014</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>