Nutile's 4 TDs lead Temple past slumping Navy 34-26
Navy quarterback Zach Abey tosses the football to running back Josh Brown, left, during the first quarter against Temple in an NCAA college football game Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, in Philadelphia. (Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
By MIKE CRANSTON
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Temple coach Geoff Collins needed his deep, booming voice for his postgame press conference.
In the adjacent locker room, the music was loud and so was the chanting. And why not? Amid an uneven first season in charge, Collins' Owls put together their best performance of the season.
Frank Nutile threw for 289 yards and four touchdowns, and Temple's struggling offense awoke to beat struggling Navy 34-26 on Thursday night.
Nutile, making his second straight start in place of the injured Logan Marchi, completed 22 of 30 passes with one interception as Temple (4-5, 2-3 American Athletic Conference) snapped a two-game skid.
"We lost a heartbreaker two weeks ago and we had 10 days to really get together as a team and regroup," Nutile said. "We have this mindset that it's a championship game very week. So it feels really good to win a game like this."
Adonis Jennings had five catches for 127 yards, including touchdown catches of 34 and 40 yards. Keith Kirkwood and Jake Robinson also caught TDs for the Owls, who entered averaging just 20.9 points a game, 112th best in the FBS.
Enter Nutile, who praised his offensive line by saying "I maybe got hit once all game" as he picked apart Navy's secondary.
"We knew what a competitor he was. We knew how smart he was," Collins said of his junior QB. "But just the command he had over the offense and his gamesmanship, I'm really proud of him."
Navy quarterback Zach Abey, who sustained a concussion in a loss to Central Florida on Oct. 21, rushed for 87 yards and caught a touchdown pass on trick play before leaving with a shoulder injury. The Midshipmen (5-3, 3-3) rushed for 136 yards, well below their nation-best average of 376, in their third straight loss.
"We don't have any excuses," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "We were rested. We had a lot of guys back. They beat the crap out of us."
A trip to Lincoln Financial Field had always ended on a positive note for the Midshipmen, who entered 12-0 at the home of the Philadelphia Eagles - including a 10-0 mark against rival Army.
But much like a year ago when Temple cruised to a 34-10 win in the AAC title game, Navy's defense faltered.
Jennings beat Elijah Merchant on his two scores and Robinson's first career catch came against Merchant. Khaylan Williams was beaten in the end zone on Kirkwood's 8-yard catch that made it 17-3 in the second quarter.
"On the back end, you'll probably blame one person," Navy linebacker D.J. Palmore said. "But it's really all of us."
Temple, playing a triple-option team for the second-straight game after losing in overtime at Army on Oct. 21, plugged running lanes with an eight-man front that left Navy frustrated.
"Not going in the right direction. We've got to figure things out quickly," Niumaalolo said. "I coach by feelings, and just something has been amiss with us."
Navy: Niumatalolo was focusing on avoiding turnovers after eight giveaways in the previous two games. Abey's pick was the lone turnover, but the defense was overrun by one of the worst offensive teams in the country. Navy's 5-0 start is a distant memory.
Temple: Nutile certainly appeared to do enough to secure the starting job, and he'll need to keep it up as the Owls still must win two of their final three games to reach a bowl game for the third straight year.
Navy's opening second-half drive started at its own 4 after the officials ruled Zack Fraade made a fair-catch signal.
Bennett Moehring kicked a career-long 48-yard field goal in the first quarter for Navy's longest since Jon Teague's 45-yarder against Delaware in 2011.
Navy hosts SMU on Nov. 11.
Temple plays at Cincinnati on Nov. 10.
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Updated November 3, 2017