Mids Get It Done Against Owls in Last Game Before Army
by Diane Roberts
Although Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo wanted the Midshipmen to start fast and finish strong against Temple, the Mids started slowly but eventually found their groove and went on to claim a 38-14 victory over their American Athletic Conference foes in the final warm-up before their big game versus archrival Army on December 11.
A fast start would mean controlling the clock and playing stout defense against a Temple team that entered the week 14 match-up reeling, having lost six straight. It didn't quite play out the way Niumatalolo planned, but the Mids were up to the challenge, and were able to notch their third win on the season.
"Our big goal was to get off to a fast start," Niumatalolo said after the game, "and we got off to a super-sluggish start and that wasn't the plan."
It was a slow start for both squads as each side traded punts on their first two possessions.
Late in the first quarter Navy found that groove. Thanks to a 36-yard punt return from senior Chance Warren, the Mids started their third possession of the game on the Temple 27. Five plays later, senior Carlinos Acie went in from eleven yards out to put Navy on the scoreboard and snag a 7-0 lead.
After the Navy defense forced another 3-and-out from the Owls, the offense went on one of its patented scoring drives. The Midshipmen moved the ball 71 yards on 13 plays and capped it off with a 15-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Xavier Arline to Warren to make the score 14-0.
It was the first of two touchdown receptions on the day for the co-captain, and it marked the first career touchdown pass for Arline, who entered just two plays earlier in place of the starter, sophomore Tai Lavatai.
Meanwhile, the Navy defense kept the Temple offense clamped down. The Owls punted five times in the first half and their only points came from a touchdown after a Navy fumble on the 1-yard line. The Mids gave up only 49 yards of total offense in the first half and led 17-7 at the break.
The ground control pattern Niumatalolo wanted to see from his offense at the beginning of the game continued into the second half. Navy's first three drives in the second half resulted in touchdowns: two from senior fullback Isaac Ruoss and Warren's second touchdown reception.
"To the credit of our players and the coaches that got them going at halftime, we came out with a little bit more resolve," Niumatalolo said, "but I was grateful for the way we bounced back."
Entering the game, the Midshipmen were ranked fifth in the nation in time of possession and controlled the ball for 37 minutes against Temple. The Owls had just four second half possessions, and fumbled twice.
Acie led the Mids in rushing on the day, with 88 yards on ten carries, and he continues to impress his teammates.
"It's phenomenal," Warren said of his backfield teammate. "Every time he gets the ball I'm looking up at the big board to see if he's going to break one. You just can't tackle that guy with one defender, it's not going to work. He's running and carrying at a phenomenal level."
One of the star standouts on defense for the Mids was freshman linebacker Tyler Fletcher, who led the team in tackles with seven.
"Having those young guys make those plays bodes well for our future, but obviously we're in the here and how," Niumatalolo said. "But having to play guys that are forced into action, sometimes it's not the greatest because you have your growing pains. But they've been doing a lot of good things."
The bottom line: The win was just what the doctor ordered. "It was huge. It was huge to get this win," Niumatalolo said. "We got two weeks before the biggest game of the year, so to get some momentum and get that victory was definitely great, and we're going to look forward to that game, obviously, in two weeks."
edited for web by Joe Harman