The headline on ESPN.com says "Navy tramples Temple," but for Navy fans in attendance or watching on television, last night's 30-19 win didn't seem so simple. In fact, Paul Johnson's historic night was overshadowed by a feisty Temple offense that just wouldn't quit, even after burying itself in a 14-0 hole during the first half.
Just a nine months removed from a a 42-6 drudging at the hands of Navy last season in Annapolis, Temple Head Coach Al Golden sure showed his worth last night, calling a game that was a lot closer to defeating the Navy defense than even the final score indicates. There will be a lot written about this game, both on this website and others, but while we continue to let it soak in and digest what we saw last night, I think it's important to give Temple credit. There may be those in the national media (in particular those covering a certain team in New Jersey) who will point to this game and say "how can Navy be any good this year, they barely got past Temple?" While there may be credence in this argument in regards to a highly ranked team like the Scarlet Knight, recent history has taught us not to push the panic button in these situations. After barely getting past UMass by a single point last season, how many of us indicated that the season may be in jeopardy? The answer, of course, is many of us, but then again UMass went on to win the rest of their games before losing the National Championship to Appalachian State. Looking back on that game, many Navy fans pointed to it as a tangible reminder to just how far this program has come. After all, if Navy could still win a game while failing to execute the offense and bending on every conceivable situation of defense, then the team had to better if for no other reason than you don't play your worst game of the season on a week-in, week-out basis.
I'm not necessarily saying this Temple game will equate to the 2006 UMass game, but I'm trying to echo what both Clint Sovie and Kaipo-Noa said in their post game interviews. They know the team played poorly, they know they can improve, and they know they have to improve. But I think they also realize that we were not playing the 2006 Temple Owls, and for all those who asked "what has changed," I think the simplest answer would be to say "everything." You could just feel a renewed energy in Temple, a certain swagger I guess you could say. Adam DiMichele, who seemed to be sacked every other play last season, showed incredible elusiveness in the pocket and single-handily kept several drives going with his ability to elude the rush. His offensive line, so entrenched in criticism last year, literally played it's best game ever, and manhandled Navy's linebackers on every screen pass. And then their was Golden, who anticipated the weaknesses of Navy's defense, and called a game to exploit them. The use of frequent screen passes and off tackle runs took advantage of Navy's penetration up front, while his energy and enthusiasm gave his team life when it looked like they may quit, as they had done so many times before.
In short, this was the first game of the season. We will analyze it, probably over analyze it, but it's important to keep it in perspective. I think we can expect more than one win out of Temple this season, and I think it goes without saying that Navy's offense will improve. The question know moves to the Navy defense, and whether or not Temple's offense was really that good, or if we should be concerned about Coach Buddy Green's unit. There were some bright spots last night, which we will get to, but I think it goes without saying that David Mahoney is irreplaceable, and that we're going to miss the tenacity and ability at which he played.
But, as they say, we'll take it. A win is a win and now the most important game becomes next Friday's matchup with Rutgers. I would, however, be remiss if I did not mention and congratulate Coach Paul Johnson, who quietly received his 100th career victory last night. Phelix has an excellent movie over at the Bird Dog chronicling Johnson's days at Hawaii, Georgia Southern, and both stints at the Naval Academy. Here's to another hundred wins for Coach, hopefully all of them coming at Navy.