In a day many Mids fans thought would never come, Navy will take on Temple for the AAC Championship in Annapolis on Saturday.
Here are the three keys to beating the Owls:
1) Win the time of possession battle
Navy has spent the last month or so of AAC play against teams that like to three the ball around out of spread offenses and score quickly. On Saturday though the Mids will come up against an offense that is much more like their own. Navy and Temple both want to eat clock and wear out their opponents defense with brutal running games that get more dangerous as the game wears on and their opponent wears down.
Temple does not run out of the triple-option, but the Owls rank fourth in the FBS in time of possession as they hold the ball for 34 minutes per game. That is actually higher than the traditionally ball hungry Navy offense that averages 32 minutes and 40 seconds of possession per contest. The power run is going to be important, though Temple does like to play-action pass far more than Navy does.
The team that controls the clock – and that holds the ball most in the fourth quarter – will have a great shot of winning this one.
2) Win the QB matchup
Navy quarterback Will Worth is white hot right now. Since October 22, or just over a month of football, Worth has rushed for a staggering 19 touchdowns and he has not rushed for fewer than 122 yards in a game over that span. Worth is the fourth leading rusher in the AAC with 1,181 yards and he is tops in the conference with 25 touchdowns. In addition, Worth has developed into a passing threat and he regularly passes for over 100 yards and a score in limited passing opportunities.
Phillip Walker of Temple will have to match Worth for the Owls to win the game. Walker is no threat to run and that is a massive bonus to a Navy defense that has had all kinds of problems stopping running quarterbacks this season (Quinton Flowers). Walker is a good passer and he has thrown 18 touchdowns to 12 interceptions on the year. Walker though can get flustered in the pocket and we know coming in he is carrying an injury. If Worth can beat Walker in the quarterback battle than
If Worth can beat Walker in the quarterback battle then Navy will be in great shape.
3) Win on third down
If you take the end of game kneel down away, then Navy was a perfect 7 of 7 on third down last weekend against SMU. That is how the Mids were able to keep the offense on the field and roll up over 500 yards rushing (again before the kneel downs) against the Mustangs. For the Navy power run to work the Mids must be able to convert on third down and this season the team leads the AAC in third down conversion rate at over 57%.
Temple, on the other hand, has been dominant on third down defensively. The Owls allow a conversion rate of only 33% and only UCF has a better defensive conversion rate than that in the conference. The mark is also good enough for Temple to be ranked inside the top 15 teams in the nation in that category. Temple has done this by stopping teams on first and second down, resulting in many more third and long situations than third and short.
Navy has to be successful with the run on first and second down to allow the option to convert third and short situations, grinding Temple down over the course of the game.