Navy football (USNA Photo)
Navy football (USNA Photo)
Navy fell to Temple 34-10 on Saturday in the championship game of the American Athletic Conference. After the game head coaches Matt Rhule of Temple and Ken Niumatalolo of Navy, along with selected players from both teams, spoke with the media.

Head coach Ken Niumatalolo
Opening Statement:
“First and foremost, all the credit to Coach Rhule and Temple, they got after us today and they were definitely more prepared than we were. They definitely outcoached us and you have to tip your hat to them for playing well. Overall, it was just a good ol’ fashioned butt whipping and it starts with me as the head coach and you have to give credit to Matt (Rhule) because his team was prepared. We have to find a way to bounce back because as painful as it is right now, we obviously have Army next week and need to bounce back.”

On Zach Abey taking over as starting QB:
“It is a tough situation to put him in but Zach knows what is going on. We were down, both with injury and with the fact that we weren’t playing well on either side of the ball, especially on offense. We had some turnovers early that hurt us and we got stopped on fourth down. In the end, you have to give them credit for playing a really good game.”

On the Temple defense and what they did well:
“Coach [Phil] Snow is a really good football coach and he has been around the game for many years. We knew it would be a really tough football game because he is a really tough football coach. His kids played well and we did not play well. Early on we had some mental lapses that we have not had in a long time, especially because from Houston on we have been playing really solid on offense, but we had some missed assignments that we normally don’t have. In the end, they made plays and we did not.”

On playing a ton of games in a row and getting ready for Army with a week preparation:
“We were grateful to be in this game and we are not going to make any excuses about being in the championship game because we were grateful to be here. We did not play well and you have to give them credit. I got to look back on this as a coach and see what I did wrong so we do not repeat the same mistakes we had today. We started off slow and that cannot be a way we begin a game.”

On Temple taking away the fullback:
“It had nothing to do with theit because if you look at our carries overall it did not really change what we did. It had nothing to do schematically, they played an eight-man front and a 4-3 look and just played better than we did. They beat the crap out of us and hit us in the mouth. We have not been hit in the mouth like that in a long time and not respond like that. Normally we are the ones hitting the other team in the mouth and to Temple’s credit they hit us in the mouth and we were dazed the whole game. It was like they hit us with an overhand right with their offense and we could not respond.”

Sophomore QB Zach Abey:

On how comfortable he was running the game today:
“I felt pretty comfortable, especially getting game reps the last few weeks. After Tago [Smith] went down, I have been getting more reps in practice which has helped a lot. I run the second huddle and see the same looks that we are going up against each week. Will [Worth] helped me throughout the game today to make me as comfortable as I could be in the game. It was just hard to get the ball rolling today.”

On the potential responsibility to start against Army:
“It is going to be a big responsibility and I will be up for it. As a second-stringer, you have to warm up every game as if you are going to play, which showed today. My preparation is going to be the same and act as if I am going to play anyway. So whatever happens, whether Will comes back as I am not sure what his status is, I will be ready to play next Saturday if that comes to it.”

Matt Rhule, Temple Head Coach
Opening Statement…
“It is an honor to come and play against the United States Naval Academy and Coach (Ken) Niumatalolo. I hope that Will Worth and some of those guys that left the field are healthy and ready for next week. I thought it was a tremendous victory for us. Our defense student-athletes set the tone. They played tremendous defense and didn’t waiver when (Navy) got down in the red zone. They just kept playing. Offensively, I thought we were extremely explosive from the start. (Phillip Walker) made some big-time throws. Once we got the lead, we tried to control the clock. It was great to punctuate it with a final (touchdown) at the end.

“It is a tremendous honor. So blessed to be able to coach these kids. They are wonderful, wonderful people. They never faltered this year. They fought through adversity. I think we can say that we are one of the top teams in college football right now based upon the way we played. That was fun to watch them play today.”

On bringing a championship trophy to Temple…
“For me, it means a promise has been fulfilled. Temple University has been unbelievable to my family and I. Ten years we have spent here, and it has been nothing but class. Tremendous people from the Board of Trustees to the administration to the people I work with day-to-day in athletics. The people who have stood by my side. The true thing for me is to have these players who call themselves champions because that is the way they live their lives. When you win this conference, you have done something special. This is a fantastic conference with great teams from top to bottom. We have tremendous respect for everyone that we play. We can say that we did it. That is the accomplishment.”

After starting the year 3-3…
“It happened in the locker room after Memphis. Guys stood up and said what had to be said. They backed it up with action. We weren’t a bad team before that. We faced three really good teams. We faced a bowl-eligible Army team. We faced the No. 5 team in the country and lost by a touchdown. We lost to a Memphis team that beat Houston, a ranked team. We lost to them on the road by a touchdown. We knew we were close. The competitors we have on this team – the men we have on this team – were ready to take one more step, which we did.”

On postseason resume…
“I will never talk down about another team. I think that any team that goes undefeated; I wish them all the best. But we are the sixth power conference. If you win this league, you should go to a New Year’s Six Bowl. That is neither here nor there. When you see what the teams in our league have done in those New Year’s Six Bowls, you should want to have us there. We have beaten two Top 25 teams this year in South Florida, who I think AP and Coaches Poll had ranked, and we have beaten a Navy ranked team. We should be a ranked team. We had three losses early to the No. 5 team in the country and to a pretty good Memphis team, but over the last half of the year I would say we are as hot as any team in the country. I am not saying anything negative about anyone else, but I think we should be playing in a New Year’s Six Bowl.”

Phillip Walker, Quarterback – Championship MVP
On Temple’s improvement over the past few years…
“It means nothing to me, but a lot to the program. I told Coach Rhule it was going to happen before I got here. I just trusted the process and kept doing what I’ve been doing and go out there every day and bring my effort and my energy. Hopefully everyone else followed. Going in every day, competing, and playing at a high level. It showed that we have a really good team capable of some great things.”

Sean Chandler, Defensive Back
On playing the triple option and Navy QB Will Worth…
“We practiced it all week. We knew what the task was going to be. We came out here and played it efficiently. We don’t practice for players. We just run to the ball and dominate each and every play one single play at a time. It wasn’t a player we were focused on. We just wanted to play good D.”

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