WEST POINT, N.Y. — A year ago Army began what turned into a turnaround eight-win season with a stunning road win over Temple at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Black Knights ran for 329 yards in that 28-13 season-opening victory. It was one of only three losses during the regular season for the Owls, who rebounded to win the American Athletic Conference championship title in Matt Rhule’s last season as head coach.
The Owls (3-4) get a chance for payback on Saturday at Michie Stadium, where Army (5-2) is unbeaten in four games.
“This is a tough football team that won their conference last year,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “They’ll have a ton of confidence and they feel as though they have to come in and win this game. We had the chance to come out with a win at their place, and I’m sure they’d love to return the favor.”
It’s the final nonconference game for Temple, which is coming off a 28-24 home loss to Connecticut that dropped the Owls to 1-3 in the conference.
“It’s one of the games that the kids have talked about,” Temple coach Geoff Collins said. “They respect Army.”
The Black Knights have won three straight and are on the cusp of a sixth victory that would make them bowl-eligible for the second straight year.
Army has won twice this season without completing a pass. Last week, the Black Knights played their customary game of keepaway, holding the ball for more than 37 minutes with its triple option chewing up 413 yards on the ground in a 28-27 victory over Eastern Michigan. The Eagles went for the win after scoring in the final minute, but their two-point conversion failed and Army ran out the clock.
The Owls’ passing game has featured a catch by an average of nearly nine wide receivers per game, and quarterback Logan Marchi presents a test similar to Eastern Michigan’s Brogan Roback, who threw for four touchdowns. Last week against UConn, Marchi threw for a career-high 356 yards — his second straight 300-yard game — and a touchdown, but he threw a pick six in the second half that proved to be decisive.
The Owls also were penalized 12 times for 117 yards and had one other turnover that UConn converted into seven points.
“Let one slip away. Couldn’t stop from beating themselves,” Collins said. “The things that have happened to us have been self-inflicted.”
Other things to know when Temple plays Army at Michie Stadium on Saturday:
DROPSIES: Collins counted seven drops in the loss to UConn, including one in the end zone and another on fourth down deep in Huskies territory late in the game.
“We’ve got to make those plays,” Collins said. “Some of the young guys can’t make critical mistakes in key situations and expect to win.”
FULLBACKS GALORE: Army is averaging 378.4 yards per game on the ground, second nationally, and has scored 28 rushing touchdowns — 10 in the past two games — to lead the nation. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw leads the team with seven, followed by fullbacks Darnell Woolfolk (5), Connor Slomka (4), Andy Davidson (2), and Calen Holt (1). Slotback Kell Walker also has four.
“The speed of this offense when it’s clicking is going to be at a different level. When it hits you full speed, that’s a different story,” Collins said. “It’s going to be a unique challenge. Their offense is really good at what they do. When we get the ball, we’ve got to do the same.”
DON’T FALL BEHIND: Temple has only outscored opponents in the third quarter, holding a 58-51 edge. Army has outscored its opponents in every quarter: 56-38 in the first, 62-44 in the second, 45-20 in the third, and 55-40 in the fourth.
“Obviously, you want to start fast, you want to move the ball,” Collins said. “You want to make sure they can’t drain the clock.”
SHARIF SITS: Temple defensive end Sharif Finch will have to sit out the first half. He was ejected for targeting in the third quarter against Connecticut. Finch has three sacks among his seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage, five quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
BLOCK PARTY: Since Ed Foley took over as special teams coordinator in 2015, the Owls have 12 blocked kicks.