Russo leads Temple past Navy 24-17
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Temple quarterback Anthony Russo has impressed his coaches with his big arm and tendency to make game-changing plays at critical moments.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore delivered again in one of his team’s biggest road tests of the season.
Russo threw for 300 yards with a 62-yard touchdown pass to Ventell Bryant midway through the fourth quarter and Temple won for the fourth time in five games by running past Navy 24-17 on Saturday.
“It was a fun game,” Owls coach Geoff Collins said. “I am just so amazingly proud. Those guys fought back. They stayed together and made play after play after play in an adverse situation in a hostile environment. You just can’t say enough about that group of young men who were in there.”
Owls fullback Rob Ritrovato tied the game at 17 on a 1-yard plunge within 5:53 left in the third quarter. From there, the defense for Temple (4-3, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) contained Navy’s triple-option attack.
Bryant, who had eight receptions for 147 yards, has caught a pass in 42 straight games, which is tied for the longest active streak in the FBS. He also had his first touchdown reception since a 34-10 win at Navy in the 2016 AAC championship game.
“Two years,” Bryant said. “The last time I was in the end zone was here. It felt so great. I had a great week of practice. I was doing all of the little things I needed to do.”
Senior Garret Lewis got his second career start at quarterback for Navy (2-4, 1-2) ahead of Malcolm Perry, who moved back to slotback. Lewis completed 3 of 11 pass attempts for 14 yards. He also ran for 56 yards with a 1-yard touchdown that gave the Midshipmen a 10-7 lead at the half.
Perry had a go-ahead 30-yard touchdown run called back because of an illegal block on center Ford Higgins.
“I thought that killed us,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said about the penalty. “I know I’m going to get reprimanded. I don’t care. I’ll take the fine. It was a horrible call. Just a flat-out horrible call. It was one of the worst I’ve seen in my 29 years of coaching. The guy did not push him. It cost us the game. I thought the call changed the game. We saw on the replay that it was a bad call.”
League rules preclude officials from discussing judgement calls, according to Chuck Sullivan, assistant commissioner for communications for the AAC.
Sophomore fullback Nelson Smith had 18 carries for a career-high 108 yards for Navy, which has lost three straight games. He also had a career-long 45-yard run that set up his first touchdown run from 12 yards out on the opening drive of the third quarter that gave Navy a 17-7 lead.
“It was a good day for me, but I can’t really be happy when we lose,” Smith said.
Last year, Temple held Navy to 136 rushing yards in a 34-26 victory. This time, the Midshipmen responded with a huge day on the ground, running for 270 yards. However, it was still not enough against the surging Owls.
Temple running back Ryquell Armstead was out of the lineup with an ankle injury. Backup Tyliek Raynor scored his first career touchdown on a 15-yard run with that gave Temple a 7-3 lead with 11:31 left in the half.
RIGHT AT HOME
Temple has enjoyed success in the state of Maryland this season. The Owls also routed the University of Maryland 35-14 in College Park on Sept. 15.
Temple: The Owls picked up a big win to keep their bowl hopes alive. Still, Temple faces a challenging schedule the rest of the way with games against No. 25 Cincinnati, No. 10 Central Florida and No. 23 Southern Florida.
Navy: The Midshipmen failed to get to .500 with a rare home loss. It was just the third time in four seasons Navy suffered a setback on its own turf. Navy also has a tough slate of the games the rest of the way, including a matchup with No. 5 Notre Dame on Oct. 27 in San Diego.
Temple: The Owls host No. 25 Cincinnati for their homecoming game Oct. 20.
Navy: The Midshipmen play at home against Houston on Oct. 20 before embarking on three straight road games.