PHILADELPHIA -- After another loss -- a 21-14 defeat at Temple -- Jason Van Matre summed up the game in a way that sums up the entire Navy season.
"It's been the same all year. They weren't stopping us. We were stopping ourselves," said Van Matre, Navy's starting quarterback. "We just didn't have that one-two punch."
For the sixth time this season, Navy scored first. It had a 14-7 lead at the half -- its first halftime lead of the season. But the Midshipmen came up way short in the second half, while the Owls were scoring 14 points in the final 30 minutes -- and getting a career day from tailback Leon Brown -- to make sure the crowd of 17,450 had a nice homecoming.
At 0-6, Navy is off to its worst start since 1948. The Midshipmen finished that season 0-8-1, the only time that Navy -- in years when it played more than one game -- finished without any wins (Navy was 0-0-1 in 1879 and 0-1 in 1883).
"We're not too happy," said Navy coach George Chaump, who is starting to wear the season's frustration on his face. "If you lose, and you're in a good mood, there's something wrong with you."
This was another game Navy could have -- and probably should have -- won. But Temple scored on two of its first three second-half possessions and capitalized on one of two big Navy mistakes to improve to 2-5.
The first was on Navy's first drive of the second half, when the Midshipmen took the ball inside the Temple 20. But Van Matre fumbled after being hit on a short gain, and Temple linebacker Santo Stephens recovered.
Temple didn't score after that mistake. But the Owls did after Navy's next drive, which ended when a 46-yard field-goal attempt by Tim Rogers was blocked by Temple's 6-foot-8 senior linebacker James Harris (the eighth blocked field goal of his career). Eleven plays later, with backup quarterback Anthony Richardson in, fullback Conrad Swanson scored on a 17-yard run that tied the game at 14 with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
"The first two series we drove fine, and if we scored, we felt we would put them away," said Van Matre, who rushed 15 times for 75 yards. "I just fumbled on that play, and then the blocked field goal."
Navy's next drive was stalled after six plays, and the Owls got good field position when Sam Jenkins returned a punt to the Navy 35. Seven plays later, Brown scored on an 11-yard run that helped Temple to a 21-14 lead with 10:11 left. Brown finished with 158 yards on 28 carries, the first Temple runner this season to gain more than 100 yards. Going into yesterday, the senior tailback had carried 26 times for 116 yards.
With his team behind, Chaump inserted plebe Jim Kubiak, who started against Air Force. On the first play of his first series, Kubiak was intercepted by defensive back Aaron Denton at the Navy 40 with 3:44 left in the game. Navy got the ball back with 2:28 left in the game, but Denton picked off Kubiak again with 1:26 left, saving the win for Temple.
Navy's loss ruined a productive day for junior tailback Vincent Smith, who rushed 17 times for a career-high 87 yards.
"It was a good opportunity," Smith said of his start. "But this hurts. Every loss hurts. Going in at halftime, we wanted to put them away. But we had plays go against us and I think Temple picked up a little bit."
The Owls may have picked it up a bit, but in the end it was Navy hurting itself.
"We didn't score. It was us, not [Temple], that hurt [Navy]," Chaump said. "We did give it a good shot. The players played their hearts out and worked awfully hard."