Weatherbie sees reason to be wary of 3-6 Temple Navy coach can't figure why Owls have struggled

November 05, 1997|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie checks out Temple's football results, sees the Owls have lost six of nine games, including three by a combined score of 159-32, and wonders how it can be.

"They've got a couple of tailbacks as good as any we've played against this year," he said of the Mids' opponent at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday at noon. "They use the two-quarterback system, with a Randall Cunningham-type as the starter and the other one very good at running the option."

It doesn't stop there. "They've got a defensive tackle as good as any we've faced; he just doesn't stay blocked," Weatherbie said. "They've got a huge offensive line [a 6-foot-4, 303-pound average from tackle to tackle] protecting the quarterback and they're fast in the secondary."

It's nothing new, a coach selling an opponent as a mixture of the great and near-great, but a peek at Temple's statistics somewhat bears Weatherbie's appraisal out.

Senior tailback Stacey Mack has a 5.3-yard rushing average on 147 carries and has scored 10 touchdowns. Freshman Elmark Jackson has averaged 4.8 yards on 113 carries and has found the end zone five times.

Junior quarterback Pat Bonner has connected on 54 percent of his passes, and backup Kevin Harvey runs the option well enough that he is the third-leading rusher on the team. The Owls get 167 yards rushing and 173 passing out of their offense per game, an ideal mix. The defensive standout the coach was referring to is 6-2, 310-pound junior-college transfer Larry Chester.

So, how come Temple is 3-6?

"It's hard to figure," Weatherbie said. "I don't think it's a question of depth. They're pretty good there. Turnovers have killed them a couple of times."

In a 24-21 loss to Maryland, for instance, a Temple running back fumbled on the 1-yard line as he was about to score with a minute remaining. Against Virginia Tech, the Owls threatened repeatedly, only to come away with a couple of field goals before losing to the 6-2 Hokies in the late going, 23-13.

"Looking at those games," Weatherbie said, "it might have been a case of [Temple] not really believing it could do it. That's a huge part of winning -- belief."

If the team from Philadelphia does, indeed, harbor self-doubt, it has earned it as, entering the season, it had won just once in 28 tries in the Big East Conference. This time around, the Owls are 3-3 in the conference, with wins over Boston College, Pitt and, last weekend, a 49-7 drubbing of Rutgers.

"We've been up and down all year," Owls coach Ron Dickerson said, "the worst occurring a couple of weeks ago at Syracuse and Miami. All along, I've said Syracuse is the best team in the Big East and they got all their previously injured key men back against us. We got banged up in that one and that, plus dehydration and other things down in the Orange Bowl, proved tough on us physically."

The 60-7 and 47-15 poundings by the Orangemen and Hurricanes were followed by the success at home against Rutgers. Dickerson isn't about to pass Rutgers off as a strong team but, he pointed out, "It's a big rivalry among the players, since many of them played against each other in high school, so we're very proud we were able to come back after the big defeats."

That the Mids outplayed heavily favored Notre Dame most of the way in Saturday's dramatic, 21-17 loss in South Bend won't be a problem for Navy's morale, Weatherbie said. "I haven't seen any letdown at all. That's why I enjoy working here. These kids always bounce back."

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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