Navy seniors set to tackle Temple

Mids' 18 seniors face winless Owls in home finale

College Football

November 19, 2005|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

Navy will bid farewell to 18 seniors, and Temple will bid farewell to coach Bobby Wallace when the two teams meet at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium today.

The 1:30 p.m. game is the home finale for the 5-4 Midshipmen, who are striving to become bowl-eligible and play in a school-record third consecutive postseason game.

For Temple (0-10), it could be the end to a torturous season, the worst ever for its football program.

With Army on the upswing and likely to bring a four-game winning streak into its annual showdown Dec. 3, the Midshipmen cannot afford to look past Temple if they want their bowl hopes cemented. The Liberty, Poinsettia and Houston Bowls have all expressed interest and definitely have openings for an at-large team like Navy.

Winning before the entire brigade and the loyal following that endured their 3-30 record over three seasons before coach Paul Johnson revitalized the program provides almost as much incentive, particularly for the seniors.

"We'd better win. We don't want to go out losing in our last time before the kids at school," said slotback Marco Nelson. "They have really supported us. They cheer their hearts out."

"The attitude at the stadium has definitely changed," said offensive tackle Marshall Green. "It used to be that people clapped and stood up now and then. Now, they're into the whole game. This is definitely a big one."

Johnson is sounding the usual cautionary alarms about the Owls, whose coaching staff is steeped in knowledge about option football and gave Navy plenty of trouble defensively during the Charlie Weatherbie era. He said he is concerned despite Temple's record, which has been compiled against a powerhouse schedule.

"They are big and they run well. They are very talented," Johnson said. "When you are at Navy, you have to get ready for everyone. I guarantee you that when the two teams run on the field and somebody didn't know who was who and they could pick which team would win, they wouldn't pick us."

Wallace, who announced in midseason he would not seek a contract renewal, said the realization that his eight-year tenure (19-70 record) is ending is starting to hit.

"You're so busy preparing for a game that you don't have time to think about it," Wallace said. "I'm just now starting to feel the end is near. It's the last time on the practice field. Everything starts to become the last. I'm disappointed we didn't do a better job, but there is some relief. And, I'm happy to be going out with this bunch of seniors. We've been through so much together."

Wallace's stay in Philadelphia has been a rocky one in recent years. The school was expelled by the Big East Conference, had no home stadium and was forced to sign a sizable number of junior college players because no one could tell high school recruits if Temple would even be a conference member in the future.

There was even a task force appointed to study the abolition of the sport at one point.

Still, Wallace sees a brighter future over time. Temple will become a full-fledged member of the Mid-American Conference in 2007, new practice facilities have been built, video equipment has been purchased and the university - once primarily a commuter institution - now has 9,000 students residing on campus.

Navy will play without fullback Matt Hall, out for the season with a knee injury and expected to undergo surgery, but otherwise will be at full strength. Linebacker Tyler Tidwell suffered a concussion at Notre Dame and has been bothered by strep throat as well, but he is expected to play.

It will also be a special day for this year's 12th Mid, Brad Bowlin, who was chosen by the coaching staff to participate in Navy's first kickoff. His roommate is starting Navy wide receiver Mick Yokitis. kent.baker@baltsun.com

TODAY'S GAME

Time -- 1:30 p.m.

Radio -- 1090 AM, 1430 AM

Last week -- Temple was idle; Navy lost to Notre Dame, 42-21

Series record -- Temple leads, 4-1

Line -- Navy by 27

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