- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 31, 2009

Clint Sovie barely remembers what was going through his mind last year while he was returning a Temple fumble for a game-tying touchdown with 37 seconds left.

The Navy linebacker does recall the shock he felt afterward, however.

Instead of taking a couple of kneel-downs, the Owls were trying to run the clock out with running back Kee-ayre Griffin. But the Navy defense stacked him up, allowing linebacker Ross Pospisil to knock the ball loose.

“Just seeing the ball on the ground, picking it up and running with it - it was like a miracle, really,” Sovie said. “I don’t remember too much except the excitement. They should have beat us in that game last year. We honestly didn’t deserve to win that game. It’s kinda like a gift from God when something like that happens.”

That capped a 20-point, fourth-quarter comeback, and the Midshipmen went on to win in overtime. Navy was helped by a mistake-filled ending for Temple, which also missed an extra point in the fourth quarter and dropped a touchdown catch on fourth down in overtime.

So when the Owls (5-2) return to Annapolis on Saturday, Navy (6-2) is expecting an ornery opponent.

“Any team that we play twice that beats us, we come in there [the second time] with a chip on our shoulders that we gotta get them back,” safety Wyatt Middleton said. “They pretty much dominated us offensively. They played great, but then we started picking it up towards the end and won in the fourth quarter and overtime? That right there would piss anybody off.”

Added Pospisil: “I can’t imagine the fury that they’re going to come with. We’re gonna be ready for a hurricane.”

Temple coach Al Golden is bringing with him a rejuvenated program. After going 10-26 in his first three years at the helm, Golden is starting to see some returns. A five-game winning streak has allowed the Owls to rise to the top of the Mid-American Conference’s East Division. A victory over the Mids would make Temple bowl eligible; its last postseason appearance came in 1979.

At the forefront of Temple’s success is a stifling run defense led by defensive tackles Andre Neblett (6-foot-2, 300) and Muhammad Wilkerson (6-5, 300). With that physical pair anchoring the heart of the unit, Temple ranks 15th in the country, yielding 97.3 rushing yards a game.

At the same time, the Owls have found success on the ground with a starting offensive line comprising five 300-pounders. With that massive group clearing space, running back Bernard Pierce already has set a Temple freshman record with 766 yards on 135 carries.

Pierce has proved to be a workhorse. Last week against Toledo, he ran 40 times for 212 yards and three touchdowns.

“I remember my freshman year when we played them, they kind of had an off year and we dominated them,” Middleton said. “Now they are dominating other people. They’re coming together and playing as a team. I like when we play teams like this because it’s a challenge. They’ve gotten a lot better.”

Riding a five-game winning streak, the Mids also are one victory from bowl eligibility. Wary of a letdown, Navy’s coaches have warned their players all week that Temple is coming to Annapolis with a lot at stake.

“I’m sure they’re going to be highly motivated, but so are we,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “We got to understand that we’re going to [face] a good team that’s going to be prepared, that’s going to be highly motivated, with goals for their program to accomplish. But we have the same thing. We’re kind of looking at each other in the mirror.

“The only thing is they haven’t done it for a while, so I know that they can just taste it. Hopefully we come as hungry as they do.”

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