The Washington Times - November 1, 2008, 08:31PM

ANNAPOLIS —- A next-to-last entry before hitting the road from Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.

A shell-shocked Ken Niumatalolo stepped up to the contraption Navy has set up for press conferences an hour or so ago and said what was on the minds of a lot of folks.


“I’m speechless,” Niumatalolo said.

And the thing is, he won.

Of course, you can’t blame the man. His team erased a 27-7 deficit against Temple in the final 9:16, then scored in overtime to become bowl eligible.

The 20-point rally is the biggest fourth-quarter comeback in school history. Heck, it might even be the biggest overall rally in school history, but those are the sorts of things that require a visit to old friend Mr. Microfilm.

The funny thing is, this is the third straight year I’ve seen a team rally from down 20.

Maryland did it in 2006 against Virginia, the critical play coming on a muffed fumble recovery in the middle of the third quarter.

Wake Forest did it to the Terps last season, an interception return for a score late in the third quarter igniting the Demon Deacons’ rally from down 24-3.

But this was methodical up until the end, when Navy scored a bizarre defensive touchdown when Temple could have theoretically taken a knee and run the clock down to roughly 10 seconds before punting.

Instead, freshman tailback Kee-ayre Griffin was stripped by Ross Pospisil, and Clint Sovie scampered 42 yards for a score.

I’ll let Temple coach Al Golden offer his explanation:

“Certainly we could have kneeled down, but you give it to a running back, tell him to put two hands on it and that’s what running backs do —- carry the ball,” Golden said. “I told him to go down if he gets held up, put two hands on it and don’t go out of bounds. I don’t question that decision. I think you have to give it to your running backs. That’s what running backs do. We thought that would have taken the clock down to 18 or 19 seconds and then you punt it away.”

But if you’re planning to punt anyway, why not minimize the risk?

Golden has done a fabulous job at Temple, and he has a much brighter future than a lot of people would guess. But this just goes down as a poor choice and an even more illogical defense of the decision —- especially considering Navy isn’t going to rip off many 50-yard pass plays once it regains possession.

It was a crazy night in Annapolis, enough to leave a lot of people flabbergasted, the winning coach speechless at his good fortune and both Navy and EagleBank Bowl officials ecstatic the first-year game already locked in one of its teams.

But Temple did its part to abet the magic.

—- Patrick Stevens