ANNAPOLIS (AP) | Navy quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada will make his first start in more than a month Saturday when the Midshipmen host Temple on Senior Day.
The Mids (5-3) hope to get a lift from the return of Kaheaku-Enhada, who has played just eight quarters this season because of a lingering hamstring injury. The 5-foot-11, 192-pound senior has not played since aggravating the injury in the first half against Wake Forest on Sept. 27.
Kaheaku-Enhada has eight family members coming from Hawaii for the Senior Day ceremony, including his mother and father. Dellas Kaheaku and Kevin Enhada have both seen their son play in person just once during his four-year career.
“It’s the last home game. I’m going to try to get back and play a little bit,” Kaheaku-Enhada said.
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo has said Kaheaku-Enhada is the best quarterback of the current triple-option era in terms of reading the defense and distributing the ball. That’s not good news for Temple, which has been unable to stop the unique attack the last three years. The Mids have piled up 110 points and 1,389 total yards in three straight routs of the Owls.
The bad news doesn’t end there for Temple.
Navy is looking to clinch its sixth straight postseason appearance with its sixth win of the season and stamp its ticket to the EagleBank Bowl in the District. Athletic director Chet Gladchuk has already signed an agreement for Navy to appear in the inaugural bowl game, being held Dec. 20 at RFK Stadium against an ACC team.
The Mids will be honoring 33 seniors, a group that has compiled 30 victories and captured the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy three times.
“It’s very important. Being able to go to a bowl game is huge. We want to become bowl eligible as fast as we can,” Niumatalolo said.
Temple coach Al Golden was not surprised to hear that Navy equaled a school record with 77 rushing attempts against SMU last Saturday. The Mids did not attempt a pass for the first time since at least 1948 (records were not kept before that).
“If you don’t get some negative plays and get them off the schedule, they will just keep running the ball down your throat,” Golden said.
Temple’s defense is improved this season as linebacker Amara Kamara, free safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton anchor an underrated unit that stands 25th nationally in points allowed (18.1 per game). Golden thinks it will help that numerous Owls players are facing the Mids for the third time.
“We have enough guys who have played against this type of offense that maybe there is some recall. Hopefully, they can rely on that past experience and perhaps profit from it,” Golden said.
Temple has struggled to move the ball and score points this season, ranking 118th out of 119 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in total offense, with an average of 251 yards and 115th in scoring offense with 16.8 points per game. Golden hopes the return of quarterback Adam DiMichele from a shoulder injury and the emergence of freshman tailback Kee-ayre Griffin will help the Owls turn the corner Saturday.
Temple, which has lost three games by a total of nine points, has hurt itself with penalties. The Owls have been whistled for 62 infractions totaling 520 yards. Meanwhile, Navy ranks among the national leaders in fewest penalties committed. The Mids have been called for just 25 violations totaling 201 yards.
“Navy is a disciplined team that does not beat itself. They just do not make any mistakes,” Golden said. “Our challenge is to match their discipline and toughness.”