Navy quarterback gives Temple a moving target

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Navy quarterback Will Worth throws the ball while pursued by SMU's Justin Lawler on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 in Dallas.

Will Worth has accomplished things this season never before done in the 136-year history of Navy football. Not bad for a quarterback who wasn't the starter on opening day.

When starting quarterback Tago Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury in the season-opening 52-16 win over Fordham, Worth, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior, got his chance and did he ever take advantage of it.

Worth is one of the leading reasons Navy (9-2) is hosting Temple (9-3) in the American Athletic Conference championship game Saturday.

Navy entered the season with questions at quarterback after the graduation of Keenan Reynolds, who last season finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Yet Worth has made Navy's triple-option offense flow. The Midshipmen are second in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 342.2 yards per game.

Worth leads the nation with 25 rushing touchdowns. He is the FBS scoring leader, averaging 13.6 points per game. His 179.0 passing efficiency ranking is the best in school history, above two pretty fair quarterbacks, former Heisman winner Roger Staubach and Reynolds.

Worth has rushed for 1,181 yards (4.6 average). During last week's 75-31 win at Southern Methodist, Worth rushed for 104 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 104 yards and a score. He became the first Navy quarterback to surpass 100 yards rushing and passing in three straight games.

"He has well surpassed what I thought he would do," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "I thought he would play well, but he is playing superb right now, at an exceptionally high level and running the offense really well."

Worth has completed 71 of 115 passes for 1,363 yards, eight touchdowns, and three interceptions.

"They don't throw the ball much, but he has been very accurate," Temple defensive coordinator Phil Snow said.

Even watching on film, Snow said, it's easy to detect Worth's leadership abilities.

"He knows the offense, he is tough as hell, smart, and gets them in the right calls," Snow said. "I think the team rallies around this guy and they really like him."

The first hit is often not the one that brings Worth down.

"He is a physical and hard-nosed runner," Niumatalolo said. "It is very tough to tackle him."

Snow and Temple coach Matt Rhule have been bleary-eyed watching film of Worth and the Navy offense, attempting to slow down a unit that is averaging 41.7 points.

"He is a tremendous competitor," Rhule said. "He is physical, he is elusive, he is an extremely accurate quarterback who throws the ball well."

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard