Navy adds offensive wrinkle | AAC football notes

Temple 52 Avery Ellis reaches for Navy QB 9 Zach Abey during the Temple vs. Navy AAC Championship football game at Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md. on December 3, 2016. Temple won the AAC Championship 34-10. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

As if Navy’s triple option isn’t difficult enough to defend, the Midshipmen added a new wrinkle in last week’s 48-45 win over visiting Air Force. For the first time, coach Ken Niumatalolo had his team working out of the shotgun.

Navy (5-0, 3-0 American Athletic Conference) leads the nation in rushing with its triple option attack, averaging 414.2 yards. Against Air Force, the Midshipmen rushed for 471 yards (8.3 avg.) and four touchdowns. Quarterback Zach Abbey rushed for 214 yards on 29 carries and two scores.

Temple will have to face this offense with the new shotgun wrinkle when the Owls host Navy on Thursday, Nov. 2.

Coach Ken Niumatalolo said on the weekly AAC media call that the Midshipmen went shotgun about 98 percent of the time.

“We like our (shot) gun stuff and hopefully it will be more for people to prepare for,” said Niumatalolo, whose team will visit preseason AAC West favorite Memphis (4-1, 1-1) on Saturday.

Weekly power ratings

Temple has moved up two spots to No. 8 in the weekly AAC power ratings, voted on by one beat writer from each of the 12 teams. South Florida and Central Florida remain Nos. 1 and 2 and appear headed for a showdown in the regular-season finale Nov. 24 at Central Florida.

  1. South Florida (5-0, 2-0)
  2. Central Florida (4-0, 2-0)
  3. Navy (5-0, 3-0)
  4. Houston (4-1, 2-0)
  5. Memphis (4-1, 1-1)
  6. SMU (4-2, 1-1)
  7. Tulane (3-2, 1-1)
  8. Temple (3-3, 1-2)
  9. Cincinnati (2-4, 0-2)
  10. Tulsa (1-5, 0-2)
  11. East Carolina (1-5, 1-2)
  12. UConn (1-4, 0-3)

Rebounding from 70

After last Friday’s 70-31 home loss to Memphis, UConn faces Temple at noon Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.

The score Friday was 21-21 midway through the second quarter before the Tigers pulled away. As the outcome suggested, the UConn defense couldn’t get off the field.

“You can’t let an opponent go 15 for 23 on third and fourth down, and you can’t be 3 for 14,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said.

The Huskies are 129th and last in the nation in pass defense, allowing 399.8 yards per game. Memphis threw for 480 yards and eight touchdowns.

Watch out for UCF

South Florida was the overwhelming favorite to win AAC championship, but Central Florida has opened some eyes. The Knights lead the nation in scoring, averaging 47.5 points. The total likely would have been higher, but last week’s 51-23 win at Cincinnati was called off with four seconds left in the third quarter because of inclement weather.

Junior receiver Tre-Quan Smith has made the most of his receptions. He has 15 catches, seven for touchdowns.

On Saturday, UCF will host East Carolina in a game that provides a statistical rarity: the nation’s highest-scoring team against an opponent that allow the most points. ECU is yielding an average of 47.8 points, 129th in the nation.

“They (the Pirates) are probably not totally pleased with how their defense has performed,” UCF coach Scott Frost said in perhaps the biggest understatement of the week.

Top 25

There are three AAC teams in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll, a first this season. South Florida is No. 18. Central Florida is No. 22, and Navy has moved to No. 25.

The Owls have lost at South Florida, 43-7. They will host Navy on Nov. 2 and UCF on Nov. 18.