Temple quarterback Frank Nutile will be an interested viewer when Army and Navy meet for the 118th rendition of their football rivalry Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Owls are one of three teams to have faced both service academies this season, with Tulane and Air Force being the others. Nutile got his first career start against Army, a 31-28 road loss. He also led Temple to a 34-26 win over Navy at the Linc.
“I’ll definitely enjoy watching the game, which has so much history,” Nutile said this week. “I’ll get to watch guys I played against, and I know how good both teams are.”
Army is 8-3, and Navy is 6-5. Army won last season’s meeting, 21-17, snapping a 14-game losing streak to the Midshipmen.
While Army and Navy usually aren’t as big as their opponents, both played a style that left a lasting impression on Nutile and his teammates.
“Those teams are so physical, and our bodies were so banged up after those two games,” Nutile said. “They don’t quit, and they were banging and banging play in and play out.”
Army’s defense is known for sending everybody at the quarterback more so than Navy, Temple offensive tackle Cole Boozer said.
“The blitzing Army brought was very dynamic and they disguised their blitzes well,” he said. “Navy didn’t blitz as much.”
Nutile agreed that the Black Knights were creative in rushing the passer. “Army used more exotic blitzes,” he said.
Against Temple, Army had two sacks, and Navy didn’t have any. Leading the way for Army was middle linebacker James Nachitigal, who had 13 tackles and one sack. He leads the Black Knights with 87 tackles. Navy’s leading tackler against Temple was outside linebacker Michah Thomas, who had 10 and has a team-high 72 tackles.
Both teams run the triple option. Army leads the nation in rushing, averaging 368.1 yards, and Navy is second (347.5).
“Army has a downhill running game and they go with the fullback — that is their primary attack,” Temple defensive end Sharif Finch said. “For them, the last option is the pitch.”
Army fullback Darnell Woolfolk rushed for 132 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries against Temple.
“Navy runs more of a perimeter game, so their quarterback is the primary runner,” Finch said. “They use the pitch, and No. 10 [slotback Malcolm Perry] is a dynamic play-maker.”
Perry is an interesting player. He hurt Temple more as a receiver with four catches for 94 yards. Perry rushed for 23 yards on five carries and threw a 5-yard scoring pass to quarterback Zach Abey on a razzle-dazzle play.
This year, Perry was used as a quarterback for one game and rushed for 282 yards and four touchdowns in a 43-40 win over SMU. It wouldn’t be surprising if he took some snaps at quarterback against Army.
“Both teams obviously run well, but I think Navy hides the ball a little better,” Temple safety Sean Chandler said.
What is interesting is that both teams hurt Temple with the pass. Army tied the score with one second left in regulation on a 16-yard scoring strike. Backup quarterback Kelvin Hopkins passed for 67 yards in that 14-play, 79-yard drive.
Three players for Navy combined to complete 13 of 19 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns against the Owls.
“I think Navy had a better passing game,” Chandler said. “They both run the same offense, but I think Navy has more speed.”
Chandler added that neither team’s pass defense can afford to fall asleep, even though the game likely will be run-dominated.
“When you play both teams, you are always thinking of stopping the run,” Chandler said. “When they hit you with the pass, it’s just another thing you have to worry about.”