Almost a year ago at this time, the sports talk show host with the highest ratings in the country was singing the praises of Navy’s football team.
“The one team in college football that intrigues me most is Navy,” said Mike Francesa of WFAN radio in New York. “That’s the most exciting team in my mind and, to me, that would be the one team that could throw a monkey wrench into this whole playoff thing.”
Fast forward only a couple of weeks until the AAC championship game and Francesa was still singing Navy’s praises.
“Oh my God, they just scored 75 points on SMU,” Francesa said in an interview with Gary Daniels, a CBS sports network college football analyst. “They play Temple this week in the league championship game. I don’t know how good Temple is … “
“Temple is pretty darn good,” Daniels said, interrupting The Sports Pope.
“They better be to stay with that team,” Francesa said. “I’m going to be watching that game for sure.”
After Temple beat Navy, 34-10, to win the title, I placed my little Radio Shack transistor job—the only one that can get WFAN inside the building—on my desk at work hoping to hear Francesa sing the praises of Temple football before his vast radio audience.
Not a peep on the first day or the second day or the third. Temple was never given props at all.
Navy lost, so that was a subject Francesca conveniently dropped and went onto the next big thing that interested him, like the NFL.
“Temple punched us in the mouth,” said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo after that game. “Usually, we are the ones punching other people in the mouth and we didn’t respond.”
Tonight (8 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field), Navy gets the rematch they have wanted a year for and they have the boxing gloves primed and ready. Wayne Hardin will be honored and, win or lose, that will be the highlight of the night for Temple fans.
Presumably, Temple will punch back but, on paper, at least, any hope of an upset here appears to be a ship that sailed a long time ago. The speed bags Temple has been working against don’t appear to be as big or menacing as the ones Navy has been punching.
The two teams have combined for four losses in the last few Saturdays but that’s where the comparison ends. These are two ships headed in opposite directions. Nick Sharga, who was so instrumental in that championship win, doesn’t even see the field for long stretches for this team. Ventell Bryant, whose touchdown catch started a good afternoon on offense for those Owls, seems to be an afterthought for these Owls. Blame it on the offensive coordinator all you want, but the CEO (Geoff Collins) bears ultimate responsibility.
Temple lost to a lousy UConn team, 28-24, and an Army team, 31-28, that the Owls had about 10x as much physical talent as two weeks ago. The blood for the scene of both crimes leads right back to the coaching offices at $17 million Edberg-Olson Complex.
During that same time frame, Navy lost to a great Memphis team, 30-27, and an even better UCF team, 31-21.
One of the more unabashedly optimistic followers on the Temple Fans Facebook page said “the Owls will NOT make another service academy bowl eligible.”
To use another nautical term, I hate to torpedo his optimism but that assertion just doesn’t hold water. Right now, hours before the game, as far as an upset goes, it appears these are two ships sailing in opposite directions.
As a certain Commander-In-Chief might say: #Sad.
Friday: Game Analysis