Tem­ple, Wake es­cape dis­trac­tions in An­napo­lis

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY DAVID GINSBURG

AN­NAPO­LIS | Play­ing in a bowl game is usu­ally con­sid­ered a re­ward for a suc­cess­ful sea­son. For Tem­ple and Wake For­est, the Mil­i­tary Bowl on Tues­day of­fers an ad­di­tional bonus: a three-hour es­cape from off-the-field events that served as a dis­trac­tion for each pro­gram.

No. 23 Tem­ple (10-3) hasn’t played since beat­ing Navy 34-10 on Dec. 3 in the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship at Navy-Marine Corps Memo­rial Sta­dium, site of the Mil­i­tary Bowl.

Much has changed since then for the Owls, who will have a dif­fer­ent look on the side­line when their re­turn.

Three days af­ter Tem­ple won its first AAC ti­tle, coach Matt Ruhle ac­cepted the same po­si­tion at Bay­lor. Florida de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ge­off Collins was sub­se­quently hired as Ruhle’s re­place­ment.

Ed Fo­ley, a nine-year as­sis­tant at Tem­ple, will serve as in­terim coach when the Owls vie for the first 11-win sea­son in school his­tory.

“One of our goals was the cham­pi­onship, and an­other was to win an 11th game and be­come the great­est Tem­ple team ever,” se­nior line­backer Avery Wil­liams said. “Ev­ery­thing that’s been go­ing on, we re­ally don’t care. It’s all about us right now.”

Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, Wake For­est’s main fo­cus en­ter­ing the Mil­i­tary Bowl would be to se­cure a win­ning sea­son by end­ing a three-game los­ing streak. But the De­mon Dea­cons (6-6) have been em­broiled in a scan­dal in which Wake For­est broad­caster Tommy El­rod leaked or at­tempted to leak game plan in­for­ma­tion to at least three op­po­nents.

“We knew some­thing was go­ing on since a month ago and we’ve fo­cused on the game and things we can con­trol,” Wake For­est coach Dave Claw­son said. “I think our play­ers have done a great job of that. Noth­ing we can do about it. It hap­pened, it’s in our past, we ad­dressed it and we’re mov­ing for­ward. I think for us it’s great that there is an­other game.”

Some things to know about the Mil­i­tary Bowl matchup between Tem­ple and Wake For­est, who last met in 1930:

Wake For­est is in the post­sea­son for the first time since the Mu­sic City Bowl in 2011.

“It’s been a long time,” said se­nior safety Ryan Jan­vion, whose 44 ca­reer starts are most on the team. “To be here now says a lot about the di­rec­tion of our pro­gram. We’re all ex­cited to be here, but we know our job isn’t fin­ished. We’re go­ing to do our best to fin­ish this sea­son strong with a win in a bowl game.”

The De­mon Dea­cons, who went 3-5 in the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence, need a vic­tory to se­cure their win­ning sea­son since 2008.

Fo­ley prob­a­bly hasn’t stopped smil­ing since get­ting the job as in­terim coach.

“To me, it’s like Phillies fan­tasy week. You go down there and you get to be on the Phillies team for a week,” he said. “Well, I get to be the head coach of Tem­ple for 21 days. It’s just a thrill.”

Af­ter it’s all over, Fo­ley is count­ing on work­ing with Ruhle at Bay­lor or un­der Collins at Tem­ple.

“I feel re­ally good that ... I’m go­ing to end up in a re­ally good place,” he said.

In car­ry­ing on a Mil­i­tary Bowl tra­di­tion, play­ers on both teams vis­ited the na­tion’s cap­i­tal this week and min­gled with Armed Forces per­son­nel. For Wake For­est, it’s been a ride that was a long time com­ing.

“It’s more than just a foot­ball game,” Claw­son said. “No player on our team has been to bowl be­fore, so we want them to en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence and have it be some­thing that they want to do again.”

Although Tem­ple hasn’t played Wake For­est in 86 years, the Owls know quite a bit about their ACC foe.

“We see them on film. We know what they do, we know what they’re about,” said quar­ter­back Phillip Walker, who owns the school record for wins by a start­ing quar­ter­back — 28 in all, in­clud­ing seven straight.

Walker has thrown 12 touch­down passes and only three in­ter­cep­tions dur­ing Tem­ple’s seven-game win­ning streak. He went 16 for 25 with two scores and no picks against Navy.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Quar­ter­back Phillip Walker owns Tem­ple’s record for wins by a start­ing quar­ter­back — 28, in­clud­ing seven straight. Tem­ple faces Wake For­est Tues­day in the Mil­i­tary Bowl.

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