PHILADELPHIA — Andy Davidson spent his first year at Army as a linebacker. The coaches are certainly glad they moved him to the offensive side of the ball for his sophomore season.
Davidson ran for 121 yards and two touchdowns in his first game at fullback and Army piled up 329 yards on the ground to beat Temple 28-13 on Friday night in the opener for both teams.
“Andy was a great addition for us to move from linebacker,” Army coach Jeff Monken said. “He’s one of our best football players. I’m glad we made that move with him.”
Three other Army players gained at least 50 rushing yards for the Black Knights, coming off a 2-10 season. They attempted only five passes all night and backed their offense with three interceptions.
Temple, which entered the season with huge expectations after a historic 2015 campaign, finished with 251 total yards of offense to lose to Army for the first time in its last seven meetings.
“It’s a measuring stick,” Monken said, “When you play a team that won 10 games, won a bowl game, played for a conference championship — that’s a huge win for us.”
Trailing 10-7 at halftime, Army drove right down the field to start the third quarter with Davidson’s 3-yard TD plunge capping a 12-play, 77-yard series that chewed nearly seven minutes off the clock.
After a Temple field goal pulled the Owls within one, the Black Knights again went on a long drive with Tyler Campbell scoring on a 12-yard run on the 14th play of the series to put Army ahead 21-13 with 9:38 left in the contest.
Kenneth Brinson sealed the win with an interception with 3:11 remaining, sending many of the 34,005 fans in attendance to the parking lot early. Davidson scored his second TD of the game — and of his career — less than a minute later.
“The offensive line did excellent,” Davidson said. “They bolstered me all night. I couldn’t be more proud of them. I owe all the yards to them.”
With standout senior Jahad Thomas out with a hand injury, Ryquell Armstead got the start at running back for Temple, finishing with 77 yards on 16 carries, scoring a first-half touchdown that put Temple up 7-0 less than 30 seconds into the second quarter.
Phillip Walker, the Owls’ four-year starter at quarterback, completed 12 of 26 passes for 168 yards and three interceptions. He became Temple’s all-time passing leader with a 14-yard pass to Keith Kirkwood in third quarter, surpassing Henry Burris.
Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Carter shared quarterbacking duties for Army with Bradshaw taking the bulk of the snaps and tying the game at 7-7 on a 10-yard TD run in the second quarter. He finished with 50 yards on 16 carries.
“One of our goals this season is to finish games no matter what,” Bradshaw said. “To put a stamp on it felt great.”
ARMY: The Black Knights’ famous triple-option attack was certainly in gear as Army sliced through a Temple defense that was the best in the American Athletic Conference last season. The game could not have gone much better for the Black Knights, especially when you consider their disappointing 2-10 campaign in 2015 ended with a heartbreaking-season ending loss to Navy in the same stadium.
“It’s big for us,” said linebacker Jeremy Timpf, who led Army with eight tackles. “We were here last year and had a tough loss to Navy. It feels really good to start the season right. All the hard work in the offseason paid off.”
TEMPLE: Following a memorable season in which Temple matched a program record with 10 wins, went to their first bowl game since 2011 and captured an AAC Eastern Division title, Temple entered the 2016 campaign with high hopes. Getting upset by a team coming off a 2-10 season was certainly not the start envisioned by fourth-year head coach Matt Rhule, who’s been trying to build the program into a national power.
“They just dominated us,” said Rhule, whose first win at Temple came against Army in 2013. “They literally just knocked us off the ball.”
START OF A TURNAROUND?
Considering they’re only one game into the season, Monken tried to downplay whether Army’s convincing opening victory could be the start of something big. But for the players, the excitement of beating a strong team on the road was certainly palpable.
“We’ve had rough patches,” Timpf said. “Hopefully this is a turnaround and the program’s headed in the right direction.”
Although they gained so many yards on the ground, Monken praised Temple’s defense for making them work for every one of them.
“It was a tough sled,” Monken said. “It wasn’t like we were ripping off 20-yard runs. We were getting it bit by bit.”
SURVIVING SPECIAL TEAMS BLUNDERS
Monken was particularly proud that his team won despite missing two field goals and having a punt blocked by Sharif Finch in the second quarter.
That punt block was the fourth of Finch’s career. The Owls led the nation in blocked punts last year with five.
ARMY: The Black Knights have their home opener, welcoming Rice next Saturday, Sept. 10.
TEMPLE: The Owls host Stony Brook next Saturday, before a huge road clash with in-state rival Penn State the following week.