College Sports

Navy football, seeking to send small senior class out with a win, a favorite over struggling Temple

Kip Frankland can’t believe senior day is here already. It seems like just yesterday to him when the Navy football Class of 2023 arrived in Annapolis for plebe summer.

“It’s nuts how my time has flown by. The fact I’ve played four seasons here already is crazy,” said Frankland, Navy’s starting right tackle and offensive captain.


Nicholas Straw also can’t believe senior day is here already, meaning in late October with a month of the season still to go.

Navy’s Nicholas Straw nearly intercepts a ball away from Tulsa’s Malachai Jones in the second quarter of a game on Oct. 8. Straw is one of 25 Navy seniors to be honored before Saturday's senior day game against Temple.

“It’s weird having senior day so early in the season. It’s Halloween and it’s already senior day,” Straw said. “I’m super-excited and it’s kind of really hitting me. It’s my last time playing at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. There’s a lot of gravity to that. One last ride there at Navy-Marine Corps. It’s crazy.”


Two struggling teams will meet Saturday when Navy (2-5 overall, 2-3 American Athletic Conference) welcomes Temple (2-5, 0-3) to Annapolis. The Midshipmen will honor their 25 seniors during a pregame ceremony.

“Always emotional for me to see the seniors with their families,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “You think about the recruiting process when they came on unofficial visits or we went into their homes. Then you think about their journey here at the academy.”

Navy linebacker John Marshall is one of four seniors who start for Navy.

Niumatalolo, in his 15th season leading Navy, ranks the senior day game as the third most important of the season behind the service academy rivalry matchups with Army and Air Force.

“We want to pay tribute to our seniors and send them out the right way,” he said. “We have great respect and admiration for our seniors. This is a huge day for the seniors, their families and the program.”

Navy won 17 straight senior day games from 2003 through 2019. That streak came to an end in 2020 against Tulsa when no fans were allowed into Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium due to the pandemic. Now, the Mids look to snap a two-game losing streak on senior day.

It is also Homecoming at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and the statistics aren’t positive there either. The Midshipmen have lost four of its last five Homecoming games.

Navy is the only program in the Football Bowl Subdivision without a home game in November. The Midshipmen have road games at Cincinnati and Central Florida along with neutral site contests against Notre Dame (M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore) and Army (Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia) remaining.

Navy Midshipmen wide receiver Mark Walker is one of four senior starters. The Midshipmen will celebrate senior day Saturday before their game against Temple.

It is an oddity that has not occurred since 1988 when Navy played its final home game on Oct. 1 versus Yale, then closed the campaign with four road matchups and two neutral site affairs.

This is a small senior class for Navy, both in terms of total numbers and contributors. The Midshipmen start just four seniors on offense and defense — tied with California, North Texas and Temple for third-fewest in the country.

Frankland and wide receiver Mark Walker are the seniors starting on offense, while Straw and fellow outside linebacker John Marshall are the seniors starting on defense. There are only three other seniors (quarterback Massai Maynor, offensive lineman Brandon Moore and defensive tackle John Brand) on the depth chart and all are third-string.

There is one senior starter on special teams in kicker Daniel Davies. Projected starting placekicker Bijan Nichols, one of three captains, has yet to play in a game this season due to a lower-body injury.

Niumatalolo has been impressed with the leadership displayed by all the seniors — those that play and those that don’t.

“They bring the juice and energy every day,” he said. “It would be easy to get down when things aren’t going so great. I see them leading by example every day. It inspires you as a coach.”

Navy football team captains, from left, Kip Frankland, Bijan Nichols and John Marshall are among 25 seniors that will be honored on senior day.

Navy has suffered two straight disappointing losses — falling 30-24 at SMU in a contest that was not as close as the final score would indicate, then 38-20 to Houston on a day the home team played poorly in all three phases.

“We need to circle the wagons and win this game for the seniors,” Niumatalolo said. “Whatever we have to do as players, coaches, support staff — we have to find a way to get this W for our seniors.”

Navy is favored for one of the few times this season Saturday. Temple, under first-year head coach Stan Drayton, has only beaten Lafayette of the FCS Patriot League and Massachusetts, an independent that is 1-6.

“We’re both programs desperate for a win. We both can’t do anything about games in the past, but we can do something about this game,” Niumatalolo said. “You watch them on tape and they do some good things and they do some things that make you scratch your head — just like us.”

The Owls rank 125th out of 131 FBS teams in total offense and 126th in scoring offense, averaging only 284 yards and 15 points per game. Temple has turned to a true freshman at quarterback with E.J. Warner taking over as the starter three games into the season. He is the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner.

Niumatalolo said this week he’s been impressed with the youngster’s composure.


Temple has been fairly solid on defense, ranking a respectable 64th in points allowed (24.9 per game). Subtract a 70-13 loss to Central Florida and the Temple defense is giving up an average of 18.5 points.

Redshirt sophomore linebackers Jordan Magee (45 tackles) and Yvandy Rigby spearhead a unit that ranks second nationally in sacks and fifth in tackles for loss. Niumatalolo praised Temple defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot for installing his system and instilling a mindset so quickly.

“They play with great energy. You can tell that effort and running the ball is a big premium to them,” Niumatalolo said of the Temple defense. “You don’t play hard unless you know what you’re doing. It’s very evident their staff has done a very good job of coaching their guys to know what to do and know what the standard is; They’ve played everybody tough on defense.”