Friday, September 03, 2010

Temple edges Villanova in Mayor's Cup

Michael Campbell
By John McMullen

Philadelphia, Pa. (The Phanatic Magazine) - Temple accomplished a lot last season.

Al Golden's Owls recorded one of their best years in school history, finishing 9-4 overall while tying for first place in the Mid-American Conference East Division at 7-1. The team also ended an ugly 30-year bowl drought by securing a spot in the EagleBank Bowl against UCLA.

One thing the Owls couldn't do, however, was beat Villanova, the defending FCS national champions.

It didn't come easy this year but Temple finally got it done on Friday after sophomore kicker Brandon McManus booted a game-winning 43-yard field goal with three seconds left to lift the Owls over the Wildcats, 31-24, in the second annual Mayor's Cup game in front of 32,193 at Lincoln Financial Field.

"It's hard to beat champions and you can just tell all night you've got to knock the champion out," Golden said.

It looked like Temple would be suffering a bad case of deja vu when Wildcats strong safety John Dempsey recovered a Chester Stewart fumble deep in Owls territory. The turnover set up a 41-yard Nick Yako field goal that gave Villanova a 24-22 edge with just under two minutes ago.

Last year Dempsey forced a fumble with under six minutes to go that led to the tying touchdown, and followed that with a interception with under a minute left that set up Yako's game-winning 32-yard field goal as Villanova stunned Temple, 27-24, in the inaugural Mayor’s Cup game.

This time, Stewart was able to shrug off the miscue and lead Temple methodically down the field, setting up McManus' game-winner.

"I thought Brandon would hit it," Golden said. "You've got to believe in the guys, and then you have to let the guys win the game."

A 26-yard fumble return by Justin Gildea while Villanova was trying to keep the ensuing kickoff return alive accounted for the final margin.

Stewart finished 16-of-27 for a career-high 200 yards and a touchdown while McManus booted four field goals. Heisman Trophy candidate Bernard Pierce did not start the game but led the Owls in rushing with 75 yards on 20 carries. Matt Brown added 54 yards and a TD on 10 carries, and Michael Campbell had eight receptions for a career-best 127 yards and a score.

Villanova quarterback Chris Whitney finished 17-of-25 for 133 yards with an interception and two TDs, while multi-dimensional threat Matt Szczur finished with five receptions and a score, added 15 rushing yards and was 3-for-3 passing the ball.

"We had our opportunities to win the game," Villanova coach Andy Talley said. "That was a fantastic game that could have gone either way. People in Philadelphia should really embrace college football, because if you have two teams that can put on a game like this, it's tremendous for the people who came and both programs."

The dynamic Szczur almost put Villanova on top by taking the opening kickoff back. Szczur broke containment and was racing down the right sidelines before stepping out of bounds on a 43-yard return that gave the Wildcats excellent field position. They couldn't take advantage, however, as last year's hero, Yako, was wide right from 38 yards out.

Temple converted on its first opportunity when Stewart capped an impressive 11-play, 79-yard drive with an ill-advised pitch on the option to Brown. The sophomore running back, who got the start ahead of Pierce, had the wherewithal to reverse field and outrace the Villanova defense into the end zone for a 17-yard score and a 7-0 Owls edge.

The Szczur show evened things for the Wildcats midway through the second quarter. Villanova's superstar took snaps at quarterback, running back and in the slot on an eight-play, 72-yard drive, ending when Whitney found Szczur for a 3-yard TD with 8:11 remaining until intermission.

Villanova went right back to work after a Temple three-and-out and took its first lead when Aaron Ball took a draw up the middle for a 9-yard TD with under four minutes to go.

McManus enabled the Owls to creep a little closer before halftime, splitting the uprights on a 53-yard field goal, the second longest in school history.

A 44-yarder by McManus in the third quarter tightened the game to 14-13 but Whitney was able to hook up with Norman White on a 21-yard TD early in the fourth quarter to extend 'Nova's edge to 21-13.

McManus' third field goal, a 40-yarder, got the Owls closer before Stewart hooked up with Campbell on a 62-yard bomb with just over four minutes to go that give Temple a 22-21 lead.

OWL DROPPINGS:

*This was the 31st meeting between the Owls and the Wildcats since 1908, renewing a 102-year old cross-town rivalry. The Wildcats now hold a 16-13-2 series advantage.

*This was the second in a series of four scheduled Mayor’s Cup games. The two teams are also slated to play again in 2011, and 2012.

*Don Bitterlich has the Temple record for longest field goal, blasting a 56-yarder versus Akron back in 1975.

*Scouts from the New York Giants, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars and Green Bay Packers were on hand. I've been covering Temple for four years now and that is by far the most teams that have ever scouted one particular game, another tribute to what Golden has done
here along with the abilities of Szczur. Interesting, however, that the Eagles couldn't spare a scout.

*Clay Armbrister, Mayor Michael Nutter's Chief of Staff and former Temple Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, participated in the pre-game coin toss along with university presidents Ann Weaver Hart and Rev. Peter Donohoue. Armbrister also presented the Mayor’s Cup trophy to Temple after the game.

*The crowd was the second largest ever for a Temple game at the Linc, trailing the sellout against Penn State in 2007.

*Cat Scratches:

*Villanova is 3-12 vs. FCS teams since restoring football but is 2-1 vs. Temple.
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