In its Big East debut, Temple took home the fourth annual Mayor’s Cup Friday night, as they blew out city rival Villanova for the second straight year.
The Owls defeated the Wildcats 41-10 in what is currently the last scheduled meeting of the two teams.
Temple was able to gain the momentum early, as they moved the ball effortlessly in their first possession, driving the ball 78 yards downfield, as sophomore running back Kenneth Harper scored on an eight yard shuffle pass from redshirt-junior quarterback Chris Coyer. The team utilized its strong rushing game, taking advantage of senior running backs Matt Brown and Montel Harris, who later left the game with a strained hamstring. On the 14-play drive, the Owls ran the ball 11 times.
“You couldn’t have scripted it any better,” coach Steve Addazio said. “That was power football at its best. We wanted to do that, and we did it. I was really excited about that.”
The Wildcats answered right back, however, as a 36-yard carry by sophomore running back Austin Medley led to a 20-yard field goal.
Early in the second quarter, Temple’s defense pressured sophomore quarterback Chris Polony into a poor throw that was intercepted by senior free safety Vaughn Carraway, making his second-ever collegiate start, who weaved his way through Villanova’s offense for a 57-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
“We got into a little bit of a lull, so that interception came right back on us, and whipped us back in,” Addazio said. “It was an important momentum turn.”
“Our whole philosophy is if you keep battling, you keep fighting, and you keep playing hard, you’re going to create those things that are going to happen” Addazio added.
But Carraway and the defense weren’t done yet. On Villanova’s next possession, redshirt-freshman linebacker Nate D. Smith forced a fumble that was recovered by Carraway in Villanova territory. The turnover led to a quick scoring drive that was capped off by a 19-yard touchdown run from Coyer, as Temple grew its lead to 18 points.
“I was just sprinting to the ball like we’re all supposed to do, and I just fell right on it,” Carraway said. “It fell right in my hands.”
Temple didn’t pass the ball much against Villanova, with Coyer completing five passes in just 11 attempts. Coyer believes the lack of a passing game was simply the result of the situation the team was facing.
“You have to play it by ear,” Coyer said. “Maybe next week, we throw a little more, maybe we don’t. It all depends on how the game is played.”
Coyer had a particularly strong game running the football, averaging 6.2 yards per carry for a total of 80 yards.
But, in what was the first game since the departure of Bernard Pierce, the real rushing star of the night was Brown.
“This is what I love to do” Brown said. “When it’s not football season, I feel like a caged lion. When it’s here, I embrace it.”
The offensive line was considered one of the weaknesses going into the season for the Owls. Friday night, at least, Brown thinks they performed well.
“They opened up some big holes for us tonight,” Brown said. “They created lanes that I could run through. We made it happen from there.”
Coyer saw positives in the offensive line, too.
“It’s not bad,” Coyer said. “I feel pretty good. Of course, we’ve got a couple things we need to clean up. But I feel great about our offensive line. We’ve got a lot of young talent, anchored by some senior leaders.”
Toward the end of the first half, Villanova aimed to get back in the game. In a drive that lasted a little less than two minutes, redshirt-freshman quarterback John Robertson led the team on a 69-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown, as he carried the ball into the end zone on a 5-yard run.
From there, though, it was all downhill for the Wildcats. In just 39 seconds, the Owls reclaimed the momentum, as Brown ran for a 56-yard touchdown, bringing the score to 28-10 going into the second half.
In the opening minutes of the third quarter, Harper scored his second touchdown of the game on a 38-yard carry.
A pair of field goals from senior Brandon McManus brought the score to 41-10, effectively sealing the victory, and bringing his career total to 48, a new school record.
While Addazio wants more consistency from his team, particularly in the passing game and on defense, he is pleased overall with what they accomplished against Villanova.
“Our goal was to play physical, to play tough, be relentless to the ball,” Addazio said. “Those are the things we wanted to get accomplished. I thought that happened.”
Next week, Temple will host Maryland at Lincoln Financial Field at noon.
Avery Maehrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.