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Wildcats Edged By Temple 31-24 on Field Goal in Final Seconds

Sept. 3, 2010

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PHILADELPHIA - The second annual Mayor's Cup ended very much like last year's inaugural event, with a field goal in the final seconds determining the outcome. This time around, however, No. 1 Villanova (0-1) came out on the short end of the score and was edged by Temple (1-0) in front of 32,193 fans at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday evening.

There were three lead changes in the final 4:07 of the contest and a 43-yard field goal made by the Owls with three seconds left put Temple ahead 25-24 to account for the winning margin. On the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats completed several laterals before the Owls knocked the ball away and returned the fumble for the final six points.

Philadelphia fans, including large student sections from both schools, turned out in force to see a fantastic contest that was balanced throughout but didn't reach its crescendo until the dramatic shifts of momentum in the closing minutes. The game's attendance surpassed last year's contest by nearly 5,000 fans and was the second-largest crowd to ever see Temple play at Lincoln Financial Field.

"The people of Philadelphia should really embrace college football in the area, particularly after seeing the kind of game that two great teams put on for them tonight," Villanova head coach Andy Talley said. "Tonight was a game that Philly fans can all be proud of. It was tremendous for the people who came to the game and it was great for both programs and for college football in general."

Being the underdog didn't matter for the Wildcats, who were backed by a big turnout of Villanova students who made their presence felt at every opportunity. There were plenty such chances, as the Wildcats held the lead for more than half the game and took their final lead of the night on a long field goal with just 1:51 remaining.

Senior wide receiver and return man Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) racked up 197 all-purpose yards, mostly on a career-high seven kickoff returns for 165 yards. He also caught a three-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.) midway through the second quarter for the first Villanova points of the game.

Whitney finished the day 17-of-25 for 133 yards and two touchdowns, while Szczur also threw three passes (all completions) for 39 yards. Junior wide receiver Norman White (Hammonton, N.J.) caught eight passes for 69 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown reception on a pass from Whitney early in the fourth quarter. Senior running back Aaron Ball (Los Angeles, Calif.) ran for 45 yards and a score to lead the ground attack and sophomore kicker Nick Yako (Cleveland, Ohio) drilled a 41-yard field goal that briefly gave the Wildcats the lead late in the game.

The night's frenetic finish essentially began when Brandon McManus kicked a field goal with 6:28 to play which pulled the Owls to within one possession at 21-16. Villanova quickly went three-and-out on its next possession and Temple struck a heavy blow when Chester Stewart threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to Michael Campbell on a one-play drive which gave the Owls the lead at 22-21 (a two-point conversion failed when a pass from Stewart was dropped in the end zone for an incompletion).

Campbell's touchdown left the Wildcats trailing for the first time since they scored their first points in the middle of the second quarter. During the second half, Temple steadily picked up its defensive play and Villanova once again went three-and-out with the game's outcome hanging in the balance.

A break that the Wildcats had been waiting for all night came when the Owls tried to convert on third-and-one from their own 25-yard line. They would have been stopped short anyway, but the ball was fumbled and senior safety John Dempsey (Secane, Pa.) recovered the ball at Temple's 22-yard line. Three players later, Yako kicked his only field goal of the night after missing two earlier attempts to spot Villanova the lead once again.

The last offensive possession of the game started at the Owls 28-yard line and Temple went 46 yards on 10 plays in 1:48 before McManus lifted his team to the win. It was the fourth field goal of the night for McManus, who missed a 36-yard attempt but went 4-of-4 on tries of 40 yards or longer. His 53-yard field goal sent the game into halftime with the Wildcats in front 14-10.

Matt Brown opened the scoring for the Owls on a 17-yard rush with 1:18 in the first quarter. Temple was nearly stuffed for no yardage on the left side of the field before Brown reversed the ball and raced into the end zone on the right side. Stewart completed a 14-yard pass to Rod Streater one play earlier to keep the drive going on third-and-seven from the Villanova 31-yard line.

The Wildcats finally got on the board at the 8:11 mark of the second quarter when Szczur caught the first of Whitney's two touchdown passes on the night. Later in the second quarter, Ball ran in from nine yards to finish off a 74-yard drive which put Villanova in front 14-7 with 3:37 left before the intermission. The run by Ball was set up on the previous play, when Whitney hit junior wide receiver Mikey Reynolds (Moorestown, N.J.) for a 16-yard completion.

Junior corner James Pitts (Montclair, N.J.) led all players with 11 tackles in the game, while senior linebackers Terence Thomas (Plainsboro, N.J.) and Marquis Kirkland (Syracuse, N.Y.) tallied 10 stops apiece.

Next up for the Wildcats is a road game at Lehigh next Saturday at 12:30 p.m.