Temple Owls

No cupcake here: Temple barely survives feisty Villanova

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No cupcake here: Temple barely survives feisty Villanova

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Pop quiz: what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear an FCS team is visiting an FBS team on any given weekend?

Mismatch?

Blowout?

Cupcake?

Don’t tell that to FCS No. 6 Villanova. And surely don’t tell that to Temple, which got all it could handle and more while barely surviving the Wildcats on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field (see observations).

A defensive struggle turned spicy late as Villanova’s fourth-quarter rally was snuffed out by a two-minute drive led by redshirt sophomore QB Logan Marchi and a 49-yard winning field goal off the foot of Aaron Boumerhi with a minute left, both of which propelled the Owls to a 16-13 victory over their rivals from the Main Line.

Temple improved to 1-1 on the young season after last week’s shellacking at Notre Dame. Villanova fell to 1-1 on the campaign.

It was far, far from pretty, but it was the first win in the head coaching career of Temple’s Geoff Collins.

“That’s a really good football team we just played against,” a relieved Collins said after the game. “There’s no doubt they should be ranked in their division — a really good team. They fought till the very end. I thought they had some really good second-half adjustments.”

Both teams slogged through this one for the better part of three quarters and change.

The only time the announced 35,117 in the crowd came to their feet in the first three quarters was when Marchi, who ended up with 274 passing yards on the day, executed a flawless eight-play, 75-yard two-minute drill that led to fullback Nick Sharga’s TD plunge from a yard out with a single second left in the first half to give the Owls a 10-0 lead.

On that drive, Marchi threw for 77 yards on five completions, including a tipped pass that was caught by Ventell Bryant for 15 yards, a 32-yard strike over the middle to Isaiah Wright and a 17-yard throw to a diving Adonis Jennings, who hauled in the fastball at the Villanova 1-yard line with :05 left on the clock.

Sharga scored on the next play.

It was an important cushion the Owls wound up needing in the end.

“We knew we had to move the ball down the field there and that’s kind of our offense, being able to do that and get on the ball,” Marchi said. “We executed those plays well. I’m not going to lie, we had a couple lucky tips there. The one to Ventell ended up getting tipped and he made a great play on that. Getting the ball to those players there is what we need to do.”

“We practice that every other day,” Collins said of the end-of-half scramble to the endzone. “We go ‘Mayday Alert.’ We get something going, we go full speed and try to get points.”

After an uneventful third, things blasted up more than a few notches in fourth.

Early in the final quarter, Villanova senior QB Zach Bednarczyk continued to tear up the Temple pass defense as he had all day long. But this time, the Owls finally broke.

Bednarczyk hit wideout Taurus Phillips in the middle of the endzone on a slant to make it a 13-10 contest with 10:12 left. Things were now officially itchy for the Owls, who had zero answer for Bednarczyk’s arm.

After the rushing attack headed by Matt Gudzak and Aaron Forbes spearheaded a 266-yard effort in the Wildcats’ win over Lehigh last week, it went for just a measly 20 yards on Saturday afternoon against the Owls.

But with the way Bednarczyk was carving up the Temple defense almost effortlessly through the air, who needed a rushing attack?

Bednarczyk went 27 for 41 for 382 yards and the touchdown to Phillips. The Owls were basically at his mercy, especially in the second half when he went 19 for 24 for 284 yards and the TD.

“He’s a lot faster than they give him credit for,” Temple defensive end Sharif Finch said of Bednarczyk. “He’s pretty elusive and he has a good arm. So I think they have a great quarterback. He handled his business today.”

It was an interesting dynamic that played out on the field for the Temple defense.

Last week, the Owls’ defense was scorched by Notre Dame's rushing attack to the tune of 422 yards and five touchdowns. It was the complete opposite story Saturday. Sure, Villanova isn’t Notre Dame, but Temple’s defense struggled miserably against the pass on Saturday.

But Collins was quick to give credit to what the Wildcats did.

“Their quarterback is really savvy,” Collins said of Bednarczyk and the Villanova passing attack, both of which haunted his team all day long. “He was able to be slippery and make plays. I give credit to them. “

The Wildcats continued to assert themselves and their momentum continued to grow in the fourth quarter to the point where a 34-yard Drew Kresge field goal allowed Villanova to tie the game at 13-13 with 3:29 left.

If things were itchy on the Temple sideline before, well, now a rash had officially broken out.

And it was up to Marchi, in just his second career start, to lead the offense late in an effort to snuff out the Wildcats’ upset bid.

“Guys were coming up to me on the sideline saying, ‘You got this, you got this,’” Marchi said. “In your head, it’s just like practice. You go out and you throw the ball where it needs to be thrown. You run the plays that need to run. The time difference changes the pace of the game, but it doesn’t change your mindset.”

Marchi then went out and engineered a seven-play drive that included a lovely one-handed grab by Bryant, who missed last week’s loss, for 29 yards that got the Owls into Wildcats’ real estate. Bryant led the Owls with seven grabs and 79 yards on the day.

But the drive stalled, putting the responsibility on the shoulders of sophomore kicker Aaron Boumerhi to hit from 49 yards out. He had nailed one from 44 yards earlier in the day, but had also missed wide left from 48 yards.

He stayed true and drilled a career-long field goal with a minute left to put the Owls up 16-13.

“I try not to think about the last kick. It’s a new kick now,” Boumerhi said. “I just wanted to put it through the uprights and help my team win. I knew what I did wrong on the first kick. I was just worried about correcting that.

“I was pretty nervous… It was the first time I ever had to make a crucial kick like that with the game on the line.”

But Bednarczyk and the ‘Cats still had a pulse. They had a minute left to punch Temple in the gut and force OT or even leave with the upset, just as they did in 2009 and 2003. Two of Villanova’s three FBS wins have come at the expense of the Owls.

And they drove into Temple territory as the clock trickled down. Bednarczyk hit Gudzak over the middle, but the RB was stripped by Temple linebacker Shaun Bradley and Finch recovered to save the day and wipe the sweat off the collective brow of the cherry and white faithful.

The slugfest was over. But much was learned. What exactly?

The ‘Cats are still a legit FCS threat.

And the Owls have a plethora of things to work on and bumps to smooth out if they want to be taken seriously in the AAC.

Shizz Alston Jr., Quinton Rose lead Temple over St. Joe's in Big 5 battle

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Shizz Alston Jr., Quinton Rose lead Temple over St. Joe's in Big 5 battle

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With five minutes and 22 seconds left in the first half and Temple trailing St. Joe’s, 26-24, De’Vondre Perry took a three-pointer that hit the back iron and missed long.

Out of nowhere, Quinton Rose streaked down the center of the free throw lane, leaped above everyone on the floor, corralled the offensive rebound and completed the two-handed slam to tie the game, prompting an eruption from the Liacouras Center crowd.

“That’s just how [Quinton] plays,” Shizz Alston Jr. said. “When guys start jawing at him he just turns it up a notch. I think some of their players were talking to him and he just got juiced up off of that.”

The play energized the Owls after a slow start, highlighting a 17-3 run to end the half and leading to an 81-78 Temple victory (see observations). Alston Jr. led all scorers with 20 points, including five three-pointers, and Rose added a 15 point, 11 rebound double-double for the squad.

At the start of the game, St. Joe’s came out hot, hitting on three of their first five three-point attempts and jumping out to a 17-8 lead early in the game. After a Fran Dunphy timeout with just less than 13 minutes left in the half, the Owls seemed to tighten up defensively.

“He just told us we had to pick it up,” Rose said. “It’s simple as that.

"I think we had a lack of communication and the biggest thing is we don’t finish our possessions with rebounds. We give up a lot of second-chance points. We just have to straighten that up and I think we’ll be good.”

Obi Enechionyia and Rose came up with big blocks and Temple started forcing turnovers. This helped the offense get going, in particular, Alston, whose 15 first-half points kept Temple in the ball game despite the hot shooting start by St. Joe's.

Perry, a true freshman, provided a spark off the bench for the Owls, contributing nine points in the first half, including two threes and a tough finish at the rim.

“He showed a lot of toughness,” Rose said. “I mean he’s young, but he showed a lot of toughness on the defensive end and rebounding. He made some big shots for us too.”

Perry attributed a lot of the open looks he got to his teammates.

“My teammates opened it up for me,” Perry said. “Either driving or kicking or just doing what they do best by penetrating and giving me the ball.”

Temple’s star big man, Enechionyia, struggled throughout the game, going 1 for 8 from the field and finishing with four points while being limited to 23 minutes because of foul trouble. Center Ernest Aflakpui came up big in his absence, putting up 12 points on 5 for 6 from the field and adding six rebounds.

“If we can count on a dozen points from Ern every game, that would be spectacular,” Dunphy said. “It’s obviously not his forte, but he did a terrific job. I thought he was poised at the rim and didn’t rush himself.”

In the last five minutes, the Hawks rallied from 16 down and cut the lead to four, but five clutch free throws from fifth-year senior guard Josh Brown sealed Temple’s first Big 5 and Atlantic-10 win of the year.

“I thought Josh Brown saved us at the foul line,” head coach Fran Dunphy said. “I thought he played great again. He played great against Wisconsin and played great again. I’m very, very proud of him.”

The Owls, now 6-2 on the season, will host the No. 4-ranked Villanova Wildcats, who could jump to No. 1 in the country after Duke’s loss Saturday, in another Big 5 showdown this Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.

“It’s a really big opportunity,” Rose said. “I hope they are No. 1 so we can knock them off.”

Temple-St. Joe's observations: Owls hold off late rally

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Temple-St. Joe's observations: Owls hold off late rally

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Temple on Saturday afternoon nabbed its first win against a Big 5 team and an Atlantic 10 team with an 81-78 victory over St. Joe’s at the Liacouras Center.

With five clutch free throws from fifth-year senior guard Josh Brown, the Owls held off a late rally by the Hawks. Shizz Alston Jr. led the Owls with 20 points and four rebounds, while Quinton Rose added a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards.

Temple moves to 6-2 on the season with the victory.

• St. Joe’s was on fire early on, making three of its first five three-point attempts, en route to a 17-8 lead just over seven minutes into the game.

• After a Fran Dunphy timeout with 12:44 left in the first half, Temple turned up its effort on defense. Big blocks by Rose and Obi Enechionyia allowed Temple to take the lead, 18-17, with 9:30 left in the half. The Owls forced a total of eight turnovers in the first half.

• Alston, Jr. dominated the first half and really kept the Owls in the game during St. Joe’s early run. He went 5 for 8 from the field in the first half, including 4 of 5 from three-point range, for 15 points. The junior guard has developed tremendously since last season, coming into this contest averaging 16.9 points, which is up from 13.9 points per game last year in his sophomore campaign.

• Enechionyia struggled in the first half, going 1 for 6 from the field in 17 minutes of action. He missed multiple fadeaway jumpers on the baseline and didn’t make an impact in the post. He also picked up his third foul less than a minute into the second half and had to go to the bench. The senior power forward finished the afternoon with just four points and six rebounds.

• Junior center Ernest Aflakpui filled in tremendously with Enechionyia on the bench. He scored 12 points while shooting 83 percent from the field, added six rebounds and disrupted shots around the rim.

• De’Vondre Perry also played a big role for Temple, putting up nine points, 6.9 points more than his season average, in 21 minutes of action, which is up from his season average of 12.3 minutes per game. The true freshman did it in a variety of ways as well, driving and finishing at the basket, drawing fouls and adding two three-pointers. Perry was the only freshman to play in the game.

• Rose displayed his incredible athleticism with multiple big plays in the first half. The sophomore guard slashed through the lane and made a contested layup to put Temple up 18-17, and then followed a Perry missed three-pointer with a put-back dunk that caused the crowd to erupt. He also missed a few layups during the game, showing he still can refine his touch around the basket, but finished the game with 15 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.

• The student section was involved throughout the game, bringing out big-head posters during opponents’ free throws, making noise after airballs and erupting after multiple big Rose dunks. In Temple’s second Big 5 game of the year, the Owls fans needed to out-do the St. Joe’s fans who traveled to North Philly, and they certainly did.

• The win marks Temple’s first Big 5 victory of the year, almost two weeks after its 87-83 road loss to La Salle. It was a physical matchup that seemed like it would get chippy. Rose got into a St. Joe’s player’s face after a layup in the first half. Enechionyia was elbowed in the face while going up for a rebound at the end of the first half. Temple was the more physical, scrappy team Saturday, but will need to be better this Wednesday against another Big 5 team, No. 4 Villanova.

The Hawks return to action next Sunday when they host Maine.