Temple Owls

Temple-Villanova observations: Owls escape with 16-13 win over Wildcats

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Temple-Villanova observations: Owls escape with 16-13 win over Wildcats

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After a defensive struggle and moments of sloppy play and uncertainty, the Mayor’s Cup is heading back to a display case on North Broad Street.
 
Temple's defense made the plays it needed to make while smothering Villanova’s running game as the Owls survived their home opener at the Linc by the skin of their teeth with a 16-13 victory over Villanova thanks to a 49-yard field goal by Aaron Boumehri with a minute even left on the clock.

Saturday's narrow victory marked the first in the career of Temple head coach Geoff Collins.
 
A relatively monotonous, uneventful game kicked up a few notches at the beginning of the fourth quarter when senior QB Zach Bednarczyk led an 81-yard Villanova drive that ended in the cherry and white-painted endzone with a 10-yard touchdown toss to Taurus Phillips that made it a 13-10 game.
 
After another fruitless Temple drive, Bednarczyk drove the ‘Cats back into Temple territory, when Drew Kresge nailed a 34-yard field goal to tie the game at 13-13 with 3:29 left.
 
With the Owls in desperation mode, sophomore Logan Marchi, who finished the game with 274 yards through the air, took the Owls down the field with the help of a one-handed, 29-yard grab by Ventell Bryant down the sideline and a holding call on Villanova corner Malik Reeves.
 
Boumerhi, who hit earlier from 44 yards but also missed earlier in the game from 48 yards, stepped in and drilled the deciding FG.
 
With under a minute left, the ‘Cats were driving into Temple territory looking to tie or take the lead. But Temple LB Shaun Bradley stripped Villanova’s Matt Gudzak and the Owls recovered with just seconds left.

The Owls moved to 1-1 on the young season while the Wildcats fell to 1-1.
 
• Let’s just get this out of the way now: this game was not pretty by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. Penalties, curious play-calling, dropped passes, punts galore, any mistake you can think of, the Owls and Wildcats “featured” it all on Saturday. This was not a Temple-Villanova game you will be telling your grandkids about. I’m sure the 35,117 announced in attendance will agree.

 
• While mistakes were made and passes were batted down, Marchi seemed more comfortable this week for Temple as compared to last week. Sure, playing at home against Villanova isn’t necessarily the same as making your first career start at Notre Dame in front of a national audience. But Marchi was solid in the pocket and, when he had time, made good decisions. His best throw of the day came in the first quarter when he dropped a 43-yard dime down the sideline to Adonis Jennings in stride. Marchi and Keith Kirkwood seem to be developing some chemistry. When Marchi was in trouble Saturday, more than a few times he threw it up to Kirkwood, who used his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame to go up and get it, as happened in the first when Kirkwood leapt over a pair of defenders and brought down an 23-yard gain. Having the team's 2016 leading receiver in Bryant, who missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury, back in the lineup, certainly helped, too. Bryant hauled in seven balls for 79 yards in his debut. One thing to improve upon – getting rid of the ball when out of the pocket. On a few occasions Saturday, he scrambled and either took an unnecessary sack or forced a dangerous incomplete pass. That could get him trouble. Still work to do, but a step in the right direction for Marchi.

• Bednarczyk and the Villanova offense racked up 475 yards of offense last week at Lehigh. The ‘Cats posted more yardage this week against a better FBS defense.  In total, Villanova put up 402 yards on Temple.  But the difference this week was that the Wildcats were able to do their damage through the air as Bednarczyk threw for 382 yards and the TD to Phillips. Gudzak, Aaron Forbes and the rest of the ‘Cats running attack accounted for just 20 yards on the ground.
 
• The two-minute drive Marchi engineered at the end of the first half tipped the scales in Temple’s favor and gave the Owls a leg up that they wound up needing. The Owls started at their own 25 and took the ball 75 yards in 1:59, capped by fullback Nick Sharga’s TD plunge from a yard out with a single tick left on the clock. Surprisingly, it was the redshirt senior’s first career touchdown. But the key play was Jennings’ diving grab at the 1-yard line with :05 left. Marchi stayed cool in the pocket and fired a dart to the big receiver, who stretched out and hauled in a fastball.

• After Villanova put its first points of the day on the board courtesy of a 44-yard field goal off the foot of Kresge late in the third quarter, the ‘Cats went for the surprise onside kick. And they had the Owls completely fooled. A lovely kick was right in the hands of a Wildcat… until it went right through his hands and to the ground. After a scramble, Temple’s Kenny Yeboah came out of the pack with the ball. Talk about a missed opportunity. That would have totally shifted the momentum in favor of the Wildcats and had the Owls on their heels. This game could have gone an entire different direction in that split second.

• Oh, man. The Owls have plenty to work on this week, don’t they? This was not a great showing by any means at all. Villanova is a very good FCS team, no doubt, and the ‘Cats deserve a ton of credit for how hard they fought and played Saturday afternoon. But Geoff Collins and Temple have plenty of bumps to smooth out – rushing attack, pass defense, offensive momentum, you name it.  Head coach Mark Ferrante and the ‘Cats, meanwhile, let it be know they won’t be bossed around in the first year of the post-Andy Talley era and are a legit FCS threat.

• Temple welcomes UMass to The Linc next week for a Friday night tilt. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The Owls and Minutemen last met in 2015 in Foxboro in a game the Owls stole late in regulation, 25-23, thanks to a blocked PAT that was returned for two points and a field goal as time expired. If the Owls stumbled vs. UMass, a team that eventually finished 3-9 that year, who knows where that 2015 season in the spotlight goes from there?

The Wildcats head back home to the Main Line next week to host Lafayette at Villanova Stadium for the ‘Cats home opener. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

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.