Temple Football squeaks by Villanova in nail-biting home opener

 

WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN  @tomhanslin

PHILADELPHIA – If Temple Football is convinced that they performed above its metaphorical line on Saturday afternoon, well, that line must be situated rather low.

Nevertheless, the Owls left Lincoln Financial Field in relatively high spirits, as kicker Aaron Boumerhi’s 49-yard field goal with a minute left on the game clock turned out to be the game-winner in Temple’s 16-13 win over FCS school Villanova.

Although a feeling of humiliation wasn’t far-flung in the closing minutes, Temple head coach Geoff Collins was smiling ear to ear after the game.

“That was a great college football game. It’s obvious that [Villanova] is a really good football team we just played against, ” Collins said, which caught a few reporters by surprise. “Our kids fought ‘till the end like they do. I was proud of them. Obviously, that was the first win for me as a college football head coach, and it couldn’t have happened with a better group of guys. They competed, they played hard.”

BOUMERHI’S BIG KICK

 With the score tied at 13-13 with 3:29 remaining in the fourth quarter, Temple’s offense entered “two-minute drill” mode, and it took just seven plays for Boumerhi to be set up as the potential hero.

“I try not to think about the distance. I just knew that we needed the kick,” said Boumerhi, who had never before experienced a game-winning kick in his career. “I was pretty nervous. [Kicker Austin Jones] helped me stay calm and focused. He helps downplay the situation a lot for me. Even though he’s also a player, we both do a good job coaching each other in that sense, and we do a really good job watching each other’s technique and making sure it’s fundamentally sound.”

Both Boumerhi and Jones were credited for points against Villanova. With a minute remaining in the first quarter, Jones was sent out for a 22-yard field goal attempt, which he nailed to make the score 3-0. It capped off an eight-play, 68-yard drive for the Owls, which began with a 43-yard pass from quarterback Logan Marchi to wide receiver Adonis Jennings. The drive also included a 17-yard reception by receiver Keith Kirkwood.

Boumerhi’s first shot came five minutes before halftime, but his 48-yard attempt missed wide to the left, which kept Temple’s lead at three. After Wildcats’ kicker Drew Kresge failed to tie the game with a 42-yarder of his own on the ensuing drive, Temple’s offense capitalized on Villanova’s missed opportunity, and marched 75-yards downfield for a one-yard rushing touchdown scored by fullback Nick Sharga. At halftime, the Owls led 10-0, and just three minutes into the third quarter, Boumerhi made up for his mistake, drilling a field goal from 44 yards deep to make the score 13-0.

 

MARCHI STARTS AGAIN

Redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi started at quarterback for the second straight week, and completed 20-of-34 passes for 274 yards. Although he did not connect with a receiver in the end zone, Marchi made a couple of big throws. One of those was a 32-yard pass to Isaiah Wright, which eventually led to Sharga’s goal line touchdown. Another throw was to Ventell Bryant in the fourth quarter – a spectacular one-handed grab (29 yards) which ignited Temple’s final drive.

“Coach Collins does a great job of making sure we play the right scenarios in practice,” Marchi said. “Just getting that first game out of the way and then coming out here with your home fans at your home field, just felt a little more comfortable out there. We kind of got those jitters out in the first game, so I felt a lot better.”

 

WAS TEMPLE’S DEFENSE TUFF?

 “There’s definitely room for improvement, but I think we made incredible strides today,” defensive end Sharif Finch said.

Although Temple’s defense bent at times (the unit allowed 402 total yards on 71 plays), it never broke against the Wildcats’ offense. Villanova quarterback Zach Bednarczyk, who was expected to be a dual-threat weapon, did not net one positive yard with his feet. Instead, he threw the ball 41 times, and completed 27 passes for 382 yards and one touchdown.

“Our biggest thing is we have to stop the run,” said Temple defensive coordinator Taver Johnson, whose unit allowed 422 rushing yards against Notre Dame. “For us to win football games, and you talk to anyone on defense, that’s the thing: If you stop the run, you’re going to have a chance, no matter who you’re playing or what you’re doing.”

 

KEY STATS, NOTES

Villanova fumbled four times, but lost it just once. It occurred during the closing seconds, when Temple linebacker Shaun Bradley forced the ball out of Wildcats’ running back Matt Guzdak’s hands.

-Temple committed eight penalties for 59 yards, while Villanova committed five for 35 yards.

-Villanova won in time of possession, 34:04 to 25:56.

-The Owls’ leading rusher was David Hood (four carries, 21 yards). Lead back Ryquell Armstead had 12 carries for 19 yards, but struggled on the field due to an undisclosed injury he suffered against Notre Dame, according to Collins.

-Ventell Bryant, who did not play against the Fighting Irish last week due to a hamstring injury, was Temple’s leading receiver (7 REC, 79 YDS), while Villanova’s leading receiver was Changa Hodge (4 REC, 100 YDS). Wildcats’ Taurus Phillips and Ryan Bell also combined for 182 yards on 12 receptions. Villanova’s only touchdown came with 10:09 left in the fourth quarter (a 10-yard pass from Bednarcyk to Phillips).

-Wildcats’ kicker Drew Kresge made two field goals (44, 34) on three tries.

-Temple’s defense sacked Bednarczyk three times. Chapelle Russel led the Owls in tackles with 10.

-The paid attendance at Lincoln Financial Field was 35,117.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

Temple (1-1) will play host to UMass (0-3) at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m.

 

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at thanslin@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.