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August 31, 2012Temple's game plan wasn't fancy in its season opener, but it didn't need to be.
The Owls ran the ball, ran it some more and mixed in a few big plays from free safety Vaughn Carraway, running back Matt Brown and quarterback Chris Coyer in pinning a 41-10 rout on Villanova Friday night before 32,709 fans at Lincoln Financial Field.
In what could be the last Mayor's Cup game for the foreseeable future, the Owls ran the Wildcats into the ground to the tune of 301 yards and three touchdowns, one apiece for Coyer, Brown and fullback Kenny Harper, whose 38-yard scamper staked Temple to a 35-10 lead with 12 minutes, 19 seconds left in the third quarter.
When it was all said and done, 47 of the Owls' 58 offensive plays were runs. Coyer, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound redshirt junior, went 5 of 11 passing for 61 yards, including an 8-yard shovel pass touchdown that helped Temple grab a 7-0 lead with 5:54 left in the first quarter. He later added a 19-yard touchdown run at the 9:08 mark that gave way to a 21-3 Owls' lead and even threw in a bone-crushing block when he leveled Villanova cornerback Eric Loper on a Brown run.
Second-year Temple head coach Steve Addazio said he wanted to do more with the passing game, but the Owls were deliberately methodical with their offense, even if that approach didn't fit the atmosphere generated by the third-largest crowd to watch a Temple game at the Linc.
In fact, when Brown was asked what percentage of Temple's playbook the Owls used Friday night, the 5-5, 165-pound senior was, as he always is, very honest.
"Point zero one," Brown said, laughing. "That's the truth."
Temple didn't want to show too much before playing Maryland at home next Saturday and then at Penn State two weeks later, but the Owls, despite the vanilla approach on offense, did show a propensity for big plays and responding when necessary.
Villanova got an unexpected lift from backup quarterback John Robertson, a redshirt freshman who rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in his first college game, and his 14-yard run was part of a drive that culminated in a 20-yard Mark Hamilton field goal that sliced Temple's lead to 7-3 with 2:19 left in the first quarter.
Temple's next two possessions went three-and-out, but Carraway gave the Owls a shot of life when he picked off Chris Polony, Villanova's starting quarterback, and returned the interception 57 yards for a touchdown. Brandon McManus' extra point made it a 14-3 game with 11:24 left in the second quarter.
It was a big play in the career of Carraway, once a highly touted wide receiver recruit who finally started to turn the corner at safety during a solid preseason camp. And on Villanova's ensuing possession, Carraway came up with a fumble recovery that eventually led to Coyer's touchdown run.
"That was a big momentum changer," Carraway said. "The defense needed that so that we could get our offense back out on to the field and score some points. We just need to come out next week and have our defense improve."
If those plays were momentum changers, Brown provided the back-breaker.
Villanova, which won the first game of the Mayor's Cup series before losing the last three, was still hanging around after Robertson scored on a four-yard run with 1:04 left in the first half.
Temple got the ball back with a minute left. Instead of running out the clock, heading into halftime and banking on getting the second-half kickoff, the Owls went to work. After a 14-yard run by Brown and a three-yard run by Coyer, Addazio called timeout with 39 seconds left.
Coyer's long toss to wide receiver C.J. Hammond fell incomplete on second down, but Brown saved the Owls on third down when he rattled off a 56-yard touchdown run and sent Temple to halftime with a 28-10 lead.
After Villanova scored, Brown felt Temple had to respond instead of taking a knee before halftime.
"That was even more incentive, you know?" Brown said, referring to Robertson's touchdown. "Man, we got to get it in before halftime. Coach was with it (as opposed to running the clock out), and we were with it, too, so it happened."
Fans who were eager to see Boston College transfer Montel Harris didn't get to see much. He got just 12 yards on five carries and returned for the second half in street clothes after tweaking a hamstring injury Addazio said he had heading into the game.
When asked if Harris will play next Saturday against Maryland, Addazio said, "I would think so."
Temple's defense registered four sacks, one apiece from Marcus Green, Olaniyi Adewole, John Youboty and Kadeem Custis, and middle linebacker Nate Smith led the team in tackles with seven in his first college game and forced the fumble that Carraway recovered.
At this time next year, Temple, which is back in the Big East for the first time since 2004, will be opening its season at Notre Dame, not against Villanova, but Addazio said he would like to see the series with Villanova continue at some point.
"Sure, it would be great," Addazio said. "I've said this several times. I think it's great. What's wrong with this? You play a nonconference game against a Philadelphia team. There's 33, 000-some people and it's a heck of a deal. They get on the bus, they drive over, there's not a lot of travel expense. I think it's good for the city, it's good for college football. I'm all for that."
OwlScoop.com Editor John Di Carlo can be reached at email@example.com.