College football capsule: Army at Temple

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College football capsule: Army at Temple

Temple tries -- yet again -- to get Matt Rhule his first win and to avoid its worst start since 2006 …

Temple (0-6, 0-3 American) vs. Army (3-4)
Lincoln Financial Field - Philadelphia, Pa.
Saturday, 1 p.m., ESPN3


Spread
Temple (+1)

This one actually opened Temple (-3). The Owls are 3-3 against the spread this season, but 0-3 in games with single-digit numbers.

Scouting Temple
P.J. Walker impressed in his first college start, but also made some decisions that reminded everyone he's a true freshman. Walker went 12 for 22 for 200 yards passing, threw for a touchdown and two picks, and ran for 47 yards in Temple’s 38-20 loss at Cincinnati last Friday night. He led Temple to 20 first-half points, but got blanked in the second half.

Unfortunately for an offense that's shown new life under Walker, the Owls' kicking issues made an unfortunate return last week as Nick Visco banged one of his extra point attempts off the right upright. Temple had gone two games without a missed kick and three without a missed extra point. Rhule said Tuesday that Visco will continue his place kicking duties for the foreseeable future and that Tyler Mayes could supplant Jim Cooper Jr. this week on kickoffs.

On defense, the Owls are still letting up points and yards, but sophomore linebacker Tyler Matakevich leads the nation in solo tackles with 65. No one else has more than 45. 

Scouting Army
Matakevich will have plenty of opportunities to tackle this week against an Army team that runs nearly every play.

The Black Knights' triple-option offense leads the nation in rushing yards with 352.3 yards per game. Of course, their passing offense is third to last in the FBS (66.7 ypg). They run the ball 59.7 times per game against a nation-low 11 passing attempts.

Quarterback Angel Santiago has taken over for four-year starter Trent Steelman. Terry Baggett (77 for 744) is Army's leading rusher and put up 304 yards on Eastern Michigan last week. Senior rusher and West Catholic grad Raymond Maples will miss his fifth game in a row with a groin injury.

Army has won three of its seven games, but those victories have come against FCS Morgan State and two FBS teams -- Louisiana Tech and Eastern Michigan -- with a combined record of 1-9. Its four losses -- to Ball State, Stanford, Wake Forest and Boston College -- have come by an average of 18.5 points.

History
Temple leads the all-time series 6-4, but has won the last five games -- three of those five have been by margins of 28 points or more.

In 2010, Owls running back Matt Brown set what was then a single-game program record with four touchdowns at Michie Stadium. And in the return trip to West Point in 2012, Montel Harris set new program and Big East records with 351 yards and seven touchdowns in a 63-32 Temple win. 

Flying the flag
Backup quarterback Connor Reilly carried the American flag as the Owls took the field the last two seasons. His father, Lt. Col. Neil Reilly, served with the Army in Afghanistan and flew the Temple flag over his battalion while deployed, carrying the flag with him on each mission.

Somebody has to win
Temple hasn't won a home game since it beat South Florida in the Big East conference opener Oct. 6 of last year. The Owls have dropped their last six in a row at Lincoln Financial Field.

Army, meanwhile, has never won at the Linc. Including Army-Navy games, the Black Knights are 0-10 since the stadium opened in 2004.

Counting Temple, Army and the Eagles, the home team is winless at the Linc in its last 15 tries.

Recommended reading
When’s the last time the home team won a football game at Lincoln Financial Field? [The700Level]

Jalen Brunson 'plays like a Philly guard' in helping No. 1 Villanova hold off La Salle

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USA Today Images

Jalen Brunson 'plays like a Philly guard' in helping No. 1 Villanova hold off La Salle

BOX SCORE

Normally before his team’s first game at the Palestra in a certain year, Jay Wright takes his players on a tour of the storied building.

The goal: To remind them of the history, the importance and the tradition. And also what happens here.

After Tuesday’s game against La Salle, Wright regretted not playing tour guide last week when the Wildcats played Penn.

Turns out he picked the right time to remind sophomore Jalen Brunson what the Palestra is all about and how things never typically go as planned once the ball is in the air.

Brunson, whose dad endured plenty of Big 5 battles while playing at Temple, poured in a career-high 26 points to help No. 1 Villanova fend off a feisty La Salle team, 89-79 (see Instant Replay).

With Kris Jenkins’ shot not falling, and with the Explorers making everything difficult for the Wildcats, Wright, on multiple occasions, had to go to his “ace in the hole.”

“You know, at any point when you need to get a bucket, he can go get one for you,” Wright said. “That’s kind of what we did tonight.”

Brunson scored 14 of his 26 in the second half. He shot 10 for 17 from the floor on the night, including 2 of 3 from deep, and made all four of his attempts from the free throw line.

“Coach always says [to] be aggressive,” Brunson said. “Be ready to catch and shoot, ready to make plays. I was just feeling it tonight. It’s a credit to my teammates for finding me.”

He found them, too.

With La Salle hanging close all game, Villanova used a crucial 9-0 run to finally get some separation. In that stretch, Brunson hit Donte DiVincenzo with a backdoor, alley-oop pass that gave Villanova a 48-42 lead.

Back-to-back three-pointers by Eric Paschall and Jenkins put Villanova ahead by 11, 53-42, with 12:03 to go.

The run came during a five-minute, 23-second La Salle FG drought.

But La Salle, after a 57.1 percent shooting performance had the Explorers down just four at the half, roared back late behind a career-high 27 points from Pookie Powell.

Powell’s layup with 1:55 left got La Salle within five, 75-70. But Brunson responded with a tough finish through traffic.

A three-pointer from La Salle’s Jordan Price made it 77-73 with 1:19 left.

But Villanova was able to connect on two lengthy inbounds passes, one to Mikal Bridges, who scored 16 points on the night, and one to Josh Hart (21 points), to lead to easy points down the other end. And Brunson hit free throws down the stretch to preserve the win.

“A couple breakdowns, a couple things didn’t bounce our way, some missed free throws, and of course [Villanova’s] effort is extraordinary,” La Salle coach John Giannini said. “We worked hard but they got a few more loose balls, a few more offensive rebounds and they just deserve credit for being relentless, the way they are all the time.”

The thought, however unlikely it seemed before tip-off, probably lingered in the minds of most inside the Palestra longer than they expected it to.

For long stretches of the game, La Salle had Villanova out of sorts. Wright credited that to La Salle’s talent. Some of it could also just be chalked up to another city series game at the Palestra — of which Villanova has now rattled off 17 consecutive wins.

“We’re not surprised at all,” Wright said. “I think we’re a little surprised we couldn’t guard them better. But we were not surprised at their effort, their talent. … They are as talented one-on-one offensively as we are. We have just played together longer.

“Some nights the other team has a little bit better plan. I think John had a little bit better plan for us than I did for them. Sometimes things just don’t go your way and you have to find a way to grind it out.

“Our veterans here, and I count Jalen as one because he’s an old soul, did a great job down the stretch.”

An old soul who perhaps still benefited from Wright’s tour.

“He plays like a Philly guard,” Wright said. “His dad, even though his dad’s from upstate New York, his dad’s a Philly guy. He knew everything. He’d seen it before.

“That’s valuable for us. It was valuable for us last year in our run, having a freshman that really didn’t think the game like a freshman or play like a freshman.”

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 89, La Salle 79

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USA Today Images

Instant Replay: No. 1 Villanova 89, La Salle 79

BOX SCORE

The thought, however unlikely it seemed before tip-off, probably lingered in the minds of most in the Palestra Tuesday night.

Newly-crowned No. 1 Villanova looked beatable in a “road” game against a cross-city opponent, La Salle.

A streak of 16 consecutive city series wins was on the line. And surely that No. 1 ranking would disappear next week with a loss.

But like many of the 16 previous games, Villanova finally wore down its opponent. At least enough to hold on for a win.

Behind a career-high 26 points from Jalen Brunson, 21 from Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges’ 16, Villanova earned an 89-79 win over an Explorers team that quite simply refused to go away.

La Salle, which trailed just 40-36 at halftime, got a career-high 27 from Pookie Powell, who made three three-pointers to keep the Explorers close.

Powell’s layup with 1:55 left got La Salle within five, 75-70. But Brunson responded with a tough finish through traffic.

A three-pointer from La Salle’s Jordan Price made it 77-73 with 1:19 left.

But Villanova was able to connect on two lengthy inbounds passes, one to Bridges and one to Hart, to lead to easy points down the other end to help preserve a win.

Turning point
In a game that needed one to determine a winner, Villanova used a 9-0 run (which started with the Wildcats up, 44-42) in less than 2½ minutes early in the second half to finally create some separation. Separation the Wildcats would need down the stretch.

In the middle of the run, Brunson hit Donte DiVincenzo with a backdoor, alley-oop pass that gave Villanova a 48-42 lead.

Back-to-back three-pointers by Eric Paschall and Kris Jenkins put Villanova ahead by 11, 53-42, with 12:03 to go and the Wildcats never looked back. Their lead never shrunk below four the rest of the night.

The run came during a five-minute, 23-second La Salle FG drought.

Inside the box score
• La Salle shot 57.1 percent (16 for 28) from the floor in the first half to keep the game close in what was one of Villanova’s worst defensive halfs of the young season.

• Villanova entered Tuesday’s game with 117 assists on 222 makes (53 percent) this year. In Tuesday’s first half, Villanova got just five assists on 16 makes from the floor. The Wildcats got their offensive rhythm going in the second half, recording 10 assists on 18 made baskets.

• Price (18.5 ppg entering Tuesday) was held to single digits (nine points) for just the fourth time over the last two seasons.

• Paschall tied a season high with seven rebounds. 

• Villanova won the turnover battle, 11-6, and shot 13 for 16 from the free throw line.

History
In the 66th meeting between the Philly schools, Villanova improved its record to 39-27 all-time against La Salle. 

Jay Wright now owns a 14-2 record against the Explorers.

In Palestra history: Villanova became the first No. 1 team to play at the Palestra since North Carolina defeated Penn, 106-71, Dec. 4, 2007.

Up next
Villanova has off until Saturday, when the Wildcats travel to Newark, New Jersey, to take on No. 23 Notre Dame at noon.

The Explorers play Saturday (2 p.m.) in Miami against Georgetown at the Hoophall Miami Invitational.