Contrary to Belief, Mayor's Cup a Plus for both Temple and City

Contrary to Belief, Mayor's Cup a Plus for both Temple and City

The third annual Mayor's Cup between the Temple Owls and Villanova Wildcats kicks off this evening at 7 p.m. from inside Lincoln Financial Field (ESPN 3/1210 AM).

Through two seasons, the series is split 1-1, with both contests delivering high drama and plenty of late-game heroics. With the play so evenly matched in the first two seasons, the Mayor's Cup has been quite often, and frankly unfairly, characterized as something of a lose-lose for Temple.

Stop us if you've heard this before.

Should the Temple Owls prove successful in beating the Villanova Wildcats, they stand to generate little but the following dismissal from those already skeptical of the program, "You beat a team you're supposed to be better than—congratulations." On the flip side, should the Owls lose a heartbreaker to a I-AA program, as they did following the game's first playing in 2009, Temple supporters are likely to hear more of that same, pithy remark they've been forced to endure for so long: "Same ol' Temple."

So, rather than retreading that "same ol' argument" (again), here's a look at why the Mayor's Cup is actually a boon for both Temple and the city.

First, this game captures a greater level of local media attention than either squad would ordinarily receive on their own against a different opponent. Specifically, it sparks an interest for two programs stuck in a region more generally concerned with the exploits of an institution who plays its home games roughly three-and-a-half hours away.

Though college football will more than likely never reach the level of college basketball in Philadelphia, there's no reason for it to be shut out altogether, and this game helps to pave those necessary in-roads in securing public appeal. Really, Temple and Villanova have taken the Big 5 blueprint and run with it, proving that local rivalries do matter and can generate interest in sports other than basketball.

As Temple has struggled to match the opening night attendance of the Mayor's Cup throughout their last two seasons, Villanova continues to question whether or not they can generate a large enough fan base to satisfy the Big East. Still, there's no doubt the two can draw in tandem.

If last year's figure of more than 32,000 in the seats is any indication, the game will more than likely prove—if we exclude the 9/17 Penn State game—Temple's largest gate of the year for a third straight season. While some may object to it from a strict football perspective (see the "lose-lose" sentiment above), it's hard to argue against the financial rewards motivating both schools.

Granted, attendance did receive a bump in 2010—up approximately 5,000 from the year before—when the university offered a discount to any fans who already held tickets to the Phillies game two hours later. Still, with more than 45,000 sports fans not at CBP tonight, this year's game could do even better than last's in attracting fans to the stadium.

And if you're still hung up on that whole "Temple is a no-win position" myth, then consider the following. The Temple Owls lost the 2009 Mayor's Cup and went on to play in their first bowl game in thirty years. After winning their match up versus 'Nova in 2010, the Owls were left out in the cold as one of only two eligible teams not to play in a year end bowl.

Here's the takeaway, the Mayor's Cup will not make or break Temple's season. The Owls are not in some inescapable hell hole of a season opener. And if you remain so jaded as to continue to bury the program as that "same ol' Temple," then a win or loss in this game isn't likely to sway your opinion anyway and you can feel free to continue enjoying your outdated and unnecessary cynicism.

The Temple Owls are an improved football team. The Villanova Wildcats have been one of the best FCS teams in the country the past few years and have aspirations of moving to the Big East.

This is a good game. This is a good rivalry. Stop worrying for two seconds about "what the Mayor's Cup really means," and start having some fun with it. You might even surprise yourself and have a good time watching college football in Philadelphia. Don't feel guilty. It'll be a good thing.

As Temple head coach Steve Addazio has repeated so often over the last week, geographic rivalries are what make college sports so special, and we'd be remiss to overlook something that meaningful in our own backyard.

Now, assuming we failed to get you interested, you will find below a video of coach Addazio from his Mayor's Cup press conference last week. If you can watch that man speak, and not become yourself excited, or at least develop an appreciation for the room in which he's standing (see the vid), then it's not altogether impossible you're in a coma. But before you hear from coach, here are some quick updates on the Temple Owls heading into this evening's game.

--Coach Steve Addazio announced on Monday that the decision as to who will start at quarterback—either Mike Girardi or Chris Coyer—will be announced immediately prior to game time. As of Monday afternoon, Gerardi was listed No. 1 on the depth chart.

--Temple University quarterback Chester Stewart and defensive back Kee-ayre Griffin have been suspended for week 1 after violating team rules. The specific nature of the infractions has not been released.

--Junior running back Ahkeem Smith will be starting Thursday night, but not where you'd expect. Smith, who was slated to struggle for touches behind runners Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown, has been moved to the WILL linebacker position and is, according to the Inqy's Keith Pompey, really enjoying his new role with the team.

--Finally, Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw announced today that the university has signed a multi-year agreement with 1210 AM WPHT for the broadcasting rights to Owls football and basketball games. Harry Donahue will be staying on for his 17th season as the play-by-play voice of both teams. Well alriiight.

--And now, Steve Addazio:

Source: Eagles CB Ron Brooks to have knee surgery

Source: Eagles CB Ron Brooks to have knee surgery

It sounds like the Eagles will be out without a member of their secondary for a while, perhaps the rest of the season.

A league source tells CSN's Derrick Gunn that Eagles cornerback Ron Brooks will require surgery to repair an injury to his right knee. The Philadelphia Daily News' Les Bowen is reporting the injury is a serious quadriceps rupture that will end Brooks's first season as an Eagle and put him on the shelf until next summer's training camp.

Brooks was carted off the field after attempting to make an open-field tackle during the first quarter of Sunday's 21-10 win over visiting Minnesota. Brooks stayed down on the field for several minutes before his leg was stabilized and he was placed on a cart.

Brooks, 28, is primarily the Eagles' slot corner, but he's also a standout on special teams. A free-agent who left Buffalo to sign a three-year deal with the Eagles this past offseason, Brooks has 12 total tackles and a pass deflection this season, the LSU grad's fifth in the league.

Malcolm Jenkins slid over to slot corner in Brooks' absence Sunday, which allowed Jaylen Watkins to come in and see more playing time.

If Brooks is placed on injured reserve, the Eagles will have an open roster spot, possibly for another corner.

Doug Pederson: Eagles rebound after getting 'lip bloodied a little bit'

Doug Pederson: Eagles rebound after getting 'lip bloodied a little bit'

They were great before the bye. They were bad since.

The Eagles rallied against the Lions only to lose late because of two turnovers. Then last week at Washington, they laid an egg.

But on Sunday, they looked like the pre-bye team — at least defensively — and handed the Vikings their first loss of the season.

"This is a team that for two weeks in a row has kind of got their lip bloodied a little bit," head coach Doug Pederson said after the 21-10 victory (see Instant Replay). "The Detroit game, obviously feeling sick about that one, and then last week in Washington not playing well and up to our potential.

"These guys are professionals. They know how to get themselves ready to go. I don't feel like I have to motivate them. ... They really took it upon themselves this week to really make the corrections, No. 1, from last week and the adjustments. The veterans, the leadership stood up today, took command of the game, and that's what you like to see from this group."

More from Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz:

The defense
If the Eagles were going to win this game, the defense would have to dominate.

It did (see story).

The Vikings finished with only 282 yards from scrimmage — or 52 more than the Redskins rushed for last week against the Eagles.

The Eagles held Minnesota to 93 yards rushing (3.4 per carry) and battered Sam Bradford, who was 24 for 41 for 224 yards with a pick and a garbage-time TD. They sacked him six times (they had zero last week) and forced him to fumble four times. Bradford entered the game without a turnover this season.

"I think the guys just put it in their mind to play better than last week," Pederson understated. "Our defensive line really came off the ball today, really took it upon themselves to just attack the line of scrimmage and play on their side.

Two of the Eagles' three takeaways occurred in the red zone and in the first quarter, when the game was scoreless. They picked off Bradford on 3rd-and-goal at the 6 and forced a fumble on 1st down at the 17.

"It's huge," Pederson said. "Our defense playing as well as they did down there and stopping them. ... It was fun to watch our defense today. That's the defense that we expect every week going forward."

Bring the heat
The Eagles blitzed more than they had all season (see story). 

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz prefers to let his front four bring the pressure, but it hadn't worked the last two weeks, and now they were facing Sam Bradford, who was familiar with the scheme.

"Anytime you know a quarterback on the other team and kind of know his strengths and weaknesses and things like that — just try to give him some different looks, put some pressure on him from different areas," Pederson said. "It was a great game plan. ... Sometimes just changing things up to help your guys be in position — we benefitted from that today, and guys did a nice job."

Going for two after a made PAT
Midway through the second quarter, Pederson took a point off the board and decided to go for two after the Vikings were penalized for hitting Caleb Sturgis on an extra point, which was successful.

Wentz made the conversion with a QB sneak.

"It was kind of a no-brainer, because you get the ball at the 1," Pederson said.

"I've got a lot of trust in our guys. If you don't work those situations in practice and talk about those situations, then yeah, negative things can happen. But I felt totally 100 percent confident in our guys to execute that play."

Another "no-brainer"
Pederson hasn't been afraid to go for it on fourth down — the Eagles entered the game 4 for 4 on fourth downs — and on Sunday he converted another.

On the aforementioned drive, the Eagles faced a 4th-and-2 at the Vikings' 44. After unsuccessfully trying to draw the Vikings offside, the Eagles called timeout ... and sent the offense back out to go for it.

"Sometimes at that point, they feel like you're going to rush the punt team out there and burn the timeout," Pederson said, "but I went with the offense. I just had total confidence that we were going to get the first down.

"It was a kind of, again, a no-brainer — almost like the two-point conversion."

The play was an run-pass option ... until Wentz dropped the snap. He then ran six yards for the first.

"Obviously when he dropped it, at that point, it was run all the way," Pederson said. "But great execution."

"One more shot"
With 15 seconds left in the first half, the Eagles had the ball at the Minnesota 17. 

Pederson sent out the field goal unit for a 35-yarder, but when the Vikings called timeout to ice Sturgis, it gave Pederson time to change his mind.

The offense came back onto the field. Wentz threw incomplete to Jordan Matthews in the end zone, and then Sturgis came back and hit the field goal.

"Take one more shot," Pederson said. "Max the protection. It's two-man route. It's either a completion or an incomplete pass."

Wentz said there was "a little indecisiveness on the sideline," but once the play was decided on ... 

"It was just a max protect throw to Jordan or throw it away," Wentz said. 'It was pretty plain and simple: Don't take a sack."

All's well that ends well
Wentz botched a handoff. He threw two ugly interceptions in the first quarter. 

OK, those things happen (see Wentz's overall evaluation).

But he also dropped three snaps. How?

"I'm not really sure," Wentz said. "I just have to catch the ball, for starters. Some of them were a little off, but those are the things that we have to clean up."

On one of the dropped snaps, he converted the 4th-and-2. On another, he recovered and found Darren Sproles for a 19-yard gain.

Now, about those interceptions. On the first, he overthrew a blanketed Brent Celek. On the second, he forced a throw to Nelson Agholor with too much purple around.

"That one was 3rd-and-12, and there's no need to force that one," Wentz said. "As a quarterback, sometimes that happens. There's really no rhyme or reason. You see things and you kick yourself in the tail after the play, but you learn from it and move on."

Picks aside, Wentz's numbers weren't pretty — 16 for 28 passing for 138 yards with a TD. Pederson said Wentz "might have been pressing a little bit early" but overall "played efficient."

"Love the way he settled in," Pederson said. "There was no panic for him and any of us on the sideline."

Big V
Wentz was sacked five times last week. On Sunday, he wasn't sacked at all.

The Eagles at times max-protected, but they also benefitted from the improved play of rookie right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who was in his second game in place of suspended Lane Johnson.

Pederson said he didn't help Vaitai as much as he did against Washington.

"I felt he kind of settled in this week, did a nice job," Pederson said. "The run game obviously helps. ... We were in some two tight-end sets a little more today, and that obviously helped him a little bit. We'll evaluate the film tomorrow, but I thought overall he did a nice job."