Temple Starts Strong, Claims Second Straight Mayor's Cup Victory

Temple Starts Strong, Claims Second Straight Mayor's Cup Victory

After two years of last-second, nail biting, hysterics at the Mayor's Cup, the 2011 Temple Owls opted to make the game far less stressful for everyone involved, rolling the Villanova Wildcats by a final score of 42-7.

Struggling to fill the voids left by a plethora of 2010 graduates, the young Wildcats failed to give the Owls the same challenge as their 2009-2010 predecessors.

Though many of the Villanova underclassmen displayed talent, nearly every opportunity for optimism was immediately squashed by an untimely penalty or turnover. It was a long night that grew only longer for coach Andy Talley and company, as the Wildcats continually forfeited the ball to a Temple offense they couldn't stop.

Named immediately prior to kick off as the Temple starter, quarterback Mike Gerardi looked sharp early, going 3 for 3 for 55-yards on the Owls opening drive. He would connect with Deon Miller on 35-yard crossing pattern to put Temple ahead by a score of 7-0 mid-way through the first quarter.

And while the it's true that Gerardi and the quarterbacks were the main story leading into Thursday night's contest, it was ultimately running back Bernard Pierce who would, in his typical fashion, become the absolute center of attention.

Following Gerardi's strike to Miller, Pierce dominated the remainder of the half, rushing for 116-yards and 2 TDs in the opening thirty. His first score came on a 19-yard run through the line during which he went nearly untouched into the end zone. He ran similarly unobstructed on his second TD, a 22-yard stretch to the right that would put the Owls ahead 21-0 at the  middle mark.

Then finding just enough room down the sideline to score his third touchdown of the contest, Pierce would earn an early end to his night. In just three quarters of work, Bernard would finish with 147-yards on 20 attempts, a performance good enough to move the junior into fourth all-time amongst Temple's career rushing leaders, just ahead of Henry Hynoski's 1972-1974 total of 2,089 yards.

As for the rest of the offense—specifically the man under center—junior Mike Gerardi looked plenty impressive for a guy who had previously been caught in a three-way quarterback competition.

In spite of the two drops for which he was clearly not at fault, Gerardi completed 14-20 attempts for 235-yards passing and 2 TDs. The second touchdown, a 47-yard lob to a streaking Rod Streater, was an especially noticeable show of both confidence and ability.

When asked what ultimately separated the Gerardi from sophomore Chris Coyer in the days leading up to the game, head coach Steve Addazio spoke of the quarterback's "growing leadership in the huddle," a leadership certainly aided by his experience as a starter at the end of 2010.

And it was exactly that brand of the leadership Villanova so sorely missed against the Owls.

Over on the opposite sideline, leading the huddle for the Wildcats, QB Dustin Thomas took some tough lumps Thursday night. Facing Temple's talented pass rush behind an inexperienced offensive line, Thomas spent a good deal of the evening on the run, resulting in three thrown picks and forced fumble.

Still, the redshirt freshman would continue to battle throughout the game, finally finding the end zone on a short-yardage scramble with eight minutes left to play. It would prove Villanova's first and only touchdown of the evening.

One quick injury note for the Wildcats, wide out Norman White will be forced to sit out the entirety 2011 season due to a lisfranc injury of his left foot. White will receive a medical redshirt and is expected to return in 2012 to complete his eligibility as a fifth-year senior. 

Finally, before wrapping up, it would be regrettable not to discuss the attendance figures. The announced crowd of 32,638 just edges last year's total of 32,193 as the second largest crowd to ever attend a Temple football game at Lincoln Financial Field. In just another two weeks, we can guarantee Thursday night's crowd will drop to third in the record books.

Either way, the game's atmosphere should be considered a success for the state of college football in Philadelphia. As coach current head coach and former SEC coordinator Steve Addazio said to begin his post-game press conference, "Major college football culture is here in Philadelphia…[Tonight] was a great for Philadelphia and a great night for Temple."

But, hey, even we could have told you that.

Up next for the two programs, Temple will be back in action next Saturday when they travel to Ohio to take on the Akron Zips; Villanova will also be on the road, heading south to battle Towson. The games are scheduled for 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, with the Temple-Akron match up available for viewing on ESPN 3.

In the meantime, keep on the look out for some additional Penn State coverage in the coming days. The Nittany Lions open their season versus Indiana State this Saturday at 12 p.m. As of this writing, PSU has not yet named a starting quarterback. We'll keep you posted.

College football is back. Start chanting.

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).