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 NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for his fifth of the game and the Washington Redskins avoid a near-disastrous 0-3 start with a 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins (1-2) handed new coach Ben McAdoo his first loss with the Giants (2-1).

Su'a Cravens ended the Giants' final drive with an interception in New York territory. It was Eli Manning's second pick of the quarter, with the other coming in the end zone by Quinton Dunbar after New York got to the Redskins 15 on a big play by Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a wild NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit (see full recap).

Prescott, Cowboys rout Bears on SNF
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox (see full recap).

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries --and keep finding ways to win football games.

Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.

The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.

"We have a great team -- the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."

Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."

The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason (see full recap).

Bills bounce back with win over Cardinals
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- LeSean McCoy scored twice and safety Aaron Williams returned a botched field-goal snap 53 yards for a touchdown in leading the Buffalo Bills to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 20-yard run at a time the Rex Ryan-coached Bills spent the past week taking the brunt of criticism after opening the season 0-2.

The win also came on the heels of Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

McCoy scored on 24- and 5-yard runs, and finished with 110 yards rushing after combining for just 117 in his first two games. Taylor had 76 yards rushing, including a 49-yarder, the longest by a quarterback in team history (see full recap).

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Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”