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: Rockets overcome Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat 114-84
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks 114-110
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

DETROIT -- Brandon Dubinsky scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Lukas Sedlak got his first NHL goal for the Blue Jackets, who have earned at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games. Cam Atkinson contributed a short-handed goal in the first period for Columbus.

Dylan Larkin's power-play goal in the second was the only scoring of the night for the Red Wings. Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 13.9 seconds remaining (see full story). 

Staal scores in 6th round of SO to lift Wild over Oilers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.

Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round (see full story). 

Raanta, Rangers beat Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime
CHICAGO -- Nick Holden scored 55 seconds into overtime, Antti Raanta made 26 saves against his former team and the New York Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 on Friday night.

Derek Stepan passed from the boards to a streaking Holden in the middle of the ice, and he beat Scott Darling on the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Darling was going for his second straight shutout while subbing for injured starter Corey Crawford but had to settle for another solid performance.

Raanta, who made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2013 and played for the Blackhawks for two seasons before he was traded to New York, improved to 15-0-3 in 20 career appearances at the United Center.

The 27-year-old Raanta had 17 saves in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Winnipeg, and coach Alain Vigneault opted to give him a second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist because of his recent play and his success in Chicago (see full story).

Oshie, Johansson, Grubauer lift Caps over Sabres 4-1
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson each scored a goal, Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Jakub Vrana and John Carlson also scored, helping Washington beat Buffalo for the third time in 15 days.

Kyle Okposo scored and Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of their last four.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:43 into the second period when he lifted a shot from the right edge of the crease past Lehner. Jay Beagle drew two defenders into the corner and sent the puck back to a wide open Oshie for his ninth goal of the season (see full story).