The final margin was established when Temple defensive back Justin Gildea ran 26 yards with a fumble for a touchdown with no time remaining. After McManus' last three-pointer gave the Owls a 25-24 edge, Villanova took the kickoff and tried to keep the game alive with a series of laterals before losing control of the ball.
Last year, 'Nova took the trophy home after securing a 27-24 victory with a last-second field goal. The rematch drew a crowd of 32,193.
"I thought Brandon would hit it," Temple coach Al Golden said about the game-winner. "You've got to believe in the guys, and then you have to let the guys win the game."
Villanova, which had a 14-10 edge at halftime, was up by 21-13 with 14 minutes, 47 seconds to go. Temple went ahead, 22-21, before the Wildcats' Nick Yako kicked a 41-yard field goal with 1:51 showing on the clock. Yako's kick, which put his team ahead, 24-22, came after Temple quarterback Chester Stewart fumbled a snap at his own 24-yard line.
Villanova, which won the Football Championship Subdivision national title last year in a 14-1 season, is the preseason favorite to do it again and also was designated as the team to beat in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Temple was coming off a 9-4 finish that gave the program its first winning season since 1990 and is the favorite in the Mid-American Conference. The Owls tied for first place in the East Division last fall and then lost to UCLA in the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, where Temple played in a postseason event for the first time since 1979.
Yako, who booted the game-winner against Temple last fall, missed on a 38-yard field goal on Villanova's first possession. A 43-yard return of the opening kickoff by the Wildcats' Matt Szczur had set up 'Nova at its own 48.
Szczur nearly went all the way, but he stepped out of bounds while being pursued up the right sideline.
When the Temple offense took over, it was 5-foot-5, 170-pound Matt Brown who lined up behind Stewart. Brown got the nod over Bernard Pierce, the team's leading rusher last season who missed valuable practice time after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the team's preseason camp.
Pierce, who is under consideration for a few of the postseason awards that go to the nation's top running back, made his first appearance against 'Nova on a third-down play during the Owls' first series. But it was Brown who scored the first points of the game when he later took a pitchout from Stewart on an option play that appeared to be snuffed out - until the quarterback got rid of the ball at the last second.
Brown reversed field and raced 17 yards, diving at the pylon in the right corner of the end zone. Temple led, 7-0, with 1:18 remaining in the first period.
Villanova knotted the score, 7-7, in the second quarter when quarterback Chris Whitney hit Szczur with a 3-yard scoring pass. A 9-yard run by running back Aaron Ball put the Wildcats ahead, 14-7, with 3:37 to in the half, and McManus ended the pre-intermission scoring with 15 seconds left with his personal-best kick.
Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at 215-854-2583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.