Temple, Villanova, doing things the right way

Posted: September 02, 2011

HERE IS the problem with Temple-Villanova: No poisoned trees. No quarterbacks for sale. No Ponzi-scheming boosters tossing parties on yachts. No sanctimonious, vest-wearing coaches. No academic fraud.

Really, the third Mayor's Cup could not be college football 2011. Even the mayor hasn't been indicted or even implicated.

This was simply a football game at the Linc between schools playing for the 32nd time, teams in different divisions, players there mostly for the love of the game, coaches in it for the right reasons.

The result was not entirely unexpected. Temple, playing its first game under coach Steve Addazio, was the veteran team, the I-A team with the bigger, faster and more experienced athletes.

Villanova, starting its 27th season under Andy Talley, sent out five true freshmen to start. Ten played in the first half. Once their terrific wideout Norman White was declared out for the season, the 'Cats sent out a group that scored just 10 touchdowns last year. No all-everything Matt Szczur. No quarterback Chris Whitney. No NFL-caliber offensive linemen like Ben Ijalana.

This was not like the first two Mayor's Cup games, which went down to the final plays, Villanova's eventual 2009 national champions winning the first and Temple winning last year. This was over long before it was over, the Owls scoring the game's first 42 points and winning, 42-7.

Owls tailback Bernard Pierce had 116 yards rushing by halftime. The first hit rarely slowed him down. The second hit often did not bring down. He was not running downhill. It just seemed that way. When he cleared the line of scrimmage on his three TD runs, he seemed to arrive in the end zone as if he had been beamed there.

Villanova was prepared well enough that it sustained drives the first few times it had the ball, but young players fumble. They throw picks. They move the ball. They just don't score.

"It's never good to play a 1-A when you're recycling," Talley said.

It doesn't help when you have four turnovers and force none.

Talley called it a "cascade," which sounded about right.

Villanova redshirt freshman quarterback Dustin Thomas had his moments, made some very nice plays. Unfortunately, his final numbers won't reflect the early success. The Linc is a tough spot for your first college start. Thomas will find the next two games at Towson and home with Monmouth quite a bit more agreeable.

After all the "who's going to start at quarterback" discussion, the same guy was under center for the Owls to start this year that ended last year - Mike Gerardi. In 2010, he really helped stabilize the position when he became the starter at midseason. Last night, Gerardi was accurate, efficient and managed the game like someone who is ready to seize the spot.

"He had confidence," Addazio said. "He handled everything well."

Temple should win at Akron next week. Then, Penn State, which Temple has not beaten since Pearl Harbor, arrives in South Philly. The Temple program has come miles in the last few years. One of these decades, they really need to beat Penn State. The Owls can win MAC games, beat Navy, Army and Connecticut. They want to get even more respect, they have to beat Penn State.

"Temple played almost a picture-perfect game," Talley said.

Counting last night's 32,638, a total of 92,590 have witnessed the three Cups. No word on how many fans were able to see the entire games. Again, the lines to get in were quite a bit longer than seemed necessary or reasonable. Where is E-ZPass when you need it?

This wasn't much of a game, but it was a game, not a passion play where winning means so much that ethics get conveniently misplaced.

"It's great to be at an institution, which despite all the noise going around and all the things happening in the country, that's determined to do it the right way," Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw said. "A famous philosopher said [about] somebody who can keep their poise despite all the madness around them and I think that's what Temple has done."

Same deal at Villanova.

"It's competitive [at our level], but the financial implications aren't there," Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro said. "Maybe in a lot of ways, the winning and losing, people don't compromise because it's not as important because the financial piece isn't there.

"In our league, you've got very highly competitive schools on the field, done a great job academically. The culture is a little bit different at our level.

"Sometimes, you just follow the money. If there's a tendency that winning and losing in recruiting, that there's a lot of money attached to it then people may tend to compromise."

Which was a nice way of saying some schools will do whatever it takes to win. Which is why so many power-conference teams either pretend not to understand much about the NCAA rulebook or just don't care. When there is so much paper at the end of the BCS rainbow, all but the most scrupulous find it quite hard to resist the temptation.

That is not an issue for Temple or Villanova. These two schools just play football. They still keep score. It still matters. It just doesn't matter so much that winning trumps perspective.

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