Temple favored in final Mayor's Cup game vs. injury-ridden Villanova

Temple tailback Montel Harris (8) and teammates pay attention to head coach Steve Addazio. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Temple tailback Montel Harris (8) and teammates pay attention to head coach Steve Addazio. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Posted: September 01, 2012

Temple and Villanova first played each other in 1908.

After an on-again, off-again series, the schools recently forged a rivalry that ranked among the area's best.

It will come to an end Friday night when the Owls and Wildcats will hit the turf at Lincoln Financial Field, play for the Mayor's Cup, and then call it quits - at least for the foreseeable future.

The Owls will play the likes of Notre Dame and Navy the next two seasons, and the Wildcats will play Football Bowl Subdivision teams such as Pittsburgh and Syracuse during that time.

Perhaps for Temple, beginning its second go-round in the Big East, this is for the best. Losing to a Football Championship Subdivision team in their own backyard wouldn't be a good look for a FBS program seemingly on the rise.

Just don't tell that to Steve Addazio. The Owls' second-year coach wants the series to resume.

"I love to play Villanova," he said. "I think it's good for Philadelphia. In college football, you love regional and geographical rivalries. And for us to be able to play a nonconference game right here, right in the city, is a real positive."

In terms of victories, it has been very positive for the Owls. When the rivalry renewed in 2009, it was dubbed the Mayor's Cup, and the teams played for possession of the Mayor's Cup trophy.

The inaugural game ended with Nick Yako kicking a 32-yard field goal as time expired to give Villanova a 27-24 victory. Temple won the last two meetings, with last season's ending in a 42-7 rout.

Despite returning just nine starters, the Owls are expected to post a similar outcome.

"It's just one of those years where the injury bug has been all over us," Villanova coach Andy Talley said. "We lost Dorian Wells and Kenny Miles, our starting receivers. They both have a Jones fracture in their foot and are out for eight weeks."

Dan Shirey, the Wildcats' all-Colonial Athletic Association center, will also miss the game after tearing an Achilles tendon in the spring. And sophomore wideout/running back Jamal Abdur-Rahman was suspended for the season. According to reports, he was being disciplined by 'Nova for his part in an off-campus incident in March.

Norman White, a preseason FCS all-American wideout, does return after missing last season with an Achilles injury.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound fifth-year senior has a size advantage over Temple cornerbacks Anthony Robey (5-10, 180) and Zamel Johnson (6-0, 170). He could become a matchup nightmare in the red zone.

However, the Wildcats must contend with the Owls' running game and defensive line. Preseason all-Big East nose tackle Levi Brown could present problems for Ross Hall, Shirey's replacement at center.

Meanwhile, Temple's Montel Harris and Matt Brown are being mentioned among some of the nation's top tailback tandems.

"I've heard it all, now. 'We have to win by this many.' Come on," Addazio said of a predicted outcome. "Let's go win the game. Let's win the game, play really hard, really physical, set the demeanor of who Temple is, and we'll correct and move forward. We will polish, and we will grow."

Villanova at Temple

Friday at 7 p.m.; Lincoln Financial Field

TV/Radio: ESPN3; WIP-AM (610), WPEN-AM (950)

Coaches: Villanova, Andy Talley (28th season, 190-116-1); Temple, Steve Addazio (second season, 9-4).

Series: Villanova leads, 16-14-2, having last won, 27-24, in 2009 at the Linc. The Owls won last season, 42-7.

Four Things To Watch

Temple transfer running back Montel Harris said he's over the knee injury that hampered him at Boston College. Philadelphia-area fans will find out for themselves.

The Owls are expected to have a more wide-open offense this season. Will they show that against Villanova or opt to keep things simple in what is expected to be an easy victory?

Villanova returns four of five offensive line starters. Sophomore center Ross Hall, who is replacing the injured Dan Shirey, is the newcomer. Hall will have his hands full trying to block preseason all-Big East nose tackle Levi Brown.

How will Villanova receiver Norman White look after missing the 2011 season with an Achilles tendon injury? White is a second-team FCS preseason all-American.

Four Things You Might Not Know

Temple placekicker Brandon McManus is tied with former Owls tailback Bernard Pierce for second place (264 points) on the Owls' career scoring list.

Villanova first-year defensive backs coach Tony Trisciani coached Wildcats quarterback Chris Polony at Whitehall High School near Allentown.

Temple redshirt junior quarterback Chris Coyer's twin sisters, Caroline and Katherine, are freshmen on the Villanova women's basketball team.

The Wildcats have a 3-13 record against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents since they restored the program as a Football Championship Subdivision member in 1985. Two of those victories are against the Owls.

- Keith Pompey

Contact Keith Pompey at 215-854-2939 or kpompey@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @pompeysgridlock. Read his blog, "Owls Inq," at www.philly.com/owlsinq

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