When Division I Temple hosted Division I-AA Villanova in the inaugural Mayor's Cup game last night at Lincoln Financial Field, more than bragging rights were at stake.
Both teams were out to legitimize their high hopes for the 2009 football season, and the visitors did so in fine fashion. Kicker Nick Yako nailed a 32-yard field goal as time ran out to give Villanova a 27-24 come-from-behind win in front of a crowd of 27,759.
Afterward, Mayor Nutter presented the trophy to the Wildcats.
"Every kicker dreams of getting that game-winning field goal," said Yako, a redshirt freshman. "It was reality tonight."
It was the season opener for both teams, and their 30th meeting overall in a series that began in 1908. 'Nova has a 16-12-2 advantage.
Temple quarterback Vaughn Charlton connected with wide receiver James Nixon on a 75-yard second-quarter touchdown pass that gave Temple a 10-0 lead at intermission. He also hit wide receiver Michael Campbell for a 44-yard score at the beginning of the fourth period that put the Owls up by 24-14.
But Charlton, a junior who redshirted last season, threw three interceptions as Temple committed five turnovers in the game.
"The bottom line is we turned the ball over five times," Temple coach Al Golden said. "That's where it begins and ends."
Villanova used a field goal and a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chris Whitney to wide receiver Brandyn Harvey to knot the score, 24-24, with 1 minute, 24 seconds to play.
The Wildcats, who played catch-up from the outset, were down by 10-7 after safety Ross Ventrone returned a Temple fumble 59 yards for six points early in the third quarter. And after the teams traded touchdowns, Temple took a 17-14 edge into the final period.
"Obviously, our game plan was about what you saw," Villanova coach Andy Talley said. "We hoped we could get Temple into the fourth quarter and keep it close."
Temple, coming off a 5-7 finish that gave the program its highest number of wins in 18 years, is beginning its fourth season under coach Al Golden with designs on claiming the Mid-American Conference East Division championship.
Villanova, a 10-3 team last fall, entered this season ranked in the top five in its division under 25th-year coach Andy Talley.
After Nutter and Philadelphia native son Bill Cosby (Temple Class of '61) shook hands with the team captains and took part in the pregame coin toss, the Owls won the flip and elected to give the Wildcats first possession.
Working out of a no-huddle offense with Whitney in the shotgun formation, 'Nova made a first down before punting the ball away.
With a first down at its 18, Temple also came out in a no-huddle offense, with Charlton setting up in shotgun as well as over center. He was picked off by defensive back James Pitts after the Owls gained a new set of downs on a pass-interference call on the Wildcats' Anthony Johnson.
The first scoring opportunity for either team came after Temple used a 16-yard run by backup quarterback Chester Stewart to move into 'Nova territory at the 42 as time ran out in the first quarter. But 'Nova took over again after Temple kicker Jake Brownell missed a 35-yard field-goal attempt with 29 seconds gone in the second period.
When the Owls got into position to go for three again two possessions later, Golden turned to freshman Brandon McManus, and the North Penn High School graduate was good on a 25-yarder to break the scoreless tie at the 4-minute, 39-second mark. The kick capped a nine-play, 54-yard drive.
And, with a little more than a minute to go, Charlton connected with Nixon for the bomb that ended the first-half scoring.