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Villanova beats Temple to start college football season in upset fashion

A fourth down 30-yard touchdown pass with 7:17 left was the game winner for the Wildcats.

Villanova wide receiver Jevon Jones shoves away Temple cornerback Rock Ya-Sin during the fourth-quarter on Saturday, September 1, 2018.
Villanova wide receiver Jevon Jones shoves away Temple cornerback Rock Ya-Sin during the fourth-quarter on Saturday, September 1, 2018.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

All week long, Villanova coach Mark Ferrante said he wasn't just looking to make a good show. He and the Wildcats were out to win against Temple.

Then Villanova backed it up with a sterling performance.

A scrambling Zach Bednarczyk hit Jarrett McClenton with a 30-yard scoring pass on fourth down with 7 minutes, 17 seconds left to  provide the final points and the winning margin in a 19-17 win over Temple on Saturday before 32,357 at Lincoln Financial Field. It was the opening game for both teams.

After barely falling short, 16-13, in last year's matchup, Villanova was able to finish the deal this time.

"I am super-excited and can't tell you how much this means to our program," Ferrante said.

Villanova, a perennial Football Championship Subdivision power, won its first game over a Football Bowl Subdivision team since beating Temple, 27-24, during the 2009 season opener. Villanova went on to win the FCS championship that season.

Setting aside the loss, Temple was in a somber mood after the game when the team was told that a member of the football family was seriously ill. A team spokesman didn't identify the person but said it wasn't a player or coach. Owls coach Geoff Collins didn't go into detail, but was visibly upset.

"Please just keep everybody in our organization in your prayers," Collins said.

Bednarczyk completed 29 of 40 for 254 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Most of all, he continually made clutch plays. Villanova was 8 of 16 on third-down conversions and 3-for-3 on fourth down.

His counterpart, Frank Nutile, struggled in his first opening-day start. Nutile completed 18 of 32 for 185 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.

"Between missing all those throws and throwing two picks, I put our team in a bad position to win the game, and that is the reason why we lost," Nutile said.

Actually there were plenty of other reasons. Villanova's unsung heroes included the offensive line – tackles Brandon Hitner and Ethan Greenidge, center Paul Grattan and guards Louie Csaszar and MJ Dumas, who continually pushed Temple around.

Tight end Ryan Bell made several key plays for the Wildcats, finishing with nine receptions for 81 yards and a score.

After averaging 0.7 yards per carry in last year's loss, Villanova rushed for 151 yards (4.1 average) Senior Aaron Forbes rushed for 111 yards on 16 carries. Temple averaged just 2.1 yards on 22 carries.

The Owls took their first lead of the game when Nutile found Isaiah Wright for a 15-yard scoring pass, giving Temple a 17-13 advantage with 5:45 left in the third quarter.

Sam Franklin's interception and 15-yard return on the next series gave the Owls the ball on their 30. Temple drove deep into Villanova territory but Aaron Boumerhi, who earlier made a 46-yard field goal, missed a 29-yard attempt.

Villanova then responded for the game-winner when, on a fourth-and-9 play, Bednarczyk rolled out and hit a leaping Jarrett McClenton around the 13-yard line and the senior from Archbishop Wood strolled into the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown.

Quincy Roche blocked the extra point, keeping Villanova's lead at 19-17 with 7:17 left.

On the next series, Villanova linebacker Jeff Steeb of Holy Spirit High intercepted a pass thrown behind Jadan Blue at the Villanova 32-yard line.

Temple had one final chance, getting the ball on its 8-yard line with 1:18 left and one timeout, but Villanova's Elijah Trent ended the Owls' hopes with a leaping interception on first down.

Villanova scored on its first two possessions, taking a 13-3 lead on touchdown receptions by Bell of one yard and Brandon Chadbourn of 17 yards.

[GALLERY: Temple falls to Villanova in season opener]

Late in the first quarter, Villanova junior strong safety Julian Williams was ejected for targeting, a loss the Wildcats were able to withstand.

Temple lost defensive end Dana Levine for the game late in the first half with an undisclosed injury.

A key momentum changer came when Roche blocked a 31-yard field goal and Kimere Brown dashed 74 yards for the touchdown, cutting Villanova's lead to 13-10 with 7:47 left in the first half.

It was the 19th blocked kick since 2014, the most by any FBS school in the last five years.

Despite having a field goal and PAT blocked and losing an earlier 10-point lead, Villanova had enough on this warm afternoon.

"I remember here last year and there was such a sour taste in my mouth," Steeb said. "…It was a great team win and I am happy to be part of Villanova football for my fifth year."