New-look Temple tops Villanova, 42-7

September 1, 2011 8:26:29 PM PDT
Bernard Pierce has the Steve Addazio era off to a running start.

Pierce dominated on the ground and made Addazio a winner in his Temple coaching debut, rushing for 147 yards and three touchdowns in the Owls' 42-7 win over Villanova on Thursday night.

The Owls won the Mayor's Cup - presented by mayor Michael Nutter to the winner of this city series - in front of 32,638 fans at Lincoln Financial Field.

Addazio inherited a Temple program in solid shape after former coach Al Golden left for Miami. Golden took the Owls from a winless season to a bowl game, and posted consecutive winning seasons.

"I told the team in there, I had to apologize, I was like a lunatic out there," Addazio said. "I had to set the stage for how I want to play."

Earlier this month, Addazio, who spent the last six seasons at Florida, boldly proclaimed Temple could become the Boise State of the east. For now, the Owls can stake a claim as the best in Philadelphia.

Pierce looked set to put a disappointing sophomore season behind him against the FCS Wildcats. His touchdown runs of 19 and 22 yards in the first half helped stretch the lead to 21-0 and the Owls never looked back.

"He's as talented as any of the backs I've seen in the conferences I've been in," Addazio said. "He is absolutely one of the top running backs in the country, no question."

Former Temple football player Bill Cosby called the press box in the fourth quarter asking for the score.

Temple led ... in a laugher.

The Wildcats, the FCS national champions two years ago, learned before the game they would be without senior wide receiver and co-captain Norman White for the rest of the season with a foot injury. He had 69 catches for 886 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He will redshirt this year and return for a fifth year in 2012.

Hard to imagine he would have made much of a difference. The Owls, who were long on the other end of these types of blowouts, had the game in control from the first quarter on.

Years of futility had eroded Temple's fan base until Golden revitalized the program. And the energy has spilled over. Temple fans tailgated outside the home of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, hours before the 7 p.m. kickoff. And Temple students, who had developed an apathetic reputation, helped fill the lower bowl and hung a "This Is Our City" banner in the stands.

Pierce and Mike Gerardi, who won the open quarterback battle, gave them plenty of reasons to cheer. The crowd was the second-largest to watch a Temple home game at the Linc.

Addazio was under fire at Florida most of last season, taking the blame for an offense that sputtered in just about every game. But with Pierce bursting through every open hole, the Owls and Addazio's aggressive offense looked in midseason form.

"It looks like they're capable of winning the MAC championship," Villanova coach Andy Talley said.

Temple scored twice off Villanova turnovers turning the city's biggest football rivalry into a lopsided one. Temple safety Justin Gildea's interception in the end zone led to its first score, a 35-yard pass from Gerardi to Deon Miller.

The Owls recovered a fumble in the second quarter and needed only five plays to go up 14-0 on Pierce's 19-yard run. Pierce had 1,361 yards rushing and 16 scores as a freshman before injuries derailed him last season and limited him to 728 yards. He wasn't even touched on his run up the middle for his first score vs. the Wildcats, then busted loose for a 22-yard score and a 21-0 Owls' lead.

Pierce ran for 116 yards in the first half. He capped his third career three-touchdown game with a 20-yard score in the third for a 35-0 lead.

"He realizes that he's the guy now," Gerardi said. "He has a lot of things to live up to. He does it with his play. That's the way he shows it."

Pierce was ill after the game and declined to talk to the media. Gerardi earned the No. 1 job in camp and certainly did enough to keep it with this performance. He threw for 235 yards, and tossed a 47-yard scoring pass to Rod Streater in the third to make it 28-0.

The Owls will need more outings like this to survive an early-season, three-game stretch of Penn State, Maryland and Toledo.

Chris Coyer, who replaced Gerardi in the second half, added a 68-yard run for a 42-0 lead.

The Owls pressured Villanova's Dustin Thomas into throwing three interceptions and only 109 passing yards. He scored on a 4-yard run late in the fourth to help the Wildcats dodge the shutout.


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