The fear of having a Division I team play a Division II school has always been the little guys can only stand up for so long before simply wearing down against the bigger, deeper opposition.
But when it’s come to Temple and Villanova that fear had been groundless, with both games in the battle for the Mayor’s Cup literally coming down to last second field goals.
Until now. Back at the Linc last night, the third time was hardly a charm for Andy Talley’s rebuilding Wildcats, as new coach Steve Addazio’s Owls dominated from the start and unlike previous times never let up enroute to a 42-7 romp.
``This first game is all about coming out hard,’’ said Addazio, whose club crossed the end zone four of the first five times it had the ball to win going away. ``This a new program and we came out of the blocks and showed what we can do.’’
No one more so than Jr. running back Bernard Pierce, who ran like a man possessed, rumbling for 147 yards on 20 carries, including touchdown runs of 19, 22 and 20 yards. This time a year ago Pierce was unfairly lugging around the label of Heisman Trophy candidate, after rushing for 1361 yards and 16 touchdowns as a freshman.
An array of injuries ruined any chance of him living up to the hype. But against Villanova Pierce looked like his old self. ``He’s as talented as any of the backs I’ve seen,’’ said Addazio, who spent the last two years as Florida’s offensive coordinator in the rugged SEC. ``He’s got size, speed and a `make you miss’ ability.’’
Talley noticed. ``That running back is a load and this as good a Temple team as we’ve seen in three years,’’ said Talley, whose young Wildcats—featuring 17 first time starters-- shot themselves in the foot with four turnovers. ``We played a team capable of winning the MAC championship.
``We never really challenged them in the game or put enough pressure on them to test their mettle. ‘’
Once Mike Gerardi, given the starting nod just the other day at quarterback, found Deon Miller over the middle with a 35-yard scoring strike on Temple’s first possession, the rout was on. Pierce took over from there, mixed with a perfectly thrown 47 yard bomb from Gerardi to Rod Streater, as Temple bolted to a 42-0 cushion. before Dustin Thomas’ four yard keeper with 7:57 left foiled the Owls’ shutout bid and put ‘Nova on the board.
``We executed really well on both sides of the ball,’’ said Gerardi, who wound up 14-for-20 for 235 yards and those two scores. Meanwhile backup Chris Coyer later came in and raced 68 yards untouched up the middle on the kind of play Tim Tebow used to run for Addazio at Florida. ``The defense forced some turnovers and got us great field position.
``Villanova’s a great team who’s played us tough. We respect them. So we had to be ready to play.’’
A glimpse at the scoreboard says it all. This time the little guys were no match for the big boys from the big school.
Time will tell if down the road in the Mayor’s Cup that becomes the rule or the exception