Villanova uses fourth quarter comeback to defeat Temple 27-24 at the Linc

David Cassilo

Villanova took the opportunity to play Temple in the Mayor’s Cup hoping to get the Philadelphia spotlight on its football team. One furious fourth quarter comeback later, and that spotlight is officially on.

Leading 24-17 in the fourth quarter, Temple had possession at Villanova’s 30-yard line. The Wildcat defense then came up with what would be the first of two game-changing defensive plays in the game’s final minutes.

As Temple sophomore running back Kee-ayre Griffin took a handoff, Wildcat strong safety John Dempsey met him behind the line of scrimmage and knocked the ball loose with his helmet. Junior linebacker Marquis Kirkland pounced on the ball to give the Wildcats possession.

After recovering the fumble, Villanova started its drive at its own 27-yard line, down seven points with 5:49 remaining. Junior quarterback Chris Whitney then began to march the team down the field. Using first his legs and then his arm with a 15-yard pass to senior wide receiver Brandyn Harvey, Whitney was able to pick up two crucial third-down conversions.

Eventually, the Wildcats found themselves at the Owls’ six-yard line. On second-and goal, Whitney hit Harvey in the end zone on a slant pass over-the-middle to tie the game at 24.

On the drive, Whitney rushed for 23 yards and completed four of six passes for 40 yards.

Temple started their next possession with 1:14 remaining in the game. However, it did not take long for Villanova to make another big defensive play to get the ball back.

On the fourth play of that drive, Temple junior quarterback Vaughn Charlton received a bad snap, and when he picked up the ball to throw, it went directly into the chest of Dempsey. With an entire open field ahead of him, it appeared that Dempsey would score, but perhaps a bit overanxious, he tripped and fell to the ground.

Nevertheless, the Wildcats had the ball at the Temple 46-yard line in a tie game with 49 seconds left. Whitney then picked up where he left off on the previous drive, completing three straight passes, including an incredible sideline grab by Harvey in which he was barely able to keep his feet in bounds.

Villanova ran the clock down and turned to their redshirt freshman kicker Nick Yako to give them the victory.

Appearing in his first career game as a Wildcat, Yako stepped onto the field with a chance to give them a victory over an FBS opponent. Looking his like a veteran, Yako calmly connected on a 32-yard field goal as time expired to give the Wildcats the 27-24 victory.

The win was Villanova’s first over an FBS opponent since they last defeated Temple in 2003. Overall, the Wildcats are 3-11 against FBS teams.

While Villanova started slow, trailing 10-0 at halftime, it took an overall team effort to overcome the deficit.

Whitney set a career-high in completions and yards, finishing 24-for-35 for 278 yards and two touchdowns. The junior also ran the ball 17 times for 33 yards.

His counterpart on nine of those receptions for 142 yards was Harvey. Both statistics were career-highs for the senior wide receiver.

The offense, though, would not have even had a chance were it not for the timely play of its defense, which forced five turnovers in the game. Dempsey and senior safety Ross Ventrone both had two turnovers. Ventrone tallied one interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. The other turnover was an interception by sophomore cornerback James Pitts.

The five turnovers helped make up for a 99-yard deficit in total yards.

The Wildcats will now return home to begin their FCS schedule with a game against Lehigh next Saturday.