James kicks ‘Cats past Owls in double overtime

James Evans

Two teams, one city, a brand new arena and a finish no one could have predicted.

Such was the story of the Wildcat’s 23-20 double overtime victory over the Temple last Saturday at the new Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Once again, sophomore quarterback Joe Casamento led the ‘Cats’ charge, completing 28 of 37 passes for 347 yards, including two touchdowns. Casamento’s efforts again won him Atlantic 10 offensive player of the week honors.

On the other-side of the ball the ‘Cats continued to play tight defense. Led by Brian Hulea, who had 15 tackles and recovered a fumble, and Allyn Bacchus, who had 11 and was selected as A-10 rookie of the week, the defense was able to hold the Division I Owls to only six points in the second half.

‘Nova’s special teams also continued to excel, especially kicker Adam James. James, who was criticized last year for missing clutch kicks – he went 11 for 19 last year – quieted the critics by hitting all three of his kicks, including the 37-yard game winner. James received the A-10 special teams player of the week for his efforts.

Out of the gate, the ‘Cats showed no letdown from the previous game, as Casamento completed 6 of 7 passes for 61 yards. But the Owls were able to halt the ‘Cats’ rush on the 25-yard line.

After the two swapped possessions, Temple drove the field and running back Makonne Fenton pounded it home from the one-yard line to put Temple on the board with 46 seconds left in the first quarter. For the rest of the half the ‘Cats and Owls traded possession, but neither scored.

The second half started off with a bang, as the ‘Cats played tough defense and on a 3rd and 16, the Owls’ Mike McGann was hit and fumbled the football, giving ‘Nova excellent field position at the Temple’s 23-yard line. Casamento capitalized on it, completing a pass to Terry Butler for 21 yards and then a two-yard touchdown pass to Phil DiGiacomo. James came on to add the extra point and the ‘Cats pulled even at seven.

Temple came right back, as the Owls drove the field and kicker Jared Davis came through with a 42-yard field goal to put them back ahead 10-7.

‘Nova was stopped on its next possession, when it was stopped at the goal line on a fourth down play from the one-yard line.

The ‘Cats charged “because I think when you’re playing a team that’s bigger and faster and stronger, you have to play on the edge of the envelope, and that’s the way I wanted to play,” head coach Andy Talley said.

“I don’t think your going to beat a I-A team and be conservative. We played flat out on the edge and that’s what you have to do.”

After going for it on fourth down Temple turned the ball over and ‘Nova struck, once again leaving the ‘Cats with a decision to make on the goal line. Talley elected to attempt a field goal instead of trying for the touchdown again. James connected on his first attempt of the night, tying the game at 10.

After a Temple drive that ended in a failed 50-yard field goal attempt, the ‘Cats were able to capitalize, driving 53 yards and adding another James field goal to take the lead, 13-10.

During the rest of regulation, the ‘Cats’ defense and running back Clarence Curry were the only things preventing a ‘Nova loss.

On 3rd and goal from the 20 and with less than 20 seconds to go, McGann lofted a pass for the corner of the end zone. Temple wide receiver Zamir Cobb was left wide open after a defensive miscue. What looked to be a sure touchdown was broken up by Curry, as he turned on the afterburners and swatted the ball away. Temple had to settle for the field goal and sent the game into overtime.

“I closed and tried to get a collision on Cobb, but he just swam over me and I saw that our safety didn’t get off the hash,” Curry said. “So all I did was run and try to get under the ball, and McGann threw it high and gave me an opportunity to just get my hand on it.”

In the first overtime, Temple had won the toss and chose to play defense first. ‘Nova’s only scare came on the second play of the first overtime, as Casamento completed a pass to Noble Champen, who then fumbled but quickly pounced on the lost football. After the scare, ‘Nova settled down and on 3rd and goal Casamento sent Champen on a fade to the end zone and Champen went up and got the ball for the go-ahead touchdown.

“Temple was doing a great job and we knew Noble [Champen] could get up there and catch the fade ball,” Casamento said. “So I just wanted to throw it up there and give him a chance, and he made a great play on the ball.”

Temple wasted no time on its first possession, as McGann connected with Cobb for a 25-yard touchdown pass that sent the game to double overtime.

In the second overtime, Temple received first. But after a false start penalty that pushed them back to the 30-yard line and three incomplete passes, it was looking at a 47-yard field goal. The kick came up five yards short, and the ‘Cats’ offense took the field.

‘Nova, however, once again provided fans with a scare, as Casamento fumbled the ball on the second play and the ‘Cats were looking at a 3rd and 16 from the 31-yard line. Casamento connected with Outlaw for an 11-yard gain and set up James’ game winning field goal.