PHILADELPHIA - Jeff Whittingham couldn't have picked a much better time for his first career start.
Whittingham, a left guard from Atlantic City, helped the Temple University football team rush for 301 yards in a 41-10 win over Villanova on Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Atlantic City High School graduate went up against nose guard Antoine Lewis, a Mainland Regional alumnus, and two other Villanova defensive starters from the Cape-Atlantic League. And he got to play in front of 32,709, the third-largest crowd ever to watch a Temple game at the Linc.
"It felt great," said Whittingham, a junior. "The atmosphere was great. … It felt good against guys I played against when I was in high school."
The game was the fourth edition of the Mayor's Cup, a matchup of two of the Philadelphia area's NCAA Division I teams - Temple in the Football Bowl Subdivision and Villanova in the Football Championship Subdivision. It likely was their last matchup for a few years since Villanova, which won the first Mayor's Cup but lost the last three, already has booked other opponents for its next three season openers.
So Temple seized the opportunity to prove it was the city's best college football team.
Matt Brown ran for 146 yards and a touchdown for Temple. Kenny Harper added 51 rushing yards and a TD, and quarterback Chris Coyer ran for 86 yards and a score.
"We have two good backs in the backfield, and if I do my job, they can finish it and we can score some points like we did today," Whittingham said.
The Owls ran the ball 47 times and passed just 11.
"I wanted to establish that toughness," Temple coach Steve Addazio said.
Holy Spirit graduate Joe Sarnese finished with 7 tackles for Villanova, Lewis added 4 and Oakcrest alumnus Craig James had two.
"We had a bunch of stops," Villanova coach Andy Talley said. "We just couldn't get anything going offensively in terms of putting points together. But we had some stops on defense."
Villanova tried throughout the game to get the ball to star receiver Norman White, a preseason second-team All-American and St. Joseph graduate. But quarterbacks Chris Polony and John Robertson repeatedly missed the 6-foot-4 White.
"We have to work on our timing and our routes," said White, who finished with four catches for 33 yards.
Talley said Temple's rush forced his quarterbacks to throw early.
"It didn't give Norman the chance to get off of some pretty good coverage from the Temple kids," Talley said.
With Temple ahead 7-0 in the first quarter, Villanova had second-and-goal from the Owls' 3-yard line. But back-to-back Polony passes intended for White fell incomplete, and the Wildcats settled for a field goal.
Later in the quarter, Polony attempted a long pass to White but overthrew him, and safety Vaughn Carraway intercepted it and went 58 yards for a touchdown.
"I think Polony was flushed out of the pocket. He just overthrew me," White said. "But it happens. We will watch it on the film. Polony is a smart quarterback and he will learn from it and next time he is going to hit it."
The game was never close after that interception.
Two plays into the next Villanova drive, Carraway recovered a Kevin Monangai fumble to set up Temple Coyer's 19-yard touchdown run, making it 21-3.
Coyer finished 5-for-11 for 61 yards and a touchdown through the air.
"For night one, with a young team right out of the box, I felt that we got accomplished what we wanted to get accomplished," Addazio said.
Notes: Talley said he does not want to go with a two-quarterback system and will decide on a starter this week. … Receiver Dustin Thomas did not play for Villanova. The St. Augustine Prep graduate returned to practice Wednesday after missing two weeks with a concussion. … St. Augustine graduate Chris Gough handled kickoffs for the Wildcats. … Whittingham is the only local player on the Temple roster, while Villanova has nine. … Temple kicker Brandon McManus made two field goals, giving him a school-record 48 for his career. He broke the record of 46 set by Bill Wright in 1988.
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