Temple has learned how to win

Gallery Image 186331 - Cortes
Temple's Brandon McManus celebrates his winning field goal with Matt Balasavage, number 89. (Ron Cortes / Staff Photographer)

Once all the frenzy over how the game ended had finally died down, Temple coach Al Golden took a moment to reflect on the broader significance of the Owls' 31-24 win over Villanova.

"There's going to be skeptics and cynics tomorrow morning that say, 'Well, you beat a I-AA team,'" Golden said. "And I'm going to tell you right now: wrong. We beat champions. That's a championship team. We beat champions."

Golden repeated the word "champions," and various iterations of it, many more times during his remarks. The point was this: Villanova knows how to win. Yes, the Wildcats were playing up a division, but in a given situation Andy Talley's team knows what to do to finish a game. They did it time and again last year, and on plenty of occasions in prior seasons.

After last night, we know now that Temple has learned how to win, too. It's taken all 12 months that have passed since Villanova won the Mayor's Cup last year, and the process is still far from complete, but the evidence was there.

For most of the night, Temple quarterback Chester Stewart was dreadful. He threw pasess too long, too short, too high and too low. And even after his 62-yard rocket to Michael Campbell that put the Owls in front, 22-21, Stewart almost blew the game by fumbling the ball away on 3rd and 1 at his own 22 with 2:25 left on the clock.

"All the old-time Temple people, they know," Golden said. "You fumble the snap, and there's 250,000 alumni that shake their heads saying, 'Here it goes again.'"

But after Nick Yako booted Villanova back in front, Stewart got his team just far enough down the field to give Brandon McManus a chance to win the game with a 43-yard field goal. Somehow, after all the night's struggleds, Temple had won the game. And in so doing, they gave the program a considerable shot of confidence.

"You've got to believe in the guys, and then you've got to let the guys win the game," Golden said of the drive that led to McManus' winner. "We put them in position to win the game, and they won the game."

Coaches at all levels make the mistake of thinking that if you want to take it to the next level, sometimes it's on the field," Golden said. "Sometimes it's not on the field. Sometimes it's wi

There's audio of both teams' postgame press conferences in the player below, as well as a bonus exclusive interview with Colonial Athletic Association commissioner Tom Yeager. There's also a video in the player at right with analysis from the Daily News' Mike Kern.

(Yes, that sound you hear at the beginning of Talley's remarks is Temple's players belting out "High Hopes" in the background. Their locker room is on the other side of the wall from the press room.)

One more thing before I call it a night. These were the Sagarin ratings coming into the season, with Villanova ranked a lot higher than Temple. Where do you think the teams will go from here?

10. Penn State
39. Rutgers
64. Villanova
99. Temple
112. Delaware
135. Penn
146. Lafayette
163. Lehigh
187. Princeton
204. Delaware State
213. Bucknell