Temple must harass 'Nova's quarterback

Temple and Villanova kick off the college football season in Philadelphia tonight at Lincoln Financial Field. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff file photo)

Temple vs. Villanova keys to the game

Here are my final thoughts for Friday’s Temple vs. Villanova matchup at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Owls are looking to cap the final Mayor's Cup game with a third consecutive victory over the Wildcats. But Villanova is determined to avenge last season’s embarrassing 42-7 setback.

 Here are a few keys to the game.

For Temple:

1.      Establish the running game. Temple needs to run tailbacks Montel Harris and Matt Brown and quarterback Chris Coyer like head coach Steve Addazio’s job depends on it. Of course, the Owls will have to occasionally pass on early downs to keep Villanova from loading the box.  But the Wildcats yielded 26 rushing touchdowns and 172.6 yards per game last season. The Owls need to test Villanova’s defense to find out if it improved.

2.      Harass Chris Polony. The sophomore quarterback started last season's final three games. Polony showed a lot of poise and ability against Massachusetts in the next to last game. He completed 20 of 31 passes for 183 yards and three touchdowns. The Owls must put pressure on the signal caller and make things uncomfortable. If they are successful, Polony’s confidence might take a hit.

3.      Dominate special teams.  Whether it was a long return or a blocked punt, the Owls won the special teams battle in most of last season’s games. Temple needs to come up with a big special teams’ moment to set the stage and ignite the team.

For Villanova:

1.      Keep testing Temple’s cornerbacks. The Owls cornerbacks were the weak link of a talented defense a year ago. Temple’s corners yielded long completions and underneath routes. Polony could take advantage of that with big plays in the passing game.

2.      Force turnovers.  Having a powerful running game, Temple will probably control possession against Villanova. The Wildcats need to force fumbles and/or intercept passes to get the Owls' offense off the field.

3.      Get Norman White involved early.  The wideout could get the Wildcats going with his big-play ability.  A NFL prospect, the fifth-year senior is a preseason Football Championship Subdivision all-American. Villanova needs to try to get ball to him early and often. That would free up the running game and keep Temple’s defense honest.