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In the FCS Huddle: Villanova feels growing pains against Temple

There was a No. 4 Villanova jersey on the field Thursday night at Lincoln Financial field, there was also a No. 17.

However the players that made those numbers feared across the FCS the past couple of seasons, Mike Szczur (4) and Chris Whitney (17), were nowhere to be found.

Instead redshirt-freshman linebacker Emeka Ndichie donned the No. 4, and backup quarterback Chris Polony was wearing No. 17 - unfortunate reminders to Wildcat fans that both Szczur and Whitney had already played their last game in navy and white uniforms.

Having graduated one of the most decorated - and talented - senior classes in history, Villanova was given a sobering look against cross-town rival Temple at how difficult the rebuilding process might be.

The final score was 42-7, but in reality this game was over from the time Temple receiver Deon Miller slipped through Villanova cornerbacks James Pitts and Craig James untouched for a score just 7:37 into the first quarter.

"We never really challenged them in the game," Villanova coach Andy Talley said. "We never really got to test their mettle and I would allude to the fact that we started 17 first-year players. That was probably part of the reason we could never put them in some pressure situations."

It was a laugher of a game, the first Mayor's Cup to be decided by more than single digits, which has been played since the rivalry was renewed in 2008.

The Villanova defense, which featured seven new starters, was thrashed for 475 yards and the offense failed to impress - with the exception of a double- reverse halfback pass to the quarterback in the second quarter.

Redshirt-freshman Dustin Thomas, who was making his first career start, turned the ball over four times (three interceptions, one fumble) and spent much of the night trying to survive a Temple rush that manhandled his offensive line.

However, with nine days to prepare for a trip to Towson, Talley luckily has time asses the problems he witnessed against Temple.

"It gives us a chance to heal up a little bit and spend some more time to shore up on our fundamentals on offense and defense," Talley said.

Some of the problems maligning the Wildcats - such as too-many-men on the field penalties and knocking their own player over on a kickoff return - can probably be attributed to nerves and opening day jitters of younger players.

However, the offense's inability to score until late in the fourth quarter and the defense's inability to stop the run are big, or rather massive, areas of concern.

Thomas never looked confident in the pocket and seemed to be forcing throws, as he only completed 11-of-25 attempts, and almost had a couple more intercepted.

"It's not high school anymore, throws you think you can make in high school you can't," Thomas said. "You've got to be able to hold onto the ball and not make those same mistakes...I've got to go back and learn from those mistakes."

Villanova was able to run the ball decently well early, but after rushing for 53 yards in the first quarter the Wildcats only ran for 69 in the final three quarters combined.

While Villanova's running game sputtered out, the Temple running game never stopped as Bernard Pierce had touchdown runs of 19, 22 and 20 yards where he was untouched by the Wildcat defense. Add in a 68-yard touchdown by Temple backup quarterback Mike Coyer and the total damage was 240 yards and four scores on the ground.

"Their offensive line averages about 330 pounds, so they had some big dudes that were leaning on us now," Talley said. "All-in-all they were a big physical football team that leaned on us pretty well, with a back that is always getting yards."

As planned, Temple's passing game took flight through play action, as Mike Gerardi found four different receivers for a combined 235 yards and a pair of long touchdown passes.

One issue, which was out of Talley's control, is the fact junior wide receiver Norman White (868 yards, 11 TDs as a junior) was lost for the season after suffering a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot earlier this week and wandered the Wildcats' sideline in crutches. He'll redshirt this season.