For somebody who made a number of big kicks last year, Temple sophomore kicker Aaron Boumerhi surprisingly had never been in a position to hit a game-winning kick before. That all changed Saturday as Boumerhi hit a 49-yard field goal to salvage Temple’s day as the Owls defeated the Villanova Wildcats, 16-13.
Boumerhi made 15 of 17 kicks and was named a second-team All-Conference selection in 2016.
“Last year was the first time I’ve ever actually won a football game,” Boumerhi told reporters after the game. “In high school, the games I played in, we never won. It’s the first time I’ve ever had to make a crucial kick like that for the game.”
If Boumerhi had not made that kick, Temple would have been put back into a tie game and tasked with stopping a Villanova offense that had routinely moved the ball against the Owls all day. As a unit, Villanova accrued 402 yards of offense against Temple, including 382 passing yards. In the fourth quarter alone, Villanova quarterback Zach Bednarczyk completed 10 of 12 passes for 146 yards.
Without that clutch field goal, Temple (1-1) would have been in a position to lose to an FCS team for the first time since 2013 and to Villanova (1-1) for the first time since 2009 in front of 35,117 fans.
But Boumerhi did make that kick. And so instead of heading back to campus humiliated, Temple and Geoff Collins left Lincoln Financial Field with a close win over an opponent many expected Temple to handle with ease. Despite the outside perspective, and despite Villanova not being in the FBS, the Wildcats posed a significant threat, Collins said.
“It’s obvious that’s a really good football team we just played against,” Collins said. “They had some really good second-half adjustments on offense…Our kids fought to the end.”
“They run a unique defense,” Collins added. “It’s really good. The fits, the alignments are unique and you probably won’t see that type of alignment again the rest of the season. They’ve got some really good players. They’re tough and physical.”
Villanova kicker Drew Kresge hit a 34-yarder to tie the game at 13 with 3:29 left in the game and set up Temple’s comeback. After receiving the ball on the 26-yard line, redshirt-sophomore quarterback Logan Marchi took Temple 42 yards in a little more than three minutes. That drive, which was aided heavily by a defensive holding on Villanova cornerback Malik Reaves, came after Temple had put up just four yards of offense in the fourth quarter up to that point. The majority of Temple’s yards on that drive came off of a 29-yard pass to Ventell Bryant. Bryant, who missed last week’s game against Notre Dame, overcame defensive pass interference on the play to make a 1-handed grab along the sideline. In his season debut, Bryant had a team-high seven catches for 79 yards.
“Ventell’s a great player and I think we missed him last week,” Collins said. “I think he’s an explosive player. That catch he made on the sideline, there are not a lot of humans in this country or in the world that could make that catch under duress.”
“We practice [the 2-minute drill] all the time,” Marchi said. “My mind set there was to just do my job and get the ball in the receiver’s hands, move the ball down the field and give our kickers the chance to win the game for us.”
Marchi, who made the second start of his career, finished the game with a career-high 274 passing yards by completing 20 of his 34 attempts without turning the ball over. As a team, Temple put up 353 yards of offense after accruing 330 yards of offense against Notre Dame.
Temple failed to get a running game going for the majority of the contest and finished with just 79 yards off of 27 carries. Redshirt junior running back David Hood started in place of junior running back Ryquell Armstead. Armstead took the field for the second drive of the game but never got in a rhythm and finished with 19 yards after rushing for 67 yards last week against Notre Dame. Hood, meanwhile, finished with 21 rushing yards but never received a carry after the opening drive.
“We didn’t move them an inch,” Temple offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said. “I think we averaged maybe a little bit over two yards a carry, which for our offense is not acceptable. We have to be able to run the ball. We have to be able to be more balanced.
“They’re very well coached,” Patenaude added. “That defense has been a pain in my neck since I was at Hofstra 15 years ago.”
On offense, Villanova’ Bednarczyk threw for 382 yards and a touchdown. Wildcats slot receiver Taurus Phillips consistently got open against Temple’s defense and finished with six catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore wide receiver Changa Hodge caught four catches for 100 yards.
A week after giving up more than 400 rushing yards to Notre Dame, Temple managed to shut down Villanova’s rushing game to the tune of just 20 yards on 30 carries. The Owls’ defense had three sacks on the day to go along with nine tackles for a loss. Sophomore linebacker Shaun Bradley finished the game with seven catches, a sack, two tackles for a loss and a forced fumble that ended any chance of a Villanova comeback in the fourth quarter.
A large portion of that production was the result of improved play at the linebacker position, Collins said.
“The linebackers we have, I think are special,” Collins said. “They’re very fast. The only thing they lack is experience…Today, I thought they had really good run fits…They created a lot of tackles for loss and created a lot of sacks. I thought that was a much needed improvement.”
Up next for Temple on Friday is a winless Massachusetts team that features Virginia Tech transfer Andrew Ford at quarterback and Penn State transfer Adam Breneman at tight end. A second-team All-American, Breneman already has 21 catches for 323 yards this season.
Listen to postgame interviews with Collins, Patenaude, Marchi, Boumerhi and others here.
OwlScoop.com assistant editor Kyle Gauss can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @kylegauss.