Just consider Deja Vu with a twist. Or a series of unfortunate events, if you were a Wildcat fan.
When Villanova strong safety John Dempsey recovered a fumble by Temple quarterback Chester Stewart with two minutes, 17 seconds remaining to set up Nick Yako's 41-yard field goal at the 1:51 mark to give the Wildcats a 24-22 lead, it was wildly reminiscent of last year's 27-24 VU victory.
"It was sort of a reverse of last year," said Villanova coach Andy Talley, who had watched Dempsey set up 10 fourth-quarter points with a fumble recovery and an interception last year, including Yako's 32-yard field goal at the end.
"We had our chances and opportunities."
But Temple made the most of its good luck and poor Villanova clock management to put Brandon McManus into range to bomb his fourth of five three-point attempts from 43 yards with three seconds to play.
Ahead 25-24, the Owls closed out the game with a touchdown when Justin Gildea recovered Matt Szczur's illegal forward lateral on the game's final play and dashed 26 yards into the end zone.
"The game was there to win, at the end," Talley said. "It just slipped away at the end."
It was a polar opposite for top-ranked Villanova, the defending FCS championship club. Last year, in going 14-1, it seemed that the Wildcats had most of the breaks go their way.
"Losing is a terrible feeling," said Szczur, the 2010 playoff MVP, who returned to Villanova after signing a lucrative contract with Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs in the spring. "We're not used to this with this team."
The all-purpose star was responsible for 221 yards — 165 yards on kickoff returns —and one touchdown in his 2010 debut.
Villanova throughly outplayed Temple for much of the second annual Mayor's Cup game. But the Wildcats bogged down in the red zone several times and Yako missed two field goals from 38 an 43 yards.
"I kept talking to (Yako) and telling him 'We're going to need you to win,' " Talley said.
Yako was ready to go when Stewart dropped a snap and then had the ball ripped away by Villanova cornerback Eric Loper. Dempsey pounced on it to give the Wildcats the ball at the Temple 25.
When Owl coach Al Golden was unsuccessful on a video challenge of the fumble, Temple was left with just one timeout, which it used on a first-down run from Villanova quarterback Chris Whitney (17-of-25 passing, 133 yards, two TDs, one interception).
The Wildcats could have run the clock down to under 30 seconds and then had Yako come on for a field-goal attempt, but instead they tried two unsuccessful passes by Whitney on the next two downs to stop the clock.
"We needed somebody to make a play for us," Talley said. "We needed a TD. I didn't want to put our defense back on the field when a field goal could beat us."
But that was where the Wildcats found themselves in the final two minutes.
With Temple floundering early in a final, desperate drive that started at its own 28, Villanova was burned again when a Wildcat injury killed the clock with 1:16 remaining. Instead of seeing the time slip under a minute as it raced back to the line, the Owls saved more vital time.
Stewart then skipped 13 yards for a first down and completed a pair of passes to Michael Campbell and Matt Brown for eight more yards to give McManus a chance to show off his strong leg on the game-winner. Even a high snap didn't throw off McManus on the deciding kick.
"We didn't catch the breaks at the end of the game, like we did last year," Whitney said. "We kept our defense on the field too long in the second half."
It was a reverse of what had happened in the first half, when Villanova's dominating run-pass mix had the Owls with their tongues dragging.
Temple turned a late and nearly disastrous pitch from Stewart to Matt Brown into the first points of the game midway through the initial quarter when Brown reversed his course, broke containment and scampered 17 yards for a touchdown.
But Villanova scored on a slick three-yard swing pass from Whitney to Szczur to even it in the first period and Aaron Ball's nine-yard TD blast gave the Wildcats the lead in the second quarter.
McManus hit the longest field goal in Temple history from 53 yards to end the first half and cut Villanova's lead to 14-13, but a brilliant 21-yard strike from Whitney to Norman White expanded that edge to 21-13 at the start of the fourth stanza.
After McManus connected from 40 yards midway through the final period Campbell burned cornerback Loper deep on a 62-yard connection from Stewart to put Temple ahead 22-21 with 4:07 and set up a wild finish.
"We beat champions," Golden said. "It's hard to beat a championship team. You have to knock a champion out."
But even though they were staggered at the end of this game, the Wildcats look poised to make another chase for the FCS title in 2010.
"We walked off the field with our heads held high," Talley said. "We can go far this year."