VILLANOVA, PA. 10/7/2017 – It was the second home game of the season for the 12th ranked Villanova Wildcats. It was more like a landmark as Villanova posted back to back home shutouts for the first time since 1964 as Nova blanked the Maine Black Bears 31 – 0 at Villanova Stadium.
They have been fighting another opponent this year, injuries. It would be another game without quarterback Zach Bednarczyk, tight end Ryan Bell, and defensive back Rob Rolle. Next man up! And the Wildcats showed that quickly.
“It shows we are together as a team,” said Villanova Coach Mark Ferrante. “Some of our guys, so-called superstars, when they go down it shows these guys are able to respond. I credit our senior leadership, that’s what we ask for in leading that way. It helps rise the performance of the younger guys.”
On their first offensive possession quarterback Jack Schetelich, making his first collegiate start, found tight end Todd Summers over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown pass and a 7 – 0 lead at the 7:52 mark. It was the first collegiate catch and score for Summers, a red-shirt Freshman.
The teams would trade punts. Maine got down to the Villanova 3-yard line where Drew Belcher looked for the score that would tie the game, but was hit by Wildcats linebacker Keeling Hunter and fumbled. Freshman safety Jaquan Amos picked the ball up and ran 99-yards for a touchdown, the longest fumble return in school history. It was also the ninth play of 99 yards or longer at Villanova. In the present the score was 14 – 0 for the Wildcats. It was the play that pointed the game toward the Cats.
“I was in the receiver,” said Amos. “He released so I turned my head. As soon as I turned around the ball was there.”
“That probably had a lot to do with the rest of the game,” said Maine Coach Joe Harasymiak. “We fumbled the ball going in for a touchdown that would have made it 7 – 7 probably. They returned it 99 yards and we never recovered from that.”
The Villanova defense has been a constant, They faced a Maine team that averaged over 200 yards per game rushing and had the leading rusher in the conference Josh Mack in yards per game with 167. The Nova defense throttled the Black Bear running game limiting them to 55 yards, and 22 for Mack. Villanova has not allowed a team to run for more than 100 yards this season.
With the ground game contained Maine went to the pass, a position they did not want to find themselves in, but did. Nova came up with 6 turnovers in the game, 4 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. Malik Reaves, Rasaan Stewart, Trey Johnson (uniform numbers 1,2, and 3) and Hunter had picks.
“I don’t think they wanted their quarterback throwing in the pocket as much as they did,” said Ferrante. “when they weren’t getting anything with Josh on the ground, I think we made them more one dimensional, and that’s where our big plays came from.”
A shutout and turnovers, something a defense thrives upon.
“It feels good when you hold someone to zero,” Hunter said. “It gives us all the momentum in the world. We strive to keep everyone to zero.”
The Wildcats improve to 4 – 2 overall and 2 – 1 in the conference. They face a stern test next week traveling to Virginia to face the defending national champion James Madison Dukes in a game that will have huge implications on who will be the conference champion.
“Our guys, when we see a lot of people and hear a lot of noise, get super excited,” Ferrante said. “And they’ll see a lot of people and hear a lot of noise.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian