VILLANOVA, PA. 10/28/2017 – The 13th ranked Villanova Wildcats met #10 Elon for the first time on the gridiron in a key CAA game. The Phoenix came into the game unbeaten in league play tied with James Madison for the top spot, and stayed there grinding out a come from behind 19 – 14 win at Villanova Stadium
It was a field position game, the team that could break through and flip this position in their favor would have the advantage. A field position break and defensive effort would keep the Wildcats in the game until the end.
“When you go out and get the ball back on a big play, the momentum swings in your favor.” said Villanova Coach Mark Ferrante. “If you get it on the fifty, you don’t have to go on 12-play drives. That’s not something you can hang your hat on. Field position is huge and we lost the field position battle.”
On the ensuing kickoff after Elon took a 10 – 7 lead, Nova got the ball on their 35 yard line, their best start for a drive in the second half. With a 2nd and 8 at the Phoenix 44, freshman quarterback Kyle McCloskey, making his first start, avoided a sack by defensive back Malcolm Galloway and found wide receiver Taurus Phillips for a 24-yard strike and the lead at 14 – 10 with 55 seconds left in the third quarter.
Elon has made fourth quarter comebacks in the last four games. The Phoenix came back with a 21-yard touchdown pass by Davis Cheek to Tre Marsh to regain the lead. The extra point was missed and the score was 16 – 14.
Field position again in the Phoenix favor as the Wildcats were forced to punt from their 15 yard line. Elon responded getting a 28-yard field goal by Owen Johnson for the final margin of victory with 4:45 to play.
Villanova was not done. Kick returner Nowoola Awopetu ran the ball back 65 yards to set up Nova 35 yards away from the goal line. The drive the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs. Elon ran the clock out.
“We just didn’t have enough in the tank to finish it,” said Ferrante.
“We put the defense out there way too much and maybe that’s why we couldn’t knock down those last two runs.”
The Phoenix ran for 117 yards. It was the first time the Villanova defense gave up more than 100 yards on the ground this season, and the first time in 10 games. Elon had a dynamic passing duo as Cheek threw for 357 yards on 20 completions. Wide receiver Kortez Weeks caught 11 passes for 205 yards, a career-high.
The Nova defense gave up yards, but kept the team in the game by getting turnovers. Johnson and corner back Dage Davis picked off passes. Jeff Steeb and Rasaan Stewart had 11 tackles each. Ed Shockley made 9 stops.
“On defense we never expect anyone to score, even if we are backed up,” said defensive tackle Ricky Young. “We figure somebody is going to do something. We put it on ourselves to go out and get good field position.”
McCloskey led the Wildcats in rushing with 65 yards. He threw for 137 yards and two scores. Aaron Forbes caught the first touchdown of the game covering 42 yards. The junior running back had 143 all-purpose yards.caught
Villanova falls to 4 – 4, 2 – 3 in the CAA. The Wildcats host Richmond next week needing a win to keep playoff hopes alive.
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