VILLANOVA, PA. 11/9/2019 – The Villanova Wildcats entered the game looking to break a three-game losing streak, and get back into contention for a tournament berth. Not that it mattered.
“About what?” said Villanova Coach Mark Ferrante regarding a playoff berth.
The focus was on winning this football game, and Coach will remind you it is never easy in the CAA. It looked like the Wildcats would not get that win trailing 28 – 21 at halftime, and were giving up big plays to the Richmond Spiders. In the second half the Nova defense clamped down and gave up a total of 63 yards and 3 first downs. The offense put together two fourth quarter touchdown drives, and Villanova earns a 35 – 28 victory at Villanova Stadium.
“Our hand was forced,” said defensive end Malik Fisher about the second half effort. “We had to change something up. The focus was changed. In the first half they got a lot of big plays and the quarterback running. We took the run out of the game. It was keeping the quarterback contained. We contained him in the second half.”
The Spiders appeared to be primed for a score making it a three-score advantage. Wildcats linebacker Drew Wiley intercepted a pass, the only turnover for Richmond, eight yards away from the goal line. In the fourth quarter Nova appeared to get the tying touchdown on a 26-yard pass from quarterback Daniel Smith to Chenga Hodge. The pass was ruled incomplete after a review. It didn’t phase Smith. He would score on a 9-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 28.
The winning score came with 8:56 to play on a two-play, 68-yard drive that took just over a half minute. Smith found Hodge for 48 yards to the Richmond 20, then TD Ayo-Durojaiye covered the rest of the distance.
“Winning is hard in the CAA, never a dull moment,” Ferrante said. “Our guys rose to the occasion when they needed to and we came out on the positive end this time.”
The game started well for Villanova when Nowoola Awopetu returned the opening kickoff 100-yards for a touchdown, the first since Angelo Babbaro took one home 86-yards in 2010. The return is the seventh play of 100 yards or more in Villanova history.
The lead did not last long. Richmond quarterback Joe Mancuso scored on a 25-yard run three minutes later. After Smith matched that, Mancuso got back-to-back scores on a 35-yard run and a 15-yard pass to Keyston Fuller for a 21 – 14 lead.
Nova tied it at the 9:58 mark on a 37-yard run by DeeWil Barlee, but Mancuso matched it with a 4-yard scoring toss to Fuller.
For the game Mancuso ran for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns, and he passed for two more. Richmond gained 219 on the ground.
Smith ran for 105 yards scoring twice, and completed 20 of 28 for 235 yards. Barlee posted 114 rushing yards. As a team the Wildcats had 242 yards running. Wide receiver Jaaron Hayek caught 7 passes for 73 yards.
18th ranked Villanova improves to 7 – 3, 4 – 3 in the CAA. More importantly they broke that three-game losing streak.
“We knew we mentally needed to break through the past few weeks,” said Smith. “Not matter how ugly, we needed to get into the win column. We fought. We got the job done.”
Next up is a Friday night game with LIU.
Written By: Glenn Papazian