VILLANOVA, PA. 11/15/2019 – Something a little different for the Wildcats. A ‘Friday Night Lights’ non-conference game against the Sharks of Long Island University. The first-ever meeting between these teams. For Nova the last time they played on a Friday night was the 2014 season opener at Syracuse. It seemed to agree with #13 Villanova as they post a 35 – 7 win over LIU at Villanova Stadium. The Wildcats have won two in a row to improve to 8 – 3.
The change in the usual preparation routine did not seem to bother the team. They were excited and ready to play under the lights.
“Friday night games are meant for high school so we were going back in the day,” said Villanova wide receiver Changa Hodge.
Quarterback Daniel Smith led Villanova with a career-high tying 4 touchdown passes and 1 rushing. He is responsible for 36 touchdowns this season, 10 rushing and 26 through the air. Smith played into the third quarter and finished the game completing 15 of 21 for 201 yards.
“Dan did a great job,” said Villanova Coach Mark Ferrante about the performance of his quarterback. “He gets the ball out quick and takes what the defense gives you. It was good to keep his flow going.”
Over half of the yards went to Hodge who caught 7 passes for 103 yards twice crossing the goal line for an efficient Villanova offense. How efficient?
“Very efficient,” Hodge said. “We only had two punts. We practice all week to do our thing and we had the performance we should have.”
On offense Nova showed variation in that they had two long drives in the first half that took 4:15 and 3:24. The first drive of 75-yards resulted in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Smith to Simon Bengilis, his first career scoring catch. After an interception by Nowoola Awopetu, Nova cashed in again when Smith found Jaaron Hayek with a 7-yard scoring strike that capped a 59-yard drive giving Villanova a 14 – 0 lead.
Then the Cats showed they could strike quickly. The special teams set up the offense by a punt block by Elijah Solomon and recovery by Jalen Goodman that set the ball at the LIU 6 yard line. Smith hit Hodge for a touchdown on the next play. Just before halftime Smith got the ball to Hodge again for another one-play drive, a 30-yard score and a 28 – 7 Villanova lead at halftime.
Smith ran the ball in from 5-yards out in the third quarter to complete the scoring.
The Sharks had the longest drive of the half, an 11-play, 64-yarder that took 7:05. Malcolm Denbow finished it by taking it to the house from 6 yards away with 6:43 until intermission. For the game LIU was held to 183 total yards of offense, 34 in the air.
“It is definitely an accomplishment to hold a college football team to under 200 yards,” said linebacker Forrest Rhyne who had a game-high 10 tackles. “The coaches put us in position and we just do our job. It’s good to see the plan come through.”
All three phases contributed to this victory. And it started on the opening and second kickoff when special teams player Tyler Will had two big tackles to set the tone.
“I have a job to do and do the best I can to execute to the best of my ability,” Will said. “Big hits always gets the guys fired up. I was fortunate to have opportunities to do that. I tried to do what I can to give a spark.”
“On the kickoffs the two tackles by T-Will (Tyler Will) that got the sidelines going, the offense got the ball into the endzone, and the defense got the turnover when we needed it,” Ferrante said. “We did a good job and got guys reps which is always valuable going forward.”
Next up for Villanova is next Saturday when they host Delaware in the Battle of the Blue. The game will mark the end of the regular season for the Wildcats. Stay tuned for the post-season.
Written By: Glenn Papazian