April17, 2021 –
The Battle of the Blue rivalry between Villanova and Delaware produces some intense battles decided at the end. This game fit that description as the #7 Delaware Blue Hens defeated the #10 Villanova Wildcats on the Main Line 27 – 20. The Delaware victory snapped an eight game losing streak against the Wildcats. They hung on to get it.
“Against Delaware, you know it’s going to be emotional, it’s going to be intense, and we gave you all of that,” said Villanova Coach Mark Ferrante. “Unfortunately, they executed better than we did especially in critical situations.”
With just over 3 minutes on the clock in the fourth quarter Villanova got the ball to within one yard of the goal line. Wildcats quarterback Daniel Smith in the face of an all out blitz flipped the ball toward the endzone caught by tight end Charlie Gilroy in a scrum to bring the Cats to within seven. Smith reacted to the situation.
“I’m getting chased down by one of their linebackers,” Smith said in describing the play. “He went to tackle me and as I’m falling down I threw it I kind of threw it over my shoulder. I couldn’t see anything in the endzone. As it happened I was like ‘no, no, no. no, that’s not good, it’s going to get picked.’ I got up, turned around and Charlie catch it. And I was ‘yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, we scored.’ It went from being one of the stupidest decisions I’ve ever made to one of the insane decisions I’ve ever made all in maybe two seconds.”
It did give Nova a chance as the defense held on the ensuing Blue Hens possession to get the ball back at their own 23 yard line with 1:08 to play. Smith was intercepted by Delaware corner back Niguel Hill on the next play to close the game out.
“We knew once we got the ball back, we had a chance,” Smith said. “Obviously, we wish it would have turned out differently. The corner was in a perfect spot and he made a play.”
A hard fought game as expected. With Villanova holding a 7 – 6 lead late in the first half, Delaware got a crucial touchdown with 8 seconds remaining. Quarterback Nolan Henderson found wide receiver Jourdan Townsend from 38 yards away and a 13 – 7 lead at intermission. The Villanova defense had not allowed a touchdown pass this season until then.
“In games like this it isn’t usually one play that defines the moment,” Ferrante said. “That definitely was deflating going into the locker room with eight seconds to go. They put it up there and their kid came down with it. Execution on their part better than execution on our part.”
The the second half saw the Blue Hens score two touchdowns. The first came after the Wildcats got a 34-yard field goal from Cole Bunce. The first touchdown saw tight end Bryce De Maille stretch out to grab an 18-yard scoring strike from Henderson. During the drive Villanova committed two key penalties to keep the possession going, a roughing the kicker penalty on a punt. Then at the Villanova 31 yard line the Wildcats were flagged for roughing the passer. The touchdown put Delaware ahead 20 – 10.
Villanova got a drive going, but again were limited to another Bunce field goal. The Blue Hens responded with a touchdown pass from Henderson to running back Khory Spruill and a 27 – 13 lead. Nova needed six, but got three two times, critical for the UD defense.
“Holistically, keeping them out of the endzone was really big, and then playing with a two score lead is something really big in the game,” said Delaware Coach Danny Rocco. “We were able to play with a two score lead twice.”
Villanova made it interesting, but it made the hill was too steep to climb.
“It kills you,” Ferrante said. “You leave points on the field against a quality opponent like Delaware when you know you’re scratching a clawing to get as many points as you can, you have to take advantage of the points when they’re there. Get them. When you’re settling for three instead of seven and do that multiple times that adds up in the end. It added up to a total of twenty today.”
Smith threw for 143 yards and 2 touchdowns, the other to wide receiver Dez Boykin. The Wildcats ran for 220 yards led by Justin Covington who gained 76 yards on the ground, a 56-yard run was his longest. Jalen Jackson added 68 yards of which 51 came on his longest rush.
Henderson completed 20 of 24 passes for 270 yards, two were scoring strikes. Wide Receiver Thyrick Pitts hauled in 5 passes for 104 yards.
Delaware wins the CAA North with a 4 – 0 conference record, their first conference crown since 2010. The Hens are 5 – 0 overall. Villanova finishes the season at 2 – 2 all league games. Delaware will hear their name called on the FCS Selection show on Sunday. The Wildcats do not expect to get a berth. Next season is not that far away.
“I told the guys this is an opportunity to learn,” said Smith. “We have a fall season coming up. We don’t have to wait a year and a half to play again. Let’s make the most of this opportunity we have in front of us.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian