VILLANOVA, PA 9/18/2021 –
A wild second half that saw both teams score in bunches, the #12 Villanova Wildcats got the last bunch scoring three touchdowns in the last five minutes to come away with a 34 – 27 win over the #21 Richmond Spiders. Wildcats quarterback Daniel Smith threw a pass to wide receiver Rayjoun Pringle who eluded the Richmond defenders for a 49-yard game winning touchdown with 38 seconds on the clock. Villanova wins the CAA opener and stay unbeaten for the season. This win was a tough one to get, but Nova persevered, and won it.
“It was a crazy game, it was a great game,” said Villanova Coach Mark Ferrante. “Up 13 – 0, they went twenty-seven unanswered, we went twenty-one unanswered in the last quarter. If that doesn’t show our guys aren’t resilient and follow the motto of ‘tap the rock’ I don’t know what does.”
At halftime Villanova held a 13 – 0 lead. It could have been more. That lead began to evaporate with the second half kickoff. Richmond returner Aaron Dykes scored on a 98-yard return. On the next possession the Spiders recovered a fumble and scored three plays later when quarterback Joe Mancuso found wide receiver Isaac Brown with a 28-yard touchdown. In less than three minutes Richmond gained the advantage. The lead increased to 21 – 13 on a 33-yard scoring reception by Connor Deveney from Mancuso at the 7:04 mark. Everything was rolling in the Spiders favor adding a field goal at the end of the third quarter.
“We got a kickoff return and that changes the momentum and perception of the game,” said Richmond Coach Russ Huesman. “We knew we were in the game, had a chance, and that return jump started it.”
Early in the fourth quarter Richmond drove to the Villanova 6-yardline, poised to take control of the game. The Wildcats defense held and forced the Spiders to kick a field goal.
The last two scores were field goals. The Nova defense did not give up seven. It was a win for the defense and kept Villanova in proximity.
“Field goals are a big win, always, especially when they are deep down in the redzone,” said Villanova defensive lineman Malik Fisher. “When you hold them to field goals you allow the differential in points to be minimized as much as possible. That’s the big thing. It keeps us in striking range.”
Villanova got their first score of the quarter on a 2-yard run by Smith who twisted his body over the goal line. After Richmond punted Nova tied the game at 27 on a 2-play, 51-yard scoring drive capped when wide receiver Jaaron Hayek hauled in a 44-yard pass from Smith. The Cats believed after being stagnant for a quarter.
“When we execute our plays and do our job, all eleven, we can go up and down the field,” said Smith. “We’ve seen it before.”
The Spiders went three and out again giving the ball back to the Wildcats with 1:41 to play setting up the game-winning pass from Smith to Pringle.
“If we get a first down, we win the game,” said Huesman. “Great teams get that first down and win. They outplayed us for three quarters, but we should have won the game.”
Villanova goes to Penn State next week off a win. The Wildcats survived, not a surprise in this league.
“That’s the momentum swings that happen in a CAA football game. You have to be ready for everything. You don’t have those basketball moments where the momentum swings like that,” Ferrante said snapping his fingers for effect. “Three-pointer and the next thing you know the other team has it. It felt like that a little bit with the bunches. We got a touchdown when we needed it.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian