Villanova Quarterback Connor Watkins Sets a Mark in his First Start
VILLANOVA, PA 9/2/2022 –
The Wildcats are coming off a successful season. Now they look for continued success for the football program.
Much depends on quarterback Connor Watkins. The junior signal caller shows he has the arm and skills to lead the team. And he has experienced skill position players to make the offense work for Villanova. Watkins amassed 298 yards through the air completing 11 passes for 3 scores and no interceptions. Quite a start for the junior who set the program record for the most passing yards in a first start by a quarterback.
“It definitely helps,” Villanova Coach Mark Ferrante said about having veteran players around the first time starter. “We’ve got guys up front that have returned. The back field, a lot of guys returned there. And the three leading wideouts from last year. He and Hayek are roommates and that doesn’t hurt.”
In the first half Watkins threw for touchdowns of 66 yards to graduate student Dez Boykin and a distance of 68 yards to senior Jaaron Hayek. Sixth-ranked Villanova wins the home opener 45 – 17 over the Lehigh Mountain Hawks on the Main Line.
“I feel comfortable in the system,” Watkins said. “The guys around me, obviously there is always pressure, but those guys made it much easier. I trust everybody on the team, so it doesn’t make it that difficult for that kind of stuff.”
“He has a big arm and showed it today,” Ferrante said.
Villanova Seizes the Momentum
The Wildcats held a 3 – 0 lead going into the second quarter. After forcing Lehigh to turn the ball over on downs again, Watkins faked a handoff to running back DeeWill Barlee, pulled the ball out, then found Boykin wide open down the middle for the touchdown and a 10 – 0 lead.
“We ran that play early in the game and it was there early on,” said Watkins. “We went back to it and they gave us a similar look. Dez popped right up and down the seam.”
On the next possession the defense rose up as linebacker Danny Abraham intercepted a Dante Perri pass setting up the offense at the Lehigh 21-yard line. Nova scored 3 plays later on a 9-yard run by Jalen Jackson for a 17 – 0 lead.
“When you get a turnover and create momentum for the team, it is greatly appreciated,” Abraham said about getting the ball back for the offense.
The lead grew to 31 – 14 at halftime. Lehigh got to within 14 in the third quarter, but Villanova blunted that charge with a rushing score by Watkins.
Hayek caught 6 passes for 141 yards, a career-high setting a collegiate-best for longest reception. Pringle hauled in 2 for 85 yards while Dez Boykin got 78 yards on 2 catches. His 66-yard catch was his career-longest.
The Mountain Hawks ran 77 plays to 55 for Nova. Quarterback Dante Perri threw for 227 yards, 2 for touchdowns and one interception. While the Mountain Hawks got yards, the Wildcats defense forced them into have 4 fourth down conversions and into two takeaways.
“We have a bend but don’t break mentality and make the offense earn everything,” Abraham said. “Whenever we create electric plays, we call them EGB’s, it’s refreshing.”
First Season Opening Win at Home For Villanova and Next Up
Villanova starts 1 – 0 winning at home to open the season, the first time starting the year at home since 2004. They travel to Brookville, NY to play LIU next Saturday.
“We just have to play more consistent on the way,” said Ferrante. “But happy anytime you get an opening day win.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian