Villanova defeated Stony Brook, 35-6, in its season home opener on September 21, 2013.
Throughout his time on the Main Line, Venuto has helped many of his student-athletes stand out on the national level. Most notably, he has helped three different players win the Walter Payton Award as the top player in FCS football. The most recent winner of the award was quarterback John Robertson in 2014, when he was a consensus first team All-American and both the CAA Football and ECAC Offensive Player of the Year. Robertson set the school record for career yards of total offense with 10,933 and finished his collegiate career ranked fourth in school history in passing yards (7,290) and second in rushing yards (3,643). He was the CAA Football Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 in addition to winning the Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman in the FCS ranks. Robertson went on to earn All-CAA honors in both 2013 and 2014.
Running back Brian Westbrook was the Walter Payton Award winner in 2001 when he amassed 2,823 all-purpose yards in Venuto’s offensive scheme. Westbrook is the most decorated player in school history, and at the end of his collegiate career held 41 school records, 19 Atlantic 10 records and five NCAA records. He became the first college football player at any level to have over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season, and was the Wildcats first player to be a three-time first team All-American. Brian Finneran was the first Villanova player to win the Walter Payton Award, and he did so in 1997 when Venuto coached the Wildcats receivers. Finneran won numerous awards in 1997, including being named the ECAC Offensive Player of the Year and the Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Year.
Villanova had a strong season offensively in 2016 along the way to posting a 9-4 record and reaching the second round of the FCS playoffs. Venuto guided an offense that produced 24.4 points per game and 378.8 yards of total offense per contest. A balance between the running and passing games helped the Wildcats surpass 30 points six times last year, including a string of four straight such games in the midst of a five-game winning streak early in the season.
Sophomore quarterback Zach Bednarczyk continued his development into a top-notch FCS quarterback in 2016 after earning CAA Football Co-Offensive Rookie of the Year honors as a redshirt freshman the previous season. Bednarczyk threw for 2,158 yards with 19 touchdowns in 13 games during the 2016 campaign, and was also the Wildcats second-leading rusher with 539 yards and two scores.
Villanova’s primary quarterback has earned CAA Football All-Conference honors in six of the last eight seasons, with Bednarczyk the latest in a line of all-stars under center. His predecessor was Robertson, who led a Wildcats offense that averaged 37.7 points per game with 470.4 yards of total offense during the 2014 season. Villanova led the CAA in both scoring offense and rushing yards per game (242.9) that season, with the rushing average ranking eighth in the country. Robertson was the fifth player to earn conference player of the year honors under Venuto’s watch.
During the Wildcats run to their first national title in 2009, Venuto was named a finalist for National Coordinator of the Year after his offense led CAA Football in three different offensive categories. Villanova averaged 30.8 points per game and 194.9 rushing yards per contest, and also led the league with a 149.9 passing efficiency rating. Venuto led seven players to All-CAA distinction in 2009, headlined by CAA Offensive Player of the Year Matt Szczur and a first team all-conference selection in Chris Whitney.
Venuto came to the Wildcats with a wealth of coaching experience, and he worked with the Villanova receivers for his first four years on staff. He began his coaching career in 1982 at his alma mater, Delaware, where he was the freshman offensive line and linebackers coach. He spent one season at Colby College in 1984 and then three years at James Madison (1985-87) as the quarterbacks coach. During the 1988 season, he was the assistant quarterbacks coach and the receivers coach at Illinois. Venuto also was the passing game coordinator and receivers coach at Southern Illinois from 1989-93, and worked as the tight ends coach and the head junior varsity coach at Cornell prior to coming to Villanova.
During his own collegiate career, Venuto was a linebacker at Delaware and a member of the Blue Hens 1979 national championship team. He owns a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education from Delaware and a Master’s Degree in Education from James Madison.
Venuto and his wife, Diane, reside in Collegeville, Pa. with their daughter Amanda (21) and son Ricky (19). Amanda is currently a senior at the University of Delaware, while Ricky is a sophomore quarterback at Muhlenberg.