Sept. 16, 2017
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Playing in front of its home fans for the first time this season, No. 7 Villanova (2-1) fired on all cylinders from the outset and rode its early momentum to a 59-0 win over Lafayette (0-3) on Saturday evening. A crowd of 9,671 at Villanova Stadium saw the Wildcats tally their highest point total in nearly 10 years. Villanova scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and erupted for 36 points in the second quarter to lead 49-0 by halftime.
Junior quarterback Zach Bednarczyk (Wallington, N.J.) completed 13-of-15 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns while also scoring on a four-yard touchdown run and later rushing for a two-point conversion. Bednarczyk's first pass of the night was a 59-yard strike to senior tight end Ryan Bell (Basking Ridge, N.J.), who also caught touchdown passes of four yards in the first quarter and 37 yards in the second quarter. Bell had five receptions in all for a career-high 119 yards.
Seven different ball carriers combined to run for 262 yards and three touchdowns for the Wildcats, with senior running back Matt Gudzak (Toms River, N.J.) and junior Corey Russo (River Vale, N.J.) joining Bednarczyk in finding the end zone. Junior running back Aaron Forbes (Newburgh, N.Y.) led the team with 78 yards on the ground, while redshirt freshman Justin Covington (Bronx, N.Y.) added 74 yards and Russo had 44 yards on a team-high 15 carries.
Villanova made big plays in every facet of the game in the lopsided win. Senior Taurus Phillips (Beacon, N.Y.) had a 64-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, just the third punt return for a score by the Wildcats in the last 33 years. Villanova also scored a pair of defensive touchdowns on interception returns. Freshman cornerback Jaquan Amos (Philadelphia, Pa.) had a 35-yard pick-six early in the second quarter and sophomore linebacker Keeling Hunter (Franklin, Tenn.) added 27-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final minute of the first half.
The stifling defense by the Wildcats never gave the Leopards a chance to get into an offensive rhythm. Villanova gave up just six first downs and 77 yards of total offense to Lafayette, including minus-12 rushing yards as the defense held an opponent to negative yards on the ground for the first time since the 2009 playoffs. Sophomore safety Julian Williams (Airmont, N.Y.) led the Wildcats with six tackles and also had the team's third interception of the game in the third quarter.
Sophomore linebacker Gabe Cohen (Sloatsburg, N.Y.) had a team-best three tackles for loss and three different players recorded a sack. Junior linebacker Jeff Steeb (Sweetwater, N.J.), freshman Forrest Rhyne (Waynesboro, Pa.) and freshman defensive lineman Malik Fisher (New York, N.Y.) all had a solo sack in the contest.
Villanova scored three touchdowns in a span of 187 seconds early in the second quarter. Bell scored on a 37-yard touchdown with 13:19 remaining in the period, Amos returned an interception for a pick-six with 11:32 left and Phillips recorded his punt return for a touchdown with 10:12 on the clock. With less than a minute to play before halftime, Gudzak scored on a two-yard run with 36 seconds remaining and Hunter returned an interception for a touchdown just eight seconds later.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
The scoring onslaught by the Wildcats marked their highest point total in a game since a 63-24 win over William & Mary on October 6, 2007. Villanova won its home opener for the sixth straight year and the 26th time in the last 33 seasons. The defense tallied its first shutout since a 35-0 win over Rhode Island on October 8 of last season. This was the largest margin of victory in a shutout for the Wildcats since a 64-0 win over West Chester on August 28, 1997.
Villanova goes back on the road for its next two games, beginning with a trip to Albany next Saturday. Kickoff between the Wildcats and the Great Danes is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the game can be seen live on ESPN3.