ALBANY, N.Y. - A rush attempt on 4th-and-1 at the 16-yard line in overtime was stuffed in the backfield to effectively end the game, and a fumble on the play was returned for a touchdown as No. 7 Villanova (2-2, 0-1 CAA Football) fell to Albany (3-1, 1-0 CAA Football) by a final score of 19-10 in the conference opener for both teams at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium on Saturday night. It was only the second overtime game in the last seven years for the Wildcats, who forced the extra period on their only touchdown of the game as time expired in regulation.
Junior running back Aaron Forbes (Newburgh, N.Y.) scored on a two-yard shovel pass from junior quarterback Zach Bednarczyk (Wallington, N.J.) with no time on the clock and sophomore kicker Drew Kresge (Douglassville, Pa.) made the extra point to tie the score at 10-10. Villanova drove 87 yards on 15 plays to tie the game after the Great Danes had gone ahead 10-3 with just 2:23 remaining. The biggest play of the game-tying drive was Bednarczyk's 18-yard completion to senior wide receiver Taurus Phillips (Beacon, N.Y.) on 4th-and-12 from the Wildcats own 35-yard line after a timeout with 1:01 to play.
Albany got the ball first in overtime and was forced to start at the 40-yard line due to a 15-yard leaping penalty on the game-tying extra point which carried over to overtime. Ethan Stark made a 20-yard field goal after the Great Danes went 37 yards on eight plays to take a 13-10 lead.
On the final possession of the game, senior running back Matt Gudzak (Toms River, N.J.) had consecutive rushes of three yard and six yards to give Villanova a 3rd-and-1 from the 16-yard line. Gudzak was stopped for no gain on third down, then Bednarczyk was brought down for a loss of yards at the 20-yard line on the game's final play.
Both teams struggled for offensive momentum in a battle for field position which lasted virtually all night. Neither side scored a touchdown in the game's first 57-plus minutes, before the closing sequences of regulation featured scores both ways in a span of just 143 seconds.
Bednarczyk was 23-of-35 for 191 yards, with three different receivers all catching four passes. Junior Jarrett McClenton (Bensalem, Pa.) led the Wildcats with 53 receiving yards and Phillips had 52 yards on his four catches. The offense was on the field for just 21:16 during regulation and gained only 254 yards for the game.
Villanova's defense continued to impress, holding Albany to 95 rushing yards on 36 carries (2.6 yards per carry). It is the sixth straight game dating back to last season that the Wildcats have limited their opponent to fewer than 100 yards on the ground. Junior linebacker Jeff Steeb (Sweetwater, N.J.), sophomore linebacker Keeling Hunter (Franklin, Tenn.) and sophomore safety Julian Williams (Airmont, N.Y.) all set new career highs while reaching double digits in tackles.
Steeb had a game-high 14 total stops (seven solo, seven assisted), while Williams, Hunter and senior linebacker Ed Shockley (Millville, N.J.) all had 10 tackles. Freshman cornerback Jaquan Amos (Philadelphia, Pa.) also forced a fumble which freshman defensive end Malik Fisher (New York, N.Y.) recovered late in the second quarter.
Following a scoreless opening quarter, the Great Danes opened the scoring on Stark's 23-yard field goal on the first play of the second period. He later missed a 23-yard attempt in the final minute of the third quarter, and the 3-0 lead for Albany stood up until Kresge tied the score 3-3 on a 24-yard field goal with 10:33 left in regulation.
Villanova is in the midst of playing four of its first five games on the road to open the 2017 season. Next week the Wildcats travel to Towson for a 6 p.m. kickoff on Saturday evening at Johnny Unitas Stadium.