Wildcats Defeat Top-Ranked Team for First Time, Hold Off Richmond 26-20
Sept. 27, 2008
VILLANOVA, Pa. - In its conference opener on Saturday afternoon, No. 19 Villanova (3-1, 1-0 CAA) took the lead late in the first quarter and never looked back along the way to defeating a top-ranked opponent for the first time in school history. The Wildcats defeated No. 1 Richmond (3-2, 2-1 CAA) by a 26-20 count at Villanova Stadium.
Sophomore Aaron Ball (Los Angeles, Calif.) ran for a career-high 123 yards and two touchdowns and senior Joe Marcoux (Campbell Hall, N.Y.) matched a career high with four field goals to carry Villanova to its third straight win. The Wildcats had been 0-4 in their history against No. 1-ranked teams and had never played a top-ranked opponent at Villanova Stadium.
The Wildcats owned a 402-333 advantage in total offense thanks to their dominant running game, which produced a 226-83 edge in net rushing yards. Ball ran in for a three-yard score with 3:51 remaining in the opening period to give Villanova a 7-3 lead and then broke away for a 63-yard scoring run with 8:39 left in the second quarter to stretch the margin to 14-3. It was the first career 100-yard rushing game for Ball.
Later in the second quarter Joe Stewart caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Eric Ward with 3:47 to play in the half to close the Spiders to within 14-10. The Wildcats preserved their lead by never returning the ball to Richmond in the half and Marcoux kicked a 21-yard field goal as time expired to send Villanova into the break with a 17-10 lead.
The Spiders did everything they could to get their offense going in the third quarter and held the ball for more than 11 minutes in the period. Richmond had two drives in the quarter that combined for 25 plays and 135 yards of offense but amounted to just a field goal. Andrew Howard converted a 35-yard attempt with 8:28 left in the period to make the score 17-13 but Marcoux answered with a 25-yard field goal less than four minutes later to bring the Wildcat lead back to a touchdown.
A drive by the Spiders that lasted 12 plays and went 75 yards wound up in Richmond turning the ball over on downs seven seconds into the fourth quarter. On its ensuing drive, Villanova consumed nearly seven minutes on the clock and capped a 15-play, 63-yard drive with Marcoux kicking a career-long 48-yard field goal with exactly eight minutes to play. The field goal was the sixth-longest in school history and Marcoux added a 29-yarder with 4:04 remaining.
The final rally attempt by the Spiders stalled late in the final period after Josh Vaughan ran in a seven-yard score to pull Richmond to within 26-20. The Spiders went 86 yards on 11 plays in just 2:45 but Brian Radford's onside kick went straight to Wildcat sophomore Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) at the Villanova 39-yard line with 1:13 left.
Sophomore quarterback Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.) made his first start of the season after entering last weekend's game at Penn late in the contest. He threw for 176 yards on 14-of-22 accuracy with one interception and also gained 61 yards on the ground with 17 net rushing yards. Szczur, junior Brandyn Harvey (Spring Valley, Calif.) and senior Phil Atkinson (Media, Pa.) all had four receptions for the Wildcats, with Szczur accounting for a team-high 56 receiving yards.
Whitney was sacked four times but the Villanova defense was in top form and sacked Richmond quarterback Eric Ward six times. Ward finished 23-of-32 for 236 yards and one touchdown, but he and Josh Vaughan combined for just 83 yards on the ground with 33 total carries.
Senior Greg Miller (Willow Grove, Pa.) made eight tackles in the game, which included 5.5 tackles for losses totaling 23 yards. He was credited with 2.5 sacks and also forced a fumble, as did sophomore Terence Thomas (Lawrenceville, N.J.). Thomas had 1.5 sacks and 10 total tackles while senior Salim Koroma (Germantown, Md.) led the team with 11 stops (four solo, seven assisted).
Villanova last played a No. 1-ranked team on October 1, 2005 when it was defeated 45-17 at New Hampshire. The last time any top-ranked squad played at Villanova Stadium was during the Wildcats undefeated regular season in 1997, when they spent part of the year as the nation's No. 1 team and reached the second round of the NCAA Championship before finishing the year with a 12-1 record.
Villanova returns to action next Saturday at William & Mary with a 1 p.m. contest.