TOWSON, Md. - Redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Schetelich (Cranford, N.J.) was called upon early in the first quarter and played the rest of the game while leading No. 14 Villanova (3-2, 1-1 CAA Football) to a 24-9 victory over Towson (2-3, 0-2) at Johnny Unitas Stadium on Saturday evening. Schetelich had a pair of rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter which secured the victory for the Wildcats, who bounced back from a loss at Albany last week and won their first conference game of the season.
Starting quarterback Zach Bednarczyk (Wallington, N.J.) left the game in the first quarter and was replaced by Schetelich, whose only career appearance had come against Lafayette in a lopsided win two weeks ago in the home opener. He was 5-of-15 through the air for 59 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, and also ran for 40 yards and the two scores on nine carries. His two rushing touchdowns were both on one-play Villanova drives following turnovers forced by the Wildcats defense.
Villanova continued to play stifling defense with a unit that has been dominant against the run. Towson had a net total of just 44 rushing yards on 32 carries as the Wildcats held their seventh straight opponent to fewer than 100 yards on the ground. In all, the Tigers managed just 246 yards on 76 plays (3.2 yards per play). Senior linebacker Ed Shockley (Millville, N.J.) had a game-high 13 tackles and senior cornerback Malik Reaves (Jacksonville, Fla.) tallied 11 total stops. Villanova also forced three turnovers with an interception and two fumble recoveries.
A sequence of three consecutive plays early in the fourth quarter ultimately decided the game. Villanova began the period with the ball and a 10-9 lead, but on the second play of the period a pass attempt by Schetelich was intercepted at the Towson 15-yard line. On the very next play, Tigers quarterback Ryan Stover fumbled at the 10-yard line and sophomore safety Julian Williams (Airmont, N.Y.) recovered the ball at the 8-yard line. With the ball back in his hands, Schetelich ran for an eight-yard touchdown which extended the Wildcats lead to 17-9 with 13:54 to play.
Junior linebacker Jeff Steeb (Sweetwater, N.J.) and freshman defensive end Malik Fisher (New York, N.Y.) each had a sack and a forced fumble. Fisher recovered the fumble he forced in the fourth quarter which set up the Wildcats final touchdown of the game. Steeb was one of five players who had at least seven tackles. This is the 15th time in 29 games since the start of the 2015 season that Villanova has held its opponent to fewer than 20 points. In nine of those 15 contests the opposing team has had fewer than 10 points.
In their last seven games, the Wildcats have held the opposition to just 318 total rushing yards on 183 carries (1.7 yards per carry). For comparison, in the same stretch of games Villanova has run for 1,103 yards while averaging 4.1 yards per carry. The defense is giving up an average of just 4.4 yards per play overall through the first five games this season.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Schetelich threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Taurus Phillips (Beacon, N.Y.) with 7:21 left in the first quarter to open the scoring. Towson countered with Stover's three-yard touchdown run midway through the second period, but a missed extra point left the Wildcats with a 7-6 lead with 8:37 remaining before halftime.
In the third quarter, the Tigers held a brief 9-7 lead after Aidan O'Neill made a 27-yard field goal with 6:41 left in the period. That advantage lasted less than a minute, as sophomore Drew Kresge (Douglassville, Pa.) put Villanova back in front, 10-9, on a 46-yard field goal just 59 seconds later. It was the longest of Kresge's five made field goals this season and his second successful attempt from longer than 40 yards.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
The 46-yard field goal by Kresge was the longest by a Wildcats kicker since Chris Gough also made a 46-yard attempt against Sam Houston State in the FCS playoffs on December 13, 2014. Kresge is 5-of-6 on field goal this season and 16-of-17 on extra points.
Redshirt freshman Josh McGrigg (Alexandria, Va.) had a 53-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, which is the longest kick return for Villanova since a 55-yard return by Jamal Abdur-Rahman against Fordham on September 7, 2013.
Junior running back Aaron Forbes (Newburgh, N.Y.) led the Wildcats offense with 84 rushing yards on 16 carries. Junior wide receiver Sam Shaud (Rumson, N.J.) had two receptions for a team-high 40 yards. Prior to being injured, Bednarczyk had gone 5-of-7 for 47 yards and carried the ball once for two yards.
Villanova returns home for only the second time this season and will host Maine next Saturday at 1 p.m.