Late Rally Attempt Falls Short as Wildcats Downed By No. 7 William & Mary, 31-24
Oct. 2, 2010
WILLIAMSBURG, Va.--In a matchup of two highly-ranked but also injury-depleted teams, a late comeback attempt by No. 1 Villanova (3-2, 1-1 CAA) came up a little short as No. 7 William & Mary (4-1, 2-1 CAA) pulled out a 31-24 victory at Zable Stadium on Saturday in the third straight pivotal matchup between the conference rivals.
Entering today's matchup, the Wildcats had won six straight meetings against the Tribe, including a pair of victories at Villanova Stadium last season. The latter was a come-from-behind thriller in the semifinals of the Division I Football Championship, which sent Villanova on to the championship game and ultimately the program's first-ever national title.
This time around, the Wildcats scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to try and rally from what had once been a 25-point deficit. The comeback bid appeared to have some teeth when 6-foot-3 junior wide receiver Norman White (Hammonton, N.J.) leaped high into the air at the front of the end zone and hauled in a 47-yard heave from senior quarterback Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.) for a touchdown with 2:10 left on the clock.
Villanova had no timeouts left at that point however, and was forced to attempt an on-side kick. The kick was recovered by Jonathan Grimes and William & Mary ran out the clock to hang on to its first victory over the Wildcats since the 2004 season.
Earlier in the fourth quarter Whitney scampered for his second touchdown of the game with 7:34 to play, a four-yard run that capped a 69-yard drive on only six plays. Villanova found its offense late in the game and picked up more than 40 percent of its offensive yards in the final period. Whitney's second rushing touchdown made the score 31-17 and made the prospect of a dramatic rally at least a possibility.
With the Wildcats powerful offense suddenly coming to life, the Tribe pushed for more points on their ensuing drive as much as they tried to use up time on the clock. On the seventh play of their possession, however, Villanova senior defensive back Martel Moody (Tampa, Fla.) picked off a pass at the Wildcats 37-yard line and returned it 14 yards across midfield to return possession to Villanova with 3:59 remaining.
The opportunity to further trim their deficit nearly turned into a disaster for the Wildcats, who lost yards on three consecutive plays. On first down from the William & Mary 29-yard line, Whitney was sacked for a loss of eight yards. He then was whistled for intentionally grounding the ball when he threw it away after being chased out of the pocket. Whitney then threw a 12-yard pass to White, only to have the play called back because of a holding call.
Following two more incomplete passes, Villanova stared at a fourth-and-28 play from the Tribe's 47-yard line. Whitney escaped pressure and threw a desperate attempt towards the end zone which White jumped up to grab over two William & Mary defenders.
The normally dominant running game for the Wildcats was held in check for the entire game and Villanova had just 62 net yards rushing. Whitney carried 12 times for 37 yards and the two short scores and was also 20-of-35 through the air for 235 yards. White made seven catches for a career-high 110 yards, while sophomore wide receiver Dorian Wells (West Covina, Calif.) caught four passes for 68 yards.
Neither team was healthy to begin the game, as the Wildcats were without All-American wide receiver Matt Szczur, and the Tribe played without their starting quarterback and All-CAA kicker. Both teams looked to make adjustments early on and the first swing of momentum in the contest belonged to William & Mary after Villanova gained a total of just 12 yards on its first two drives of the game.
Grimes opened the scoring at the 1:35 mark of the first quarter with an eight-yard touchdown run that finished a 13-play drive which covered 86 yards and consumed 6:25 of clock time. He went on to add a four-yard run early in the second quarter and later a six-yard run as the Tribe built a 28-3 lead with 7:13 to play in the third period. The only points not supplied by Grimes in that span came on an 84-yard interception return by Dante Cook with 5:03 left before halftime.
Sophomore kicker Nick Yako (Cleveland, Ohio) got the Wildcats on the board with a 26-yard field goal just before the intermission and Whitney tallied a three-yard scoring run with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter to slowly churn out some points for Villanova.
In place of Szczur, senior running back Angelo Babbaro (Canfield, Ohio) returned four kickoffs for 96 yards, including two returns over 30 yards.
Transfer quarterback Michael Paulus made his first start in a William & Mary uniform and went 20-of-28 for 211 yards with a pair of interceptions. In addition to the pick by Moody, sophomore defensive back Ronnie Akins (Lansdale, Pa.) had a four-yard interception to begin the Wildcat possession that led to Yako's field goal.
Grimes ran for 83 yards and the three touchdowns on 21 carries for the Tribe, while Ryan Moody and Chase Hill caught five passes apiece.
Senior defensive back Fred Maldonado (West Chester, Pa.) led all players with a career-high 12 tackles and senior linebacker Marquis Kirkland (Syracuse, N.Y.) added 10 stops for Villanova, which had five different players register seven tackles or more.
A chance to get healthy now presents itself for the Wildcats, who enter their bye week. Villanova returns to action in two weeks with another conference road game when it plays Maine on October 16 at Noon.
NOTES: In all three meetings between the Wildcats and William & Mary since the start of last season, both squads have been ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation ... Villanova is 4-9 all-time at Zable Stadium, though it had won its last two games there ... White surpassed 100 receiving yards in a game for the first time in his career ... Szczur missed the first game of his collegiate career with a sprained ankle ... Today's game marked only the fourth time that the Wildcats have been held to fewer than 100 yards rushing in their last 39 games since the middle of the 2007 season ... The 62 net yards were the team's fewest on the ground since Villanova had only 11 rushing yards against FBS member Maryland in a season-opening game on September 1, 2007 ... The last time the Wildcats had fewer rushing yards against an FCS team was against Maine on October 14, 2006 (minus 39 yards) ... The Tribe held possession for more than 35 minutes (35:09) of today's game, the most a team has held the ball against Villanova since Penn had possession for 35:22 of a 14-3 victory by the Wildcats last season on September 19, 2009 ... William & Mary has had the advantage in time of possession in three straight meetings against Villanova.