Oct. 3, 2009
VILLANOVA, Pa. - In a battle of top five teams on Saturday afternoon, No. 2 Villanova (5-0, 2-0 CAA) struck for a touchdown on the first offensive play of the game and went on to a 28-17 victory over No. 5 William & Mary (4-1, 1-1 CAA) at Villanova Stadium. The Wildcats won their sixth straight home game and improved to 15-1 on their home turf since the middle of the 2006 season.
Entering the game, it figured that something had to give between the Tribe defense and the Villanova running game. William & Mary had allowed a total of 27 yards on the ground in its last two games; the Wildcats ran for 410 yards in their last game. The answer was an improved passing game for Villanova, although the team still managed three rushing touchdowns on short yardage situations.
The Wildcats proficiency through the air set the tone, though. Junior quarterback Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.) and senior wide receiver Brandyn Harvey (Spring Valley, Calif.) connected for a 57-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the game and Villanova never looked back as it improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2003. The Wildcats capitalized on two Tribe turnovers in the first half to take a 21-6 lead into the intermission.
A three-yard touchdown pass from R.J. Archer to Chase Hill with 4:18 left in the game and a successive two-point conversion from Archer to Rob Varno pulled the Tribe to within 28-17 in the waning minutes of the game, but Villanova recovered William & Mary's ensuing onside kick and held the ball until there was less than one minute remaining in the contest.
Whitney threw for 146 yards on 10-of-13 accuracy and also ran for 31 yards on 10 carries. Villanova converted only 3-of-10 third-down opportunities but still was able to get into good scoring position in the red zone. All three rushing touchdowns for the Wildcats in the game came on runs of five yards or less.
Junior wide receiver Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) ran in for a five-yard touchdown on the opening play of the second quarter to cap an 80-yard drive and later scored on a four-yard run in the third quarter that gave Villanova some breathing room with a 28-9 lead. His first running score ended a drive that started nine plays earlier following an interception by junior linebacker Marquis Kirkland (Syracuse, N.Y.) in the end zone.
Late in the second quarter, junior running back Angelo Babbaro (Canfield, Ohio) ran in from three yards with 1:53 left to finish a quick three-play drive that started at the Tribe's 29-yard line after sophomore defensive back James Pitts (Montclair, N.J.) recovered a fumble and returned it 20 yards to set up the eventual score for the Wildcats. Pitts had also tipped the ball in the end zone that Kirkland intercepted earlier in the period.
Villanova's defense limited William & Mary to just a pair of field goals in the opening half. All-American kicker Brian Pate blasted a 44-yard field goal with 6:08 left in the half and made a 28-yard attempt as time expired.
The Tribe started the second half with the ball at their own 40-yard line after the Wildcat kickoff went out of bounds, but gained just 48 yards on a 15-play drive that consumed nearly half the third quarter and eventually led to a 29-yard field goal by Pate which made the score 21-9.
The response by Villanova after the third William & Mary field goal of the game was typical of how the game unfolded. The Wildcats drove 85 yards on 10 plays in under five minutes for another touchdown. Whitney threw a 31-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Norman White (Hammonton, N.J.) and a 20-yard pass to sophomore Mikey Reynolds (Moorestown, N.J.) on the drive before Szczur's second touchdown run of the day.
Harvey caught two passes for 65 yards and Szczur had three receptions for 26 yards on a day when Whitney hooked up with eight different receivers. Junior running back Aaron Ball (Los Angeles, Calif.) ran for 50 yards on 13 carries to lead the Villanova ground game.
Archer threw for 354 yards on 35-of-55 passing and the Tribe had nearly 200 yards more total offense than the Wildcats. Hill had 87 receiving yards on a game-high eight receptions and both D.J. Macaulay (100 yards) and Jonathan Grimes (51 yards) had seven catches. Grimes also ran for 95 yards on 17 carries. William & Mary ran 86 plays for 472 yards, compared to 52 plays and 283 yards by Villanova.
Today's game was the first in a three-game stretch for Villanova against teams that are currently ranked in the top seven in the nation. Next Saturday, the Wildcats go on the road to face their namesake, No. 6 New Hampshire, at Noon.