VILLANOVA, Pa. - Freshman safety Jaquan Amos (Philadelphia, Pa.) registered only the third 99-yard fumble return in FCS history and No. 12 Villanova (4-2, 2-1 CAA Football) continued its shutout ways at home with a 31-0 win over Maine (1-3, 0-3) at Villanova Stadium on Saturday afternoon. In their only two home games of the season, the Wildcats have defeated first Lafayette and now the Black Bears by a combined 90-0 score.
The play of the game came with Villanova leading 7-0 with 8:42 left in the second quarter. Maine had driven down to the Wildcats 3-yard line and stood poised to tie the game, but on a first-and-goal run play senior cornerback Malik Reaves (Jacksonville, Fla.) forced the ball loose and Amos scooped it up just in front of the goal line before racing all the way downfield for the 99-yard score. The only previous fumble returns of 99 yards in FCS history (since 1978) were by Liberty in 2002 and by Morgan State in 2006.
“We were in cover-2 so I was pressing the receiver,” Amos said about the play leading up to the fumble recovery. “He took an outside release, so as soon as I turned my head the ball was there. I saw the ball on the ground, I grabbed it, and was off to the end zone.”
The defensive touchdown extended the Villanova lead to 14-0 and wound up being a sign of things to come. Beginning with its drive that resulted in the Amos fumble recovery, Maine turned the ball over five times in a span of six possessions. By the time that stretch ended, the Wildcats had gotten rushing touchdowns from senior wideout Taurus Phillips (Beacon, N.Y.) and redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Schetelich (Cranford, N.J.) to go in front 28-0 midway through the third quarter. Villanova forced six turnovers in all on the afternoon, including four interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
“If you had told me that was going to be the outcome of the game I would have never believed you,” Wildcats head coach Mark Ferrante said. If you get six turnovers in your favor, that’s usually what the score is going to look like. To everybody’s credit, our team came ready to play. There’s a couple guys out there getting first time opportunities. Jack got thrown into the fire last week so this was his first true start and he couldn’t have responded any better. I’m really proud and really pleased with the way we played today.”
Schetelich was a winner in his first collegiate start after he came in during the first quarter of last week’s 24-9 win at Towson and played the rest of the contest in place of injured starter Zach Bednarczyk. Schetelich attempted just eight passes in the game in addition to running the ball 14 times, but his first completion of the game was a 20-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman tight end Todd Summers (Murrysville, Pa.) which opened the scoring with 7:52 to play in the first quarter.
It is the Villanova defense which continues to be the team’s biggest storyline of the season. After rating as the top defensive unit in FCS football last year, the Wildcats have been arguably even better this year. This is already the first season since 1966 in which Villanova has recorded two shutouts, and the defense has given up just three offensive touchdowns in the last five games. Opposing teams have averaged just 50.0 rushing yards per game and 1.8 yards per carry in six games this season. In just the last two weeks the Wildcats have allowed a total of 60 rushing yards to Towson and Maine, on a combined 61 carries.
Amos wasn’t the only defensive player who stood out in the win over the Black Bears. Senior safety Rasaan Stewart (Collegeville, Pa.) had both a fumble recovery and an interception, while Reaves, senior cornerback Trey Johnson (Lutz, Fla.) and sophomore linebacker Keeling Hunter (Franklin, Tenn.) also had interceptions. Sophomore defensive end Jafonta Johnson (Syracuse, N.Y.) recorded a sack and had two of the team’s season-high 10 total tackles for loss.
The final points of the game came with 9:00 remaining in the fourth quarter when sophomore kicker Drew Kresge (Douglassville, Pa.) made a 46-yard field goal, his second in as many weeks from that exact distance.
Other top performers for the Wildcats included junior running back Aaron Forbes (Newburgh, N.Y.) rushing for 63 yards on 14 carries, while redshirt freshman Justin Covington (Bronx, N.Y.) and freshman Damone Drew (Stafford, Va.) added 49 yards and 27 yards, respectively. Summers’ touchdown reception in the first quarter came on his first career catch.
Villanova was playing just its second home game of the season, but the team will step out on the road once again next week for a matchup with No. 1-ranked and defending national champion James Madison. The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday in Harrisonburg, Va. and will be followed by the Wildcats bye week.