Oct. 13, 2007
AMHERST, Mass.--An upstart team with a true freshman making his first collegiate start extended one of the nation's top programs to the limit on Saturday afternoon but ultimately Villanova (4-3, 2-2 CAA) was defeated 32-24 in an overtime marathon by No. 4 Massachusetts (5-1, 3-0 CAA) in front of more than 16,000 fans at McGuirk Stadium.
The extra period lasted for four series on each side and the Minutemen went ahead for good on an 11-yard run by Matt Lawrence and ensuing two-point conversion from Liam Coen to J.J. Moore. Villanova ran seven plays on its final possession and reached the Massachusetts seven-yard line, but got no further than that on the final three pass attempts of the game.
The Wildcats scored 10 unanswered points in overtime after the Minutemen went ahead 21-14 on a four-yard run for a score by Lawrence on the second Massachusetts possession. Freshman quarterback Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.), in the first start of his collegiate career, ran in from nine yards to tie the game and junior Joe Marcoux (Campbell Hall, N.Y.) kicked a 41-yard field goal to give Villanova a 24-21 lead.
A 23-yard field goal by Chris Koepplin for the Minutemen tied the game 24-24 after Coen's pass on third and goal at the six was incomplete. With the game tied for the third time, Coen threw a 14-yard pass to Michael Omar that set up Lawrence's game-winning run.
The game featured a combined 150 total offensive plays, including 78 by the Wildcats. A key part of the game was Villanova's ability to use the clock and run the ball against a Massachusetts team that was allowing only 90.8 yards on the ground per game through its first five outings. The Wildcats ran the ball for 243 yards and held possession for more than 33 minutes during the game.
Senior running back Matt Dicken (Cape May, N.J.) carried 35 times for a career-high 172 yards and Whitney added 48 yards and a touchdown on 21 rushing attempts. Still, the team managed just one touchdown in regulation on Whitney's go-ahead 18-yard pass to senior Matt Sherry (Rumford, R.I.) with 9:11 left in the fourth quarter.
Marcoux kicked field goals in the first and second periods to put Villanova in front 6-0 at halftime. Massachusetts finally got on the scoreboard midway through the third quarter when Ian Jorgensen caught a 13-yard pass from Coen.
In the fourth quarter, though, the Wildcats went 81 yards on 10 plays to retake the lead. Whitney threw the touchdown pass to Sherry and then connected with him again for a two-point conversion to make the score 14-7.
Late in the period, however, Villanova gained just four yards on a drive and had to punt from its own 19-yard line. The Minutemen took over at the Wildcat 43 and needed just four plays to tie the game on Coen's 17-yard pass to Joe Sanford.
There was a marked contrast in styles between the two sides, as Coen threw for 355 yards while completing 21-of-34 attempts. Meanwhile, Villanova attempted just two passes the entire first half, with a breakdown of 135 rushing yards and four passing yards at the intermission. The 61 total rushing attempts for the Wildcats in the game are the team's most in at least the last eight seasons. Dicken's 35 attempts were nine more than his previous season and career high.
Despite the emphasis on the running game, Whitney was good when he needed to be, completing 7-of-8 passes in the third and fourth quarters. Sherry caught three passes for 45 yards and sophomore Brandyn Harvey (Spring Valley, Calif.) caught a 42-yard pass from Whitney.
Rasheed Rancher tallied 155 receiving yards for Massachusetts and J.J. Moore had 138 yards receiving as the two combined for 15 of Coen's 21 completions. Lawrence also ran for 106 yards on 26 carries.
Villanova now enters its bye week and will next play at home against Hofstra on October 27 at 3:30 p.m.