Oct. 27, 2007
VILLANOVA, Pa. - With a slim margin appearing more and more tenuous in the closing minutes, Villanova (5-3, 3-2 Colonial Athletic Association) defended four straight pass attempts by No. 15 Hofstra (6-2, 3-2 CAA) after the Pride had a first down at the Wildcats 13-yard line with just over one minute remaining in the contest. That presence, plus three combined touchdowns from the defense and special teams helped Villanova to a 35-31 win on Saturday at Villanova Stadium.
The Wildcats built a 21-7 lead by the end of the first quarter but saw Hofstra score 14 unanswered points in the second period to pull even at 21-21 at halftime. The intermission may well have been the turning point in the game as well, as sophomore Angelo Babbaro (Canfield, Ohio) returned the opening kickoff of the second half 95 yards for a touchdown that put Villanova ahead to stay.
Just 91 seconds after Babbaro's return, sophomore Tim Kukucka (Wall, N.J.) recovered a fumble and returned 17 yards to five the Wildcats a 35-21 lead. Entering today's contest, the Wildcats had not returned a kickoff for a touchdown since 2004 and had not returned a fumble for a touchdown since 2005.
The Pride kicked a field goal at the 5:41 mark of the third period and scored their third rushing touchdown of the game with 3:05 showing in the quarter to get within 35-31. That score proved to be the final outcome, as neither team got on the scoreboard in the final 15 minutes.
The defensive effort and special teams play helped Villanova post a win over a ranked opponent for the first time this season despite managing only 201 yards of total offense. The Wildcats gained 169 yards on the ground behind 55 rushing yards from senior Matt Dicken (Cape May, N.J.) and 51 yards from true freshman Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.). Szczur produced a 40-yard run on the first Villanova drive of the game to set up a two-yard scoring run by Dicken just 2:28 into the contest.
Late in the second quarter redshirt freshman defensive back Martel Moody (Tampa, Fla.) returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown.
Freshman quarterback Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.) made his second start of the season and was 8-of-16 for 56 yards and one interception. On the defensive end, though, the Wildcats picked Hofstra quarterback Bryan Savage for three times, as Savage went 16-of-36 for 206 yards.
Kareem Huggins generated 95 yards on just 12 carries for the Pride, including a 55-yard scoring run early in the second quarter for Hofstra's first points of the game. Savage also had a 14-yard run for a Pride touchdown and Everette Benjamin carried in from two yards. Rob Zarrilli kicked a 44-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Villanova plays its next two games on the road before returning home for the regular season finale against Delaware on November 17. Next up for the Wildcats is a 3:30 p.m. game at Richmond next Saturday. That game will be televised live on CN8.