Nov. 7, 2009
RICHMOND, Va. - Senior wide receiver Brandyn Harvey (Spring Valley, Calif.) made a running left-handed catch for a game-winning 29-yard touchdown with 59 seconds left and No. 4 Villanova (8-1, 5-1 CAA) upset defending national champion and No. 1 Richmond (8-1, 6-1 CAA) by a final of 21-20 on Saturday afternoon in front of 11,667 at UR Stadium. With the win, the Wildcats snapped the Spiders 17-game winning streak which dated to the middle of the 2008 regular season.
"The game pretty much went accordingly to what we expected coming in," Villanova head coach Andy Talley said. "I thought both teams were very evenly matched and we were comfortable playing here because we thought we had a chance to get after [Richmond] if we could shut down their running game. We maybe had an opportunity to close it out earlier but Richmond is a very good team and they were everything we thought they would be. We have a lot of respect for them. They did a great job and the game could have gone either way."
Villanova started the game-winning drive from its own 44-yard line after Richmond took its first and only lead of the game, 20-14, with 2:22 left. Three plays later, the Wildcats had no timeouts and were staring at a game-breaking 4th-and-11 play from the Spiders 29-yard line. That was when junior quarterback Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.) connected with Harvey for the most dramatic play of an evenly played game between two of the nation's top teams. The victory was Villanova's second ever against a team ranked No. 1 in the nation, with the other also being a victory against Richmond, 26-20 last season at Villanova Stadium.
In such a close encounter between the two teams this afternoon, the game was far from being decided after Harvey's touchdown. The Spiders drove 59 yards on seven plays to get into field goal range with 10 seconds to play. However, Richmond missed a 35-yard field goal attempt wide left on its last chance to reverse the outcome.
Just over a minute before Whitney and Harvey provided their own late-game heroics, Kendall Gaskins had given the Spiders the lead on a one-yard touchdown run with 2:22 to play. Richmond went 62 yards on nine plays to take the lead but, for the second time in the game, failed to convert an extra-point attempt due to a bad snap. The second failed PAT wound up being the difference in the game as the Spiders were left with only the six-point lead.
Whitney completed 21-of-34 passes for 277 yards and tied a career-high with three touchdown passes. It was the second time this season that he surpassed 200 passing yards and his final tally was just one yard off tying a single-game career high. Harvey had six receptions for 79 yards, none bigger than his late touchdown.
"The play was designed to go to me. [Whitney] saw me and I was open," Harvey said. "I should probably have caught the pass with two hands but you can't put your arms as far out as with one hand. Once I made the catch, I knew someone was behind me but I just wanted to make sure I scored."
"Like Brandyn said, the play was designed to go to him," Whitney added. "On fourth-and-10 I didn't have much choice but to go to him. We have counted on Brandyn all year. He is 6-4 and a big target. I thought I might have overthrown it at first but I am glad that it worked."
Earlier in the game, redshirt freshman wide receiver Dorian Wells (West Covina, Calif.) caught his first career touchdown pass with 3:33 left in the first quarter as Whitney led an 81-yard drive in 13 plays to open the scoring. The drive nearly stalled when Villanova faced a second-and-14 play from its own 14-yard line and Whitney threw an interception. However, a pass interference play was called against the Spiders and gave the Wildcats a first down at the 29-yard line. Villanova had six first downs on the scoring drive and never got to third down.
Following their first score, the Wildcats forced Richmond to go three-and-out on its next drive and Villanova took over possession at its own 45-yard line. Whitney threw a 15-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Norman White (Hammonton, N.J.) and pitched to junior running back Angelo Babbaro (Canfield, Ohio) for a 30-yard run during the Wildcats drive but, after starting the second quarter with first-and-goal at the Spiders four-yard line, Villanova eventually missed a 29-yard field goal.
As they would do throughout the entire game, the Wildcats did a good job of holding the ball in the first half. Villanova controlled possession for more than 17 minutes in the first half and xx minutes in the game.
Richmond finally got on the board with 5:58 left in the second quarter on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Eric Ward. The Spiders had third-and-seven from the Wildcats 48-yard line before Ward made consecutive passes to Kevin Grayson for 28 yard and Kevin Finney for 19 yards. He ran in his third score of the season on the next play, but the score remained 7-6 after a high snap prevented Richmond from converting either an extra point or a two-point conversion.
Late in the first half, Villanova went 78 yards on nine plays on a scoring drive that culminated with junior wide receiver Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) catching a 23-yard touchdown pass from Whitney.
The Wildcats maintained their lead until early in the fourth quarter, although the Spiders gained significant momentum late in the third period that led to their game-tying score. Villanova had second-and-seven at the Richmond nine-yard line when a pass by Whitney was intercepted by Patrick Weldon at the five-yard line. Weldon returned the interception 70 yards to the Wildcats 25-yard line.
In the fourth quarter, Ward threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Tre Gray with 12:53 left and then connected with Jordan Mitchell for a two-point conversion that tied the game at 14-14.
In a sequence indicative of the entire game, Villanova went three-and-out on its next drive to return the ball to the Spiders, but freshman defensive back Eric Loper (Sicklerville, N.J.) made an interception at the Wildcats five-yard line to initially prevent Richmond from gaining the lead. It was after the next Villanova drive also stalled that the Spiders took their only lead of the game.
Ward finished the day 23-of-35 for 297 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, while Gray caught six passes for 92 yards and the one score.
Villanova goes back on the road next Saturday for a 1 p.m. game against Towson.