No. 6 Villanova Holds Off No. 8 New Hampshire 24-13
Nov. 8, 2008
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Key plays in the biggest of spots in the fourth quarter for the second straight week allowed No. 6 Villanova (7-2, 5-1 CAA) to prevail over No. 8 New Hampshire (7-2, 4-2 CAA), 24-13, on Saturday afternoon at Villanova Stadium in a game pitting two top-10 opponents against each other with potential playoff implications on the line.
The Wildcats held off their mascot namesake for their second win of the season against a top-10 team and in the process senior Joe Marcoux (Campbell Hall, N.Y.) set a single-season school record for field goals in a season when his 14th of the year with 1:33 remaining in the contest made the score a two-possession margin for the first time in the contest.
Villanova began the fourth quarter with a slim 14-13 advantage and New Hampshire holding a 3rd-and-12 possession at the Villanova 26-yard line. On fourth down from the same spot a 43-yard field goal attempt by Tom Bishop missed when it hit the right upright.
The running game for Villanova took over on the ensuing possession as the Wildcats converted two third-and-short situations before capping an 11-play, 73-yard drive with a touchdown run by senior wide receiver Phil Atkinson (Media, Pa.) that made the score 21-13 with 8:56 to play. On first down at the New Hampshire 21-yard line, sophomore quarterback Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.) ran for four yards before pitching the ball to Atkinson for a 17-yard scoring run.
New Hampshire went three and out on their next drive and punted 56 yards to give Villanova the ball back at their own 14-yard line with an eight-point lead and 7:10 to play. On 4th-and-1 from the Villanova-38 five plays later, sophomore Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) rushed for six yards on a fake punt to continue the drive that eventually led to the late Marcoux field goal that put the game out of reach.
For the sixth straight game Villanova gained more than 200 yards on the ground and sophomore Aaron Ball (Los Angeles, Calif.) ran for 73 yards on 15 carries to lead all players. Whitney gained 70 yards on 11 rushes and Atkinson and junior quarterback Antwon Young (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) each had rushing touchdowns for the Wildcats.
Whitney was 10-of-14 passing the ball for 80 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Junior Brandyn Harvey (Spring Valley, Calif.) had five receptions for 51 yards, including a five-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter that gave Villanova the only lead it would need in the game.
New Hampshire quarterback R.J. Toman threw for 264 yards on 18-of-28 accuracy but was sacked five times for a combined total loss of 39 yards. Mike Boyle caught five passes for 101 yards and Robert Simpson ran 12 times for 53 yards and a touchdown for the visiting Wildcats.
Villanova used all of its traditional strengths to pull out the victory and is now averaging 206.9 rushing yards per game this season. The Wildcats began the day leading the CAA in time of possession per game and surpassed their average by four seconds with a total of 32:16 in today's contest. That included holding the ball for nearly 12 minutes in the fourth quarter alone.
The victory still was anything but comfortable and New Hampshire twice held the lead in the first half. Simpson ran in for a three-yard score with 4:18 left in the opening quarter to give the visitors a 7-0 lead. Villanova answered on Young's own three-yard run early in the second quarter to tie the game 7-7 but New Hampshire countered and led 10-7 after Bishop's 36-yard field goal with 9:31 left in the opening half.
Villanova led 14-10 at halftime and New Hampshire pulled to within a point on a 23-yard field goal by Bishop midway through the third period. Following that field goal, however, New Hampshire gained just 64 yards the rest of the game as Villanova won for the 10th time in its last 11 home games.
Penalties provided another telling indicator of the game as New Hampshire was penalized nine times for 54 yards. Meanwhile, Villanova was not called for a single penalty for the first time since a 28-15 loss on the road to Boston College on October 12, 1968. The Wildcats lead the CAA in fewest penalties per game.
With two games remaining in the regular season, Villanova stands in excellent position to contend for its first playoff berth since 2002. The Wildcats play their final home game of the regular season next Saturday at 1 p.m. against Towson.