KINGSTON, R.I. - Sophomore kicker Drew Kresge (Douglassville, Pa.) made field goals in the first and third quarters on Saturday afternoon as Villanova (4-6, 2-5 CAA Football) fell to Rhode Island (3-7, 2-5) by a final score of 20-6 in its final road game of the season. The loss marked the second straight week that the Wildcats offense was held without a touchdown.
Most of the game was a tight defensive battle with the two teams trading possessions which started deep within their own territories. A stretch of just 85 seconds of game clock late in the third quarter helped the Rams finally take control of the contest and go on to the win. The sequence began with a Rhode Island field goal with 4:42 remaining in the third period which pushed its lead to a 13-6 advantage.
Villanova went three-and-out in just one minute on its ensuing possession and punted the ball back to the Rams, who signaled for a fair catch at their own 34-yard line. Two players later, on 2nd-and-15 from the 29-yard line following a false start, Rhode Island quarterback JaJuan Lawson threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to Marven Beauvais which extended the margin to 20-6 with 3:17 left in the quarter.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Schetelich (Cranford, N.J.) threw for a season-high 170 yards in his third start of the season and first since October 14 against James Madison. He was 13-of-33 in the game, including a 51-yard strike to sophomore tight end Simon Bingelis (Brick, N.J.) and a 35-yard completion to redshirt freshman tight end Todd Summers (Murrysville, Pa.). Sophomore wide receiver Zac Kerxton (Haymarket, Va.) had 31 yards and led the team with four receptions.
After the Rams won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, the Wildcats received the opening kickoff for the eighth time in their 10 games this season. Villanova went 58 yards on six plays on the game’s first drive before Kresge kicked a 33-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead less than three minutes into the contest. Rhode Island answered with a field goal of its own from 23 yards later in the period which knotted the score at 3-3.
In the second quarter, the Wildcats went three-and-out on their first drive of the period and the Rams put together an 11-play, 88-yard possession which culminated with a six-yard touchdown run by Lawson which put Rhode Island in front 10-3 with 5:40 to play before halftime. Lawson threw for 336 yards and a touchdown while rushing for a net total of 13 yards and the one score.
Villanova had good field position early in the third quarter when sophomore linebacker Keeling Hunter (Franklin, Tenn.) recorded his team-high fourth interception of the season and returned it 21 yards to set the Wildcats up at the Rams 36-yard line with 12:46 to play in the period. Schetelich then found Summers for 35 yards on the first play of the drive to make it first-and-goal at the one with a chance to tie the game. Villanova was stopped for a loss of yards on consecutive plays and then threw an incomplete pass on third down before Kresge kicked a 30-yard field goal to narrow the margin to 10-6 with 10:09 on the clock.
Hunter and freshman defensive end Malik Fisher (New York, N.Y.) each gained turnovers in the game for the Wildcats defense. In addition to Hunter’s fourth interception of the year, Fisher forced a fumble and recovered the ball in the fourth quarter. He has three forced fumbles and four recoveries on the year. Senior linebacker Ed Shockley (Millville, N.J.) had 11 total tackles to notch his second straight game in double figures, his fifth this season and the eighth such game of his career. Hunter, sophomore linebacker Drew Wiley (Pennington, N.J.) and junior defensive lineman Bryan White (West Chester, Pa.) all recorded sacks.
Villanova returns home for its final game of the 2017 season and will host Delaware in the annual Battle of the Blue rivalry game next Saturday at 1 p.m.