VILLANOVA, Pa. - Senior wide receiver Taurus Phillips (Beacon, N.Y.) scored two touchdowns, senior linebacker Ed Shockley (Millville, N.J.) reached the century mark in tackles for the season, and Villanova (5-6, 3-5 CAA Football) won the Battle of the Blue Trophy for the sixth straight year with a 28-7 victory over Delaware (7-4, 5-3 CAA Football) at Villanova Stadium on Saturday afternoon. This is the 11th time in the last 12 years that the Wildcats have won their annual rivalry game versus the Blue Hens, and the 10th time Villanova has won the Battle of the Blue game since the moniker was adopted in 2007.
Several of the Wildcats seniors had standout performances in their final home games. Villanova recognized 23 senior student-athletes in a ceremony prior to kickoff, then finished the 2017 season on a strong note by snapping a four-game losing streak. Two early touchdowns in the first quarter set a tone for the game and two more scores in the third period put the game all but out of reach. Delaware scored its only points of the game on a touchdown with less than a minute to play in the contest.
The early lead enabled the Wildcats to get their running game going, and as a result Villanova rushed for 261 yards while attempting just eight passes. Junior running back Aaron Forbes (Newburgh, N.Y.) ran for 140 yards on 13 carries, while redshirt freshman Justin Covington (Bronx, N.Y.) rushed 12 times for 62 yards. It is the first time since the third week of the season that the Wildcats surpassed 200 yards on the ground.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Schetelich (Cranford, N.J.) went 5-of-7 for 61 yards and two touchdowns while also running for 28 yards and a score. He threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Phillips less than five minutes into the game, and later found Phillips for a 37-yard score in the third quarter. Schetelich kept the ball on a quarterback sneak for a one-yard touchdown run later in the third period to account for the final Villanova points of the contest.
The season finale was a welcome turnaround for the Wildcats, who had scored just six total points in their previous two games. After forcing the Blue Hens to go three-and-out and the opening drive of the game, Villanova went 87 yards on eight plays on its first possession to take a 7-0 lead with 10:11 left in the opening period. The offense wound up with 322 yards on the day despite running just 55 total plays. Phillips had three receptions for 46 yards and the two touchdowns in his final collegiate game, while Forbes and sophomore tight end Simon Bingelis (Brick, N.J.) also made catches on the day.
Junior linebacker Jeff Steeb (Sweetwater, N.J.) had a game-high 13 tackles and also scored his second career touchdown when he returned an interception 38 yards for a score with 8:23 remaining in the first quarter. Steeb reached double figures in tackles for the fourth time this season and the fifth time in his career, while Shockley joined him in double digits with 10 total stops. Shockley finishes his final collegiate season with 101 tackles and is the Wildcats first player since Don Cherry in 2014 to surpass the century mark. Shockley tallied nine games with double figures in tackles during his career, including six this season and three in a row to close out the year.
Other seniors who starred for Villanova in the season finale include cornerback Malik Reaves (Jacksonville, Fla.) and punter John Hinchen (Saddle River, N.J.). Reaves recorded his fourth career interception in the game and finished with five tackles, while Hinchen punted six times for a total of 207 yards. Hinchen averaged 42.9 yards per punt on 58 attempts this season, with 14 punts of 50 yards or longer and nine punts that were downed inside the opponent's own 20-yard line.
The end of the season also puts a wrap on the first year as head coach for Mark Ferrante, who previously spent 30 seasons as a Wildcats assistant coach before taking over the reins this year after Andy Talley's retirement following the 2016 season. Ferrante had his Villanova team nationally-ranked for the majority of the season, even when a multitude of injuries derailed the team's fast start to the year.
The seniors that were recognized prior to the start of the game included managers Lee DiValerio and Bryce Lewis, along with senior student-athletes Zach Bednarczyk, Ryan Bell, Alex Coren, Matt Donoghue, Matt Gudzak, Will Harris, John Hinchen, Brandon Hitner, Trey Johnson, Chris King, Gregg Kobelski, Collin Linden, Alex Padovani, Taurus Phillips, Malik Reaves, Rob Rolle, Sam Shaud, Ed Shockley, Joe Sotomayor, Jeff Steeb, Rasaan Stewart, Steve Weyler and Ricky Young.