Nov. 19, 2011
CHESTER, Pa.--The first American football game at PPL Park was played in front of a crowd more than 14,000 strong as Villanova (2-9, 1-7 CAA) closed out the season with a 26-16 loss to No. 15 Delaware (7-4, 5-3 CAA) on Saturday afternoon. The annual Battle of the Blue Trophy was awarded to the Blue Hens for the first time, as the Wildcats had won five consecutive meetings between the longtime rivals.
The home of the MLS Philadelphia Union was the setting for the 45th meeting between Villanova and Delaware in a rivalry that dates back more than 100 years. This year's installment of the all-time series saw the Blue Hens score 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to decide the game, including a field goal with 2:11 remaining which put Delaware ahead for good.
A game which featured two ties and four lead changes was bound to come down to the closing minutes. With less than two minutes to play and the Blue Hens leading 19-16 an interception thrown by the Wildcats was returned 54 yards for a touchdown to seal the outcome.
Villanova ushered in a youth movement during the 2011 season and its 22 starters in the season finale included eight true freshmen and just one senior. Freshman quarterback Chris Polony (Whitehall, Pa.) made his fourth start under center and first-year running back Jamal Abdur-Rahman (Philadelphia, Pa.) racked up 291 all-purpose yards to lead the Wildcats offensively.
Abdur-Rahman ran for a season-high 119 yards and two touchdowns on just seven carries. He amassed over 100 yards on his scoring runs alone, breaking away for a 58-yard touchdown early in the second quarter and later scoring on a 43-yard run in the third quarter. Both touchdowns gave Villanova the lead in the back-and-forth contest.
The 43-yard touchdown by Abdur-Rahman put the Wildcats in front, 16-13, with 5:37 left in the third quarter. That score held until Sean Baner kicked a 40-yard field goal with 8:45 to play in the game which tied the score at 16-16. Baner kicked four field goals in the game and his 29-yard attempt with 2:11 left were the decisive points in the contest.
Polony was 14-of-24 for 139 yards and two interceptions, with senior wide receiver Mikey Reynolds (Moorestown, N.J.) and senior running back Lawrence Doss (Bellflower, Calif.) each having three receptions. Doss also ran for 47 yards on four carries and Villanova totaled 199 yards on the ground while averaging better than seven yards per carry.
Delaware was led by running back Andrew Pierce, who carried 40 times for 109 yards and a touchdown.
In the first quarter Baner kicked a 26-yard field goal on the game's first drive and junior kicker Mark Hamilton (Gaithersburg, Md.) answered for the Wildcats on a 19-yard attempt at the end of the period to tie the score at 3-3.
The first of the two touchdowns for Abdur-Rahman in the game came with 13:20 to play in the second quarter and gave Villanova the lead at 10-3, while Baner hit a 34-yard field goal near the midpoint of the second period to pull the Blue Hens to within 10-6.
Delaware eventually took a 13-10 lead into halftime on a one-yard scoring run by Pierce with 12 seconds remaining before the intermission. His touchdown capped a 16-play, 80-yard drive by the Blue Hens which occupied more than seven minutes of time on the clock as the first half wound down.
Prior to the game the Wildcats honored their graduating seniors in a ceremony held on the field.
NOTES: Abdur-Rahman added to his 119 rushing yards with 151 yards on six kickoff returns as well as 21 yards on a pair of receptions ... His 291 all-purpose yards mark the first time this season he went over 200 yards ... Junior linebacker Devon Bridges (Upper Marlboro, N.J.) had a game-high 11 tackles for Villanova, including two tackles for loss and one sack ... He also forced a fumble which was recovered by freshman linebacker Joey Harmon (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) ... Villanova leads the all-time series against Delaware by a count of 23-21-1 ... The series was first billed as the "Battle of the Blue" beginning in 2007 ... The last win in the series by the Blue Hens was a 38-13 victory at Villanova Stadium to end the 2005 season ... Today's game was the sixth this season in which the Wildcats played in front of more than 10,000 fans ... Those six contests include three home dates, including today's contest ... Villanova drew a near-sellout crowd of 11,817 to its season opener against Monmouth at Villanova Stadium and also drew a crowd of 10,071 to Franklin Field for a game against Penn in which the Wildcats were the home team.