Nov. 20, 2010
NEWARK, Del. - Facing a must-win situation in order to remain in the playoff picture, No. 15 Villanova (7-4, 5-3 CAA) went into the home stadium of its biggest conference rival and the nation's top-ranked team and came away with a thrilling 28-21 overtime victory over No. 1 Delaware (9-2, 6-2 CAA) at Delaware Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The victory was a major statement for the Wildcats, who captured the Battle of the Blue Trophy for the fifth straight year and will now learn their playoff fate on Sunday morning.
The 20-team field for the expanded Division I Football Championship will be announced at 10 a.m. on Sunday live on ESPNU and Villanova did everything it could to put itself in position to secure one of 10 at-large bids that will be up for grabs.
Beating the number one ranked team on its home field surely helps, as the Wildcats staked themselves to a 14-0 lead in the first six minutes of the game and then survived a game-tying drive by the Blue Hens in the final seconds of regulation. A one-yard scamper for a touchdown by senior running back Aaron Ball (Los Angeles, Calif.) on the first overtime series gave Villanova back the lead and senior defensive back Martel Moody (Tampa, Fla.) forced and recovered a fumble at the Wildcats two-yard line on the ensuing Delaware possession to end the game.
Villanova has now defeated the Blue Hens in five straight meetings, a streak which happened to begin with the first year that the Battle of the Blue Trophy was awarded to the winner of the annual meeting between the teams. The five consecutive victories is the longest streak in the series for the Wildcats since they won five straight meetings from 1966-1970; Villanova leads the all-time series 23-20-1.
All of the excitement in the game was previewed on the very first play when senior running back Angelo Babbaro (Canfield, Ohio) returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to immediately put the Wildcats on top.
The Blue Hens went three-and-out on their first possession, sophomore wide receiver Dorian Wells (West Covina, Calif.) gained 20 yards on a punt return and Villanova drove 57 yards for another score as senior quarterback Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.) tossed a four-yard pass to junior running back Lawrence Doss (Bellflower, Calif.) for a 14-0 lead with 9:41 left in the opening period.
In the second quarter, Delaware balanced the ledger with two touchdown passes from Pat Devlin to tie the score at 14-14 going into halftime. The deadlock lasted until the fourth quarter when the Wildcats scored early and the Blue Hens late to force overtime.
Whitney finished a 15-play drive with an eight-yard touchdown run at the 11:35 mark of the fourth quarter to restore the Villanova lead at 21-14. With time ticking away later in the period, Delaware was making steady progress down the field on what eventually was a 16-play drive that consumed 6:56 of clock time. A one-yard pass from Devlin to Andrew Pierce with just 18.9 seconds to play tied the game at 21-21.
Before the start of overtime, the Blue Hens won the coin toss and elected to play defense first. It took eight plays before Ball scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on third-and-goal from the one-yard line. Earlier in the drive, Whitney had runs of nine yards and seven yards to get the Wildcats close to the end zone, than rushed for two yards on third-and-two from the six-yard line.
Whitney finished the game with 34 net rushing yards, all but five of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime. He also competed 14-of-19 passes for 150 yards, with junior wide receiver Norman White (Hammonton, N.J.) making six catches for 66 yards. On the ground, Babbaro ran for 38 yards on nine carries and Ball carried 14 times for 30 yards and the game-winning score.
One of the biggest stories of the game was the ability of Villanova to take care of the ball. The team had committed three turnovers in each of its past two losses entering today's contest but did not turn the ball over a single time today.
The defense turned in another strong effort as well. Six different players had at least seven tackles and the Wildcats forced two fumbles and broke up four passes to keep Delaware on its heels offensively.
Devlin finished the game 30-of-45 through the air for 305 yards and three touchdowns, but the Blue Hens were held to 66 yards rushing on 32 carries in the contest.
NOTES: Senior wide receiver Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) returned to the field today for the first time since September 25, when he was injured in a win over Penn ... In limited action, he ran three times for 24 yards, including a 19-yard run on his first play ... The run came on the drive that culminated with the Wildcats taking a 14-0 lead ... Villanova finishes the regular season tied for third place in the conference with New Hampshire ... Delaware and William & Mary tied for first place ... The Wildcats have won their last three games against the nation's No. 1 team, with two of the victories coming on the road ... Villanova defeated then-No. 1 Richmond last season, 21-20 on November 7, 2009 and then beat Montana in the national championship game, 23-21 on December 18, 2009 ... Entering the championship game, Montana was ranked No. 1 in the FCS Coaches Poll and No. 3 in the Sports Network poll.