Nov. 21, 2009
VILLANOVA, Pa.--In the regular season finale on Saturday afternoon, No. 2 Villanova (10-1, 7-1 CAA) wrapped up its first conference championship since 2001 with a 30-12 victory over No. 25 Delaware (6-5, 4-4 CAA) in front of a packed house of 12,073 fans at Villanova Stadium. The win secured for the Wildcats the Colonial Athletic Association's automatic bid to the Division I Football Championship. The 16-team playoff field will be announced on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. live on ESPN News.
Villanova reached the 10-win plateau for the sixth time in its history and will make their eighth all-time appearance in the FCS playoffs. It will be the second straight playoff berth for the Wildcats, who reached the quarterfinals last season. The other conference championships for Villanova came in 1989, 1991, 1997 and 2001.
Today's game also marked the fourth straight win over the Blue Hens for the Wildcats, who now lead the all-time series by a margin of 22-20-1. Villanova retained possession of the "Battle of the Blue" trophy, which is presented annually to the team that wins the matchup between the two teams.
Prior to the start of the game, the Wildcats honored its graduating seniors for their career contributions. Villanova then went out and won for the 16th time in its last 17 home games. This was the seventh straight home win for the Wildcats, who are 5-0 at Villanova Stadium this season.
As for the game itself, junior quarterback Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.) ran for a career-high 138 yards and a touchdown and redshirt freshman kicker Nick Yako (Cleveland, Ohio) made a season-high three field goals to lead the Villanova offense. The Wildcats built a 20-3 lead at halftime and held Delaware to just one touchdown that came late in the fourth quarter with the game all but out of reach.
Yako kicked field goals of 32, 45 and 34 yards in the game and also made three extra points to improve to 46-of-46 on point-after attempts for the year. He is also 9-of-12 on field goals - including 2-of-3 from 40 yards or longer - and his 45-yard attempt was his longest of the season.
Whitney finished a nine-play drive with a nine-yard scoring run late in the first quarter to give Villanova a 10-0 lead, while junior running back Angelo Babbaro (Canfield, Ohio) and junior wide receiver Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) each had scoring runs during the game.
For the Blue Hens, Jon Striefsky kicked field goals midway through both the second and third periods, the latter of which pulled Delaware to within 20-6 with 8:00 left in the third quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, Szczur returned the kick 25 yards, then registered a 36-yard run on the first play of the Wildcat drive. He capped a quick four-play possession with three-yard touchdown run for his 10th touchdown of the season, including his fifth rushing touchdown.
Szczur finished with 179 all-purpose yards in the game to lead all players. He ran the ball 10 times for 75 yards, made three catches for 23 yards and returned four kickoffs for a total of 81 yards. Junior running back Aaron Ball (Los Angeles, Calif.) had 11 carries for 49 yards and Whitney's 138 yards on the ground came on just 15 carries. He also went 9-of-14 for 68 yards through the air.
Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin attempted a school record 58 passes and finished 42-of-58 for a career-high 407 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. Phillip Thaxton had 11 receptions for 121 yards and Mark Duncan made 10 catches for 114 yards. With 4:43 left in the game, Nihja White caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Devlin.
The Villanova defense showed its usual dominant form, holding the Blue Hens to just 45 rushing yards and recording three interceptions for the fourth time this season. Junior linebacker Terence Thomas (Lawrenceville, N.J.) had a game-high 14 total tackles, while junior linebacker Jacob Wade (Silver Spring, Md.), senior defensive end Tim Kukucka (Wall, N.J.) and redshirt freshman defensive end Marlon Johnson (Baltimore, Md.) all had one interception.
Villanova is likely to play a home game in the first round of the playoffs, which will be held next Saturday, November 28. A complete announcement on the Wildcats pairing will be available at Villanova.com on Sunday afternoon following the selection show on ESPN News at 3 p.m.