Wildcats Top Delaware 21-7, Await Playoff Announcement on Sunday Evening
Nov. 22, 2008
NEWARK, Del.--Sixth-ranked Villanova (9-2, 7-1 CAA) rolled past Delaware (4-8, 2-6 CAA) on Saturday afternoon, 21-7, to close out its best regular season since 2002 and solidify its standing for the program's first playoff bid since that year. The Wildcats will learn their playoff fate on Sunday at 7 p.m. when the 16-team field for the Division I Football Championship is announced live on ESPNU.
With this afternoon's victory, the Wildcats reach nine regular season wins for the first time since the 2002 campaign yielded a 9-3 regular season mark and the team's last playoff appearance. Villanova also won a seventh conference game for the fourth time in team history and finished one passing play short of earning the CAA automatic bid to the championship. That honor went to James Madison, which needed a last-second hail mary pass to defeat the Wildcats, 23-19, on October 25 at Villanova Stadium. The Dukes were a perfect 8-0 in league play and finished a game ahead of Villanova in the South Division.
The Wildcats left nothing to chance with their performance on Saturday against their top rival. Villanova captured the Battle of the Blue trophy for the second straight year and snapped a tie in the all-time series between the teams. The Wildcats have won three games overall in the series, which dates back to 1895, and lead it by a 21-20-1 margin.
Villanova limited the Blue Hens to just 175 yards of total offense and seven points. Both totals were the lowest allowed by the Wildcats since a 41-6 victory over Towson on October 23, 2004. The Villanova offense, on the other hand, ran for over 300 yards for the first time in more than six years. The Wildcats picked up 317 yards on the ground, their first 300-yard rushing game since getting 316 yards against New Hampshire on September 21, 2002 in a 45-3 win. Villanova has not surpassed 317 rushing yards in a game in the last decade.
Sophomore Aaron Ball (Los Angeles, Calif.) moved into sixth place in team history for rushing yards in a single season, running for 105 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Wildcats on the ground. All three Villanova scores on the day came on runs into the end zone as Ball and sophomore Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.) each ran for over 100 yards. Whitney opened the scoring with 6:54 left in the first half on a 1-yard run to cap a 10-play, 65-yard drive.
Just over three minutes later, Ball broke away for a 51-yard scoring run on the second play of a Villanova drive to stretch the lead to 14-0. He also ran in for a 1-yard score late in the third quarter and Delaware did not get its lone points until scoring on a 34-yard pass play with 7:51 left in the game.
The top possession team in the CAA held the ball for at least eight minutes in every quarter and the Wildcats finished the day with more than 39 minutes of possession time. Villanova ran 83 offensive plays to just 55 by the Blue Hens and totaled 377 yards of total offense.
The Blue Hens nearly matched that yardage total on punts, as Stuart Kenworthy punted nine times for 368 yards. Delaware's 15 drives yielded nine punts, two interceptions, two turnovers on downs and just one score.
Junior Osayi Osunde (Bloomsburg, Pa.) led the defense with 11 tackles and sophomore Ross Ventrone (Pittsburgh, Pa.) recorded both of the Wildcat interceptions. The defense held the Blue Hens to just 38 yards on the ground, while two Delaware quarterbacks combined to go 12-of-31 for 137 yards.
Neither team got off to a good start offensively on a day in which the game-time temperature held at 31 degrees with a wind chill that was significantly lower. The two sides combined for eight scoreless drives in the first quarter.
In fact, Ball had a net gain of just two yards on his first eight carries before instantly turning that stat around with his 51-yard touchdown run. He finished with 105 yards on 20 carries and Whitney picked up 102 yards on 23 carries. Villanova nearly had three different players with over 100 rushing yards, as sophomore Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) gained 96 yards on 13 carries. Senior Phil Atkinson (Media, Pa.) tallied a team-high four receptions for 26 yards.
The only Delaware points in the game came when Robby Schoenhoft threw a touchdown pass to Martwain Johnston with 7:51 left in the game. Schoenhoft was 8-of-19 for 115 yards in the second half after Lou Ritacco completed just 4-of-12 for 22 yards and a pick in the opening two periods. Johnson finished the day with four catches for 81 yards, including two receptions of 34 yards or better.