Nov. 28, 2009
VILLANOVA, Pa.--In the first round of the Division I Football Championship on Saturday afternoon, No. 2 Seed Villanova (11-1) defeated Holy Cross (9-3) by a final score of 38-28 at Villanova Stadium to advance to the quarterfinal round for the second straight season. The Wildcats will host New Hampshire (10-2) next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Villanova traded scoring drives with the Crusaders for most of the game, but two unanswered touchdowns by the Wildcats in the second quarter provided the team with a lead they never relinquished. Junior quarterback Chris Whitney had a one-yard touchdown run with 8:58 left in the opening half and junior running back Angelo Babbaro ran in for a score from two yards out with 57 seconds remaining in the period.
In the fourth quarter, a 25-yard field goal by redshirt freshman Nick Yako accounted for the eventual final margin as Villanova went ahead, 38-28, following a 13-play drive which consumed more than six minutes of clock time. The Wildcats had three scoring drives in the contest that lasted 11 or more plays.
Holy Cross had a final possession after the field goal by Yako but went just 28 yards on seven plays over 1:30 and turned the ball over on downs to Villanova with 5:43 to play. The Wildcats held possession the rest of the way to run out the clock on a blustery afternoon in which wind gusts of over 20 miles per hour affected balls in the air at several points.
En route to the victory, Villanova ran up 537 yards of offense on 84 plays while holding the ball for more than 35 minutes in the game. The Crusaders, on the other hand, ran 65 plays and had the ball in the hands of their offense for just 24:18, including less than 11 minutes in the second half.
Junior wide receiver Matt Szczur had a career-high 130 yards receiving on seven catches for the Wildcats, including a 45-yard reception in the third quarter that set up Villanova's fifth touchdown of the day. Whitney completed 16-of-23 through the air for 239 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions, while also running the ball 10 times for 62 yards and a touchdown. He threw a 29-yard scoring pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Dorian Wells late in the first quarter.
On the ground, junior running back Aaron Ball carried 23 times for 99 yards and a touchdown for the Wildcats. He got the scoring started just 4:49 into the contest with a six-yard touchdown run that capped an 11-play drive on the first offensive series of the afternoon. Babbaro ran for 75 yards and Szczur registered 55 yards on the ground along the way to racking up 238 all-purpose yards.
A busy first quarter saw Holy Cross get on the board at the 4:54 mark of the period when senior quarterback Dominic Randolph's two-yard scoring run tied the score at 7-7. In the closing seconds of the frame, Randolph hit Alex Schneider with a two-yard pass for a score that temporarily knotted the teams at 14-14 before Villanova went ahead for good in the second period. Randolph threw another touchdown pass to Schneider in the fourth quarter - this one for five yards - and finished the day 31-of-51 for 347 yards and three touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Bill Edger was one of three Crusaders to have seven catches, and he led the team with 104 receiving yards. Luke Chmielinski (85 yards) and Schneider (52 yards, two touchdowns) also had seven receptions apiece.
The Wildcat defense once again did an effective job of sopping the run, as Villanova rolled to a 298-46 edge in yards on the ground. Defensively, junior linebacker Terence Thomas had a team-best nine tackles.
C.J. Martin led the Holy Cross defense with 13 tackles, including 11 solo and two assisted.