BROOKINGS, S.D. - A late field goal in the closing minutes of play proved to be the decisive margin in a tight defensive battle and No. 9 Villanova (9-4) saw its terrific season come to an end in a 10-7 loss to No. 7 South Dakota State (9-3) at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The difference in the game was a 40-yard field goal kicked by Jackrabbits redshirt freshman Chase Vinatieri with 1:21 to play. On their final possession following the field goal, the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs at their own 32-yard line with 41 seconds remaining.
Villanova advanced to the postseason for the sixth time in the last nine seasons and notched its 14th winning season in the last 16 years with an excellent 2016 campaign. This is also the 25th time in 32 seasons under head coach Andy Talley that the Wildcats have tallied a winning record. Talley, who has the most career wins of any active FBS or FCS head coach, has announced his retirement at the end of the season. He ends his incredible coaching career with a 230-137-1 (.626) record at Villanova, and a career record of 258-155-2 (.624) in 37 seasons.
When he won his 200th game with the Wildcats during the 2013 season, Talley became the 37th coach in all divisions of college football to win 200 games at one school. He began his final year as a head coach as one of only five active coaches with over 200 wins for their current team. Talley guided Villanova to its first national title in 2009 and made 12 playoff appearances overall during his Wildcats career. He guided Villanova to at least a share of six conference championships, and the program won 15 major conference awards while having a total of 243 all-conference selections during his tenure.
Temperatures only reached the mid-30’s for Saturday’s game and a wind-driven light snow fell for the majority of the game. Those conditions, and a Wildcats defense which has been one of the nation’s best all season long, helped to stifle the high-powered South Dakota State offense for much of the afternoon. Villanova held the Jackrabbits to 10 points and 197 yards of total offense, compared to their season averages of 37.4 points and 481.7 total yards.
Junior linebacker Ed Shockley (Millville, N.J.) led the Wildcats with 10 total tackles and registered his third double-digit tackle game of the season. Freshman defensive lineman Jeff Wiley (Pennington, N.J.) and redshirt freshman Jafonta Johnson (Syracuse, N.Y.) each tallied sacks in the game.
South Dakota State took a 7-0 lead with 2:40 left in the first quarter when Dallas Goedert caught a four-yard touchdown pass to cap a 78-play drive. That was all the offense that the Jackrabbits could find until the waning moments of the game. Villanova tied the score at 7-7 just before halftime and then held South Dakota State to just 12 total yards on 11 plays in the third quarter.
Sophomore quarterback Zach Bednarczyk (Wallington, N.J.) was 20-of-36 for 220 yards and a touchdown in the game, with sophomore wide receiver Alex Padovani (Hammonton, N.J.) catching a six-yard pass with two seconds left in the second quarter. His second touchdown of the season ended a drive in which the Wildcats gained their best offensive traction of the day. Villanova went 80 yards over 15 plays in 6:30 at the end of the half to go into the locker rooms tied.
Bednarczyk connected with eight different receivers in the game, with three players making four catches apiece. Junior tight end Ryan Bell (Basking Ridge, N.J.) had a team-high 55 yards and junior running back Matt Gudzak (Toms River, N.J.) adding 43 yards to go along with a team-best 66 rushing yards on 17 carries.