Dec. 5, 2009
VILLANOVA, Pa.--On slippery, snow-covered turf at Villanova Stadium, No. 2 seed Villanova (12-1) advanced to the semifinals of the Division I Football Championship with a 46-7 win over New Hampshire (10-3) on Saturday afternoon. Villanova tied the school record for wins in a season with the victory and will host CAA rival William & Mary (11-2) in the semifinals next Friday or Saturday.
Villanova advances to the semifinals for the second time in school history and the first time since 2002. The only other time the Wildcats had 12 wins in a season came in 1997, when the team was undefeated during the regular season and advanced to the playoff quarterfinals. Villanova's final record in 1997 matched the team's 12-1 mark as it heads into next week's semifinal game.
A steady, wind-blown snow fell throughout the entire game on a day when the temperature never surpassed the 37 degrees at kickoff. The field condition created by the inclement weather manifested itself on the first offensive play of the game, as New Hampshire fumbled at its own 22-yard line and the ball was kicked around by players from both teams before Villanova junior safety John Dempsey (Secane, Pa.) corralled the ball and registered a four-yard fumble return for his first career touchdown.
The rest of the first half featured more of the same for the Villanova defense. Out of seven possessions for New Hampshire in the first half, the Wildcats gained no more than nine yards on any of them and were held to negative yards four times. Villanova ran up a 24-0 lead by halftime while outgaining New Hampshire in total offense 235 yards to minus 33 in the first two quarters.
In the second half, New Hampshire eventually got its passing game going but never got on track on the ground. The combination of the weather and the ability of the Villanova defense to stop the run limited the Wildcats to minus 66 rushing yards in the game. That figure broke the previous Villanova defensive record for fewest rushing yards allowed in a game. The old record was minus 22 and the FCS record is minus 90.
Redshirt freshman kicker Nick Yako (Cleveland, Ohio) made a 32-yard field goal with 8:23 left in the first quarter and junior running back Angelo Babbaro (Canfield, Ohio) recorded a 25-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the period to extend the score to 17-0. The only points in the second quarter came on a one-yard quarterback sneak by junior Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.) at the 10:28 mark of the period.
Babbaro ran the ball 13 times for a career-high 148 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the day. He tallied his first career game with over 100 yards on the ground and Villanova surpassed 300 rushing yards for the fourth time this season. Babbaro added a 59-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and three different Villanova players carried the ball at least 12 times. Whitney generated 58 yards and the one score on 14 rushes while junior running back Aaron Ball (Los Angeles, Calif.) amassed 46 yards on 12 carries.
The Wildcats stretched their lead to 39-0 by the end of the third quarter thanks to a team safety, a 29-yard touchdown run by junior wide receiver Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) and the second score of the game by Babbaro. The touchdown run by Szczur gives him nine consecutive games with a touchdown via either a rush, a reception or a pass. He finished the day with 40 yards on seven carries and two receptions for 46 yards.
Whitney threw the ball just five times and was 3-of-5 for 44 yards, including a 29-yard throw to Szczur in the second quarter which was the only time in the game that Villanova looked downfield on an offensive play.
New Hampshire registered its only score of the game with 14:25 to play in the fourth period when Kevin Decker threw an 18-yard pass for a touchdown to Mickey Mangieri. Starting quarterback R.J. Toman went 6-of-18 for 46 yards and was sacked four times before Decker came in and went 11-of-21 for 104 yards and a touchdown while being sacked twice.
Villanova finished the game with a 387-84 margin in total offense yards. The Wildcats held the ball for nearly 36 minutes of the game and didn't allow New Hampshire to pick up positive offensive yardage for the game until late in the third quarter.
The Wildcats semifinal opponent is a William & Mary team which won on the road at Southern Illinois, 24-3, in the first of four quarterfinal games played on Saturday. Villanova defeated the Tribe earlier this season, 28-17, at Villanova Stadium. The date and time for the semifinal game, which will also be played at Villanova Stadium, will be announced at a later date on Villanova.com. The game will either be played this coming Friday (Dec. 11) at 8 p.m. or on Saturday (Dec. 12) at 4 p.m.