No. 2 Villanova knocks off No. 5 William & Mary 28-17

David Cassilo

Villanova had grinded its way to a 4-0 start, relying heavily on its defense and running game. However, facing No. 5 William & Mary, the ‘Cats turned to a trick play to get them started and never looked back.

On the team’s first play from scrimmage, Villanova lined junior wide receiver Matt Szczur up at quarterback. Szczur took the snap and handed it to redshirt freshman wide receiver Dorian Wells. Junior quarterback Chris Whitney then ran from the wide receiver position, took the handoff from Wells and connected with senior wide receiver Brandyn Harvey on a 57-yard touchdown pass.

It was the first of several breaks that went for the ‘Cats and against the Tribe.

The most severe of which may have been on a Villanova drive later in the first quarter. On a third down, Whitney hit Wells with a pass over the middle, but the receiver was immediately drilled by Tribe safety Terrell Wells. The play drew a personal foul that prolonged the drive and eventually ended in a 5-yard touchdown run by Matt Szczur to put his team up 14-0. It was one of eight penalties for 75 yards that the Tribe had in the game.

The lead was enough for the Villanova defense, which once again gave the opposing offense trouble. Although the Tribe outgained the Wildcats 472 yards to 283, they were only able to find the endzone once in five trips to the red zone. The touchdown came with just 4:18 remaining in the game to narrow the score to the eventual final of 28-17. It was only the second touchdown Villanova had allowed in 12 quarters.

The playmaker of that defense against William & Mary was sophomore cornerback James Pitts. The Villanova defensive back racked up 15 tackles, recovered a fumble and tipped a pass in the endzone that was caught by junior linebacker Marquis Kirkland for an interception.

The win pushed Villanova to a 5-0 start and a 2-0 start in the CAA, but the team also leaves the field with three injuries to starters. Senior safety Ross Ventrone left the game in the third quarter with a sprained ankle and did not return. Meanwhile, Wells and senior center Brian Brannigan also left the game with undisclosed injuries and did not come back onto the field.

The Wildcats will look for these players to return next week as they once again have a challenging CAA game ahead of them, traveling to New Hampshire. With William & Mary’s loss today, New Hampshire should move up to No. 5 in next week’s poll. This top-five matchup may be a bit more difficult for Villanova, as it is the first time the team will have left the Philadelphia area this season.