Villanova holds-off Towson’s bid for upset

Michael Zipf

The football team’s last regular-season home game against the University of Towson marked the initial culmination of this year’s seniors’ football careers. However, this class was still focused on the future, as a victory over the Towson Tigers would place the Wildcats in a prime position to earn a home game in the opening round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

Before the game, Villanova honored its graduating seniors, including co-captains Dave Delessandro and Greg Miller.

After capturing 10 of their last 11 games played at Villanova Stadium, the Wildcats delivered an uninspiring first-half performance.

“That was the worst half of football we have played all season,” Head Coach Andy Talley said.

However, the Wildcats rebounded in the second half to capture a 34-31 victory over an upset-minded and gritty Towson squad.

Towson dominated the first half of play, holding the Wildcat offense scoreless until four minutes into the second quarter. Dominating the time of possession in the first half, the Tigers negated Villanova’s ability to grind down opponents. With Towson holding the ball for more than 10 minutes during the first quarter, the Tigers quickly jumped to an early 10-0 lead.

Junior Brandyn Harvey rejuvenated a lackluster Villanova offense in the first half by recording a 4-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Chris Whitney.

After trailing 17-7 with four minutes remaining in the half, the Wildcats recaptured the games’ momentum, placing 14 points on the scoreboard in a matter of 64 seconds. Sophomore running back Aaron Ball, who recorded two touchdowns, scored his first on a 3-yard run to close the Towson lead to 17-14. Seconds later, freshman James Pitts intercepted Towson quarterback Sean Schaefer. Pitts’ pick-six gave the Wildcats a 20-17 lead after an excessive touchdown celebration penalty forced the Wildcats into a longer extra point, which consequently was blocked by a Towson defender.

With momentum on its side, Villanova opened up the second half aspiring to knock out a gritty Towson squad. However, the Tigers struck first in the second half, earning their last lead of the game on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Schaefer to Marcus Lee.

“I thought we turned it around in the second half and played better, but Towson kept slinging it,” Talley said.

Down 24-20, the Wildcats quickly marched down the field and capped off an impressive five-play 57-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run from Ball. Villanova evened the score at 34 when sophomore Louis Adeyemi plunged his way from one yard out into the end zone.

Towson attempted a comeback, as Schaefer recorded his third touchdown pass of game to cut the deficit to three with five minutes left in the contest. Schaeffer reached 1,000 completed passes in his career during the contest to become only the third quarterback in FCS history to achieve that feat.

Ultimately, Villanova’s ability to make a fourth-down conversion with one minute left in the game sealed the Tigers’ fate.

The victory marked Villanova’s 11th home victory in 12 tries.

Whitney led the Wildcats’ attack, connecting on 14-of-23 passes for a career-high 212 yards. Whitney was replaced by former starter Antwon Young on the third series of the first half.

“We always want to get Antwon some work and keep him fresh,” Talley said. “Whitney plays so physical that he can get banged up on any play, and he has had bad shoulder.”

Ball continued his stellar season, adding to his team-high 11 touchdowns. With one more game left against Deleware, Ball could eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career.

After the game, Talley stressed the importance of the team’s season finale against conference foe Deleware. The ‘Battle of the Blue’ rivalry carries significant playoff implications.

“We think the magic number is eight wins, but we don’t want to leave it up to a committee that decides an 8-3 team won’t get in,” Talley said.