Football: ‘Cats drop opener at West Virginia

Tim Richer

Heading into Morgantown, many thought that Villanova’s offense could not keep pace with a speedy, high-powered Mountaineer offense that was ninth best in scoring in all of college football during the ’07 season. As the Wildcats only Football Bowl Subdivision opponent of the year, No. 8 West Virginia proved to be too powerful for the Blue and White, winning by a score of 48-21 in front of 60,000 fans at Mountaineer Field on Aug. 30.

Even though ‘Nova had trouble stopping the ball on the defensive end, their offense proved to be just as formidable as West Virginia’s. The ‘Cats dominated the ball, holding possession for over 37 of the 60 minutes. In addition to ball control, the Wildcats outgained the powerful Mountaineers 399 yards to 354. The difference in the game was Villanova’s inability to punch the ball into the end zone; it had three turnovers compared to just one for WVU.

The difference-maker in the game was West Virginia’s senior standout quarterback Pat White. White stole the show, passing for a career-high five touchdown passes with 209 yards while completing 25-of-33 attempts. White also led West Virginia in rushing with 62 yards on nine rushes.

Momentum shifted for ‘Nova with a promising second drive of the game with the score even at zero late in the first quarter. The ‘Cats offense drove the ball to the Mountaineer 14-yard line on an extended 11-minute drive. Fate turned on third-and-15 when Young mishandled the ball in the backfield, leading to a recovery by West Virginia’s Mortty Ivy, who returned the fumble back to ‘Nova’s 24-yard line. The following play, White hit receiver Alric Arnett on a touchdown pass that put the Mountaineers up 7-0.

West Virginia never looked back, scoring on five straight possessions that extended late into the third quarter. The streak came to a halt when a tipped pass from White landed in the hands of sophomore defensive back Frederick Maldonado, for his first career interception.

Playing in his first game since suffering a torn ACL last October against William & Mary, quarterback Antwon Young did not disappoint the ‘Nova Nation. Young led a powerful Wildcat offense with 218 yards passing while completing 17-of-33 attempts. He also impressed with his feet, eluding the constant blitz from a speedy Mountaineer defense and adding a 3-yard running touchdown in the second quarter. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, the red-shirt junior was never able to find the end zone through the air and was picked off twice.

‘Nova’s final two scores came in the fourth quarter, after the game was out of reach. Running back Aaron Ball punched in a 2-yard touchdown to begin the period; the sophomore from Long Beach, Calif., led the team in rushing with 55 yards on 15 attempts. Villanova’s final score came with two seconds left in the game when backup quarterback Chris Whitney ran into the end zone for a 1-yard sneak.

Also posting strong games for the Wildcats were junior wide receiver Brandyn Harvey and freshman receiver Mikey Reynolds. Harvey, who has developed as a deep threat, caught five passes for 85 yards, while Reynolds made his Villanova debut with four receptions for 51 yards.

Despite the loss to a formidable opponent, the Wildcats retained a spot in the Sports Network Football Championship Subdivision Top 25. The ‘Cats fell two spots to No. 23 in the latest polls.

Next up for the Wildcats is their home opener at Villanova Stadium on Sept. 13 when they host the Lehigh Mountain Hawks of the Patriot League. The ‘Cats and Hawks last rumbled in 2007; Young threw for 257 yards and three touchdowns as Villanova came out victorious over Lehigh, 30-20 at Goodman Stadium.