Football: Dominant start leads to upset

Tim Richer

After a dominant first half, Villanova held off the Richmond Spiders in the second half to gain their first home win of the season, 31-21.

With this win, the ‘Cats (4-5, 3-3 A-10) are now in a tie for second place with Towson in the Atlantic 10 South. Richmond (5-4, 2-4 A-10) is now faced with the chance of receiving a lower postseason seed.

The first half was controlled by the Wildcats, with the score at halftime 28-0.

Villanova scored a touchdown on the opening possession of the game, capped off by a 1-yard run by quarterback Marvin Burroughs. Their next score came at the beginning of the second quarter when Burroughs broke for a 37-yard touchdown run. The run was the longest of his career.

Burroughs led Villanova with his second consecutive dominant performance. He ran for 124 yards on 14 attempts and two touchdowns and also passing for 115 yards on 10-17 attempts and another touchdown.

“Marvin took control of that game,” Head Coach Andy Talley said. “He threw well, and on that [37-yard touchdown] run he showed another gear. He played awfully well.”

The next ‘Nova possession in the second quarter was an extended drive that was converted into a 3-yard rushing touchdown by running back Matt Dicken. The ensuing kickoff was fumbled by the Spiders, giving the Wildcats the ball at the Richmond 21-yard line. Three plays later, Burroughs hit wide receiver Matthew Sherry on a 21-yard pass to put ‘Nova up by 28.

Richmond stormed back in the second half by scoring 21 straight points on three consecutive long drives. The comeback was fueled by backup quarterback Levi Brown, who took over late in the second quarter and threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns on 24-35 attempts.

A controversial play came in the third quarter, when there was a discrepancy over whether or not a Joe Marcoux field goal was good. Officials called the 33-yard attempt wide; calling it good would have put Villanova up by two possessions.

Marcoux was able to convert on a 34-yard attempt in the fourth quarter to put the Wildcats up by 10 and put the game out of reach for the Spiders.

“I told the team at halftime that we needed to continue to play hard and keep mistakes to a minimum,” Talley said. “We held our own in the third quarter and controlled the game in the fourth quarter by running the ball.”

‘Nova went for a season-high 289 yards on the ground. Dicken added 120 yards and his team-leading, seventh touchdown of the year.

The two 100-yard rushing performances by Burroughs and Dicken mark the first time this feat has been accomplished by Villanova since 2003. Terry Butler and Moe Gibson were the beneficiaries in that game, which featured No. 5 Villanova against No. 4 Northeastern.

For the second straight week, the defense was able to complement the offensive effort. Safety Allyn Bacchus led the team with 11 tackles, a fumble recovery and a crucial interception deep in Villanova territory in the fourth quarter.

“I call Bacchus ‘The Eraser,’ because he erases the mistakes we make up front on defense with great saving tackles,” Talley said.

Cornerback Derek Durkin was also instrumental in the game, recording six tackles and three broken-up passes.

This game marks just the second time all season that the powerful Richmond rushing attack was held under 100 net yards rushing. The Spiders were held to just 12 yards on the ground.

Despite their lack of a ground game, the Spiders were still able to move the football. Both teams compiled over 400 total yards; however, Villanova was able to force four Richmond turnovers.

Richmond has now lost three straight and four of its last five games en route to getting knocked out of playoff contention.

‘Nova goes for its third straight victory next Saturday at Villanova Stadium. The Wildcats play host to the No. 4 James Madison Dukes (8-1, 6-0 A-10), one of the top teams in DI-AA.

“They have the potential to be a national championship team,” Talley said. “However, I like our chances. Marvin [Burroughs] and the defense need to step up in order to win this game.”