Football: Wildcats drop season opener at Maryland

Tim Richer

The Wildcats’ season opener was a tale of two halves as Villanova dropped its only FBS matchup to the University of Maryland last Saturday. After strong play in the first half, the Terrapins wore down the visitors to defeat the Wildcats 31-14 in front of a crowd of over 50,000 at Byrd Stadium.

‘Nova, a heavy underdog entering the game, trailed by only three at halftime thanks to gritty defense and strong play from quarterback Antwon Young. Young, in his first collegiate start, put together his strongest series late in the first half when he completed four of five passes for 69 yards. The drive ended with a 26-yard strike to tight end Matthew Sherry for a touchdown that cut Maryland’s lead, 10-7.

“Antwon had a really good game for his first start against that kind of competition in a very pressurized atmosphere,” Head Coach Andy Talley said. “He did a good job leading the team.”

Young, a red-shirt sophomore, ended up with 176 yards passing on 17 of 28 attempts. His main target in the game was the senior tri-captain Sherry, who ended with five receptions for 68 yards, including his touchdown late in the first half.

The Terrapins threatened to increase their lead on the ensuing drive; however, they were denied a score when safety Zach Mariacher picked off Maryland junior quarterback Jordan Steffy in the ‘Nova endzone with 58 seconds left in the half. Mariacher added 10 tackles to go with his interception.

‘Nova was unable to build on its first half success as it was out-gained 133 yards to just nine in the third quarter. Touchdowns of 18 and 14 yards by running back Keon Lattimore increased the Maryland lead to 24-7 entering the fourth quarter.

The two-headed monster of Lattimore and fellow running back Lance Ball proved to be too much for Villanova to handle as they allowed 158 rushing yards to the star combo on just 31 attempts. Steffy added 47 ground yards of his own, putting the Terrapins over 200 rushing yards for the game.

In the end, the ‘Cats were dominated offensively, gaining just 189 yards, while Maryland tallied 418. Most of the damage was done on the ground, where Villanova was able to gain just 13 rushing yards. Senior running back Matt Dicken converted just 19 yards on eight attempts.

“They were bigger, faster and stronger than us,” Talley said. “We couldn’t get a first down in the second half, and we couldn’t move the ball against them … We ended up being worn down.”

Villanova tallied its second touchdown with 54 seconds left in the game when cornerback Salim Koroma picked off Maryland’s backup quarterback Chris Turner and ran 42 yards into the endzone.

Unfortunately for ‘Nova, the Wildcats did not leave the game unscathed. Junior Brian Hentosz, the starting nose guard, was lost for the season due to injury. Backup running back Angelo Babbaro was also injured, sidelining him for three weeks.

The Wildcats will look to rebound this Saturday, when they travel to Bethlehem, Pa. to take on Lehigh University.

“We need to get back on track,” Talley said of the upcoming battle with Lehigh. “We’re back at the level that we play at, and this is one we have to have.”