Football: Villanova clinches another winning season



Tim Richer

For the second-straight season, and the 10th time in last 12 years, the Wildcats (6-4, 4-3 CAA) have clinched a winning record. ‘Nova accomplished this feat with a 14-12 victory over the Towson Tigers (3-7, 1-6 CAA) last Saturday at Unitas Stadium in Maryland.

“Even though you’re not a playoff team, you want to have a winning season and have that feeling that you were one of the tougher teams in the league to play,” Head Coach Andy Talley said.

The matchup was a defensive struggle; the first touchdown was not scored until midway through the third quarter when sophomore running back Aaron Ball punched a 2-yard run into the end zone to give the Wildcats a 7-6 lead.

Villanova’s running attack was dominant, accumulating 194 total yards, compared to just 27 for the Tigers. Senior running back Matt Dicken tallied his third 100-yard rushing game of the season with 133 yards on 30 carries. It was also the eighth time this season that the Wildcat tri-captain led the team in rushing.

With their strong rushing attack, the ‘Cats dominated the ball for most of the game, wearing out the Towson defense. Villanova’s offense was on the field for almost 39 minutes, 17 more than the Tigers offensive unit.

“That was the key to the game,” Talley said. “We controlled the game from an offensive standpoint and saved the defense.”

Early in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats took their biggest lead of the game as freshman quarterback Chris Whitney hit junior wide receiver Phil Atkinson for a 10-yard touchdown pass to put ‘Nova up 14-6. The reception was Atkinson’s team-leading eighth of season and fourth total score in two weeks.

The Tigers did not go down without a fight as they drove up the field with under two minutes to go to complete a 66-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass from junior Sean Schaefer to senior wide receiver Demetrius Harrison to put Towson within two. An incomplete pass from Schaefer on the ensuing two-point conversation sealed the victory for Villanova.

Schaefer picked up the slack for the Tigers non-existent running game by throwing for 242 yards in addition to his touchdown. Junior wide receiver Marcus Lee led the team with 95 receiving yards on nine receptions.

The ‘Cats won their first conference road game without eight of their players, who had been suspended prior to the game for committing unspecified team violations. Among the eight suspended were four starters, senior wide receiver Anton Ridley, senior defensive back Eugene Clay, sophomore defensive back Justin Murrell and sophomore wide receiver Brandyn Harvey. Harvey was coming off of a 135-receving yard effort against Richmond that included one touchdown.

Stepping up in place of the eight suspended players was sophomore defensive end Tim Kukucka. He recorded five tackles, including two sacks and two forced fumbles. For his efforts, Kukucka was awarded the co-CAA Defensive Player of the Week.

“He’s as good as any defensive end in the league,” Talley said. “He plays with a great motor … Kukucka is a complete defensive player as a sophomore.”

Senior defensive back Derek Durkin also had a strong defensive game for Villanova, leading the team with eight total tackles.

The Wildcats look to finish the 2007 season with an upset as they welcome their rivals, No. 9 University of Delaware (8-2, 5-2 CAA) to Villanova Stadium for the season finale on Saturday. The Fightin’ Blue Hens, who are expected to make the FCS playoffs, should be fatigued, coming off a 62-56 home defeat to the Richmond Spiders in five overtimes last Saturday.

“It is a traditional ‘must-see’ game,” Talley said. “It’s a great rivalry, and the best team does not always win.”