Football: Wildcats win first CAA game



Tim Richer

Powered by a heroic effort by senior running back Matt Dicken, the Wildcats (2-1, 1-0 CAA) pulled off a 24-17 overtime victory against Maine (1-2, 0-1 CAA) in their home opener at Villanova Stadium on Saturday. The win marked the ‘Cats’ second straight overall, and sixth straight against an FCS opponent, dating back to last season.

Villanova trailed 17-10 late in the fourth quarter; however, Dicken turned a short screen pass from sophomore quarterback Antwon Young into a 67-yard touchdown run up the ‘Nova sideline to save the Wildcats and tie the score.

Maine struck back late in the last two minutes of the game as they marched down the field to set up a game-winning field goal in the closing seconds. With 20 seconds to go in the fourth, Black Bears sophomore kicker Devin McNeill missed a 28-yard chip-shot, wide right, which sent the game into overtime.

The Wildcats led off the overtime session with a 3-yard rushing touchdown by Dicken after just five plays. Maine had a shot to force the game into a second overtime, but failed to convert on its first four downs. On a fourth-and-eight from the Villanova 23-yard-line, Black Bears quarterback Adam Farkes threw a prayer into the end zone that was caught by junior wide receiver Kenneth Fersner. Luckily for the Wildcats, Fersner was ruled out-of-bounds, prompting the ‘Nova players to storm the field in a victorious celebration on Parents Weekend.

“When you win a game like that, it’s very uplifting,” Head Coach Andy Talley said. “We’re starting to believe anything can happen.”

Dicken, a tri-captain, completed the game with 184 total yards and two touchdowns, including his game-tying reception in the fourth quarter and his go-ahead rush in overtime. He finished with 112 yards rushing on 25 attempts and 72 yards receiving on three catches.

“He’s accepted the role of being the man,” Talley said of his running back. “He has big shoulders, and he wants to carry the load of the team.”

The Black Bears got off to a strong start in the first quarter after picking off ‘Cats Young on a pass deep in ‘Nova territory that gave Maine the ball on the Villanova 1 yard line. Bears tail back Jhamal Fluellen scored on the next play to give Maine the early lead.

Young struck back to tie the game in the middle of the second quarter when he found senior wide receiver Anton Ridley on a 23-yard pass over the middle for a touchdown. ‘Nova’s quarterback finished the game with 178 passing yards by converting 16 of 22 throws. He also added 40 rushing yards.

The game was a defensive battle until the fourth quarter when Fluellen broke a 50-yard touchdown run to put Maine up by six with just over six minutes left in regulation. Dicken’s heroics ensued on the following possession.

Fluellen ended the day with 170 rushing yards on 24 carries, in addition to his two touchdowns.

Senior defensive back Eugene Clay led the Wildcats defense with nine tackles.

With the win, Head Coach Andy Talley secured his 150th career win at Villanova in 23 seasons.

“I think it is a tribute to the players we’ve had in our program, the coaches who have worked with me and a commitment from the administration to play football at the highest level of I-AA (currently known as FCS),” Talley said.

Next week Villanova will go for its third straight victory as it hosts the University of Pennsylvania Quakers (0-1) at Villanova Stadium at 6 p.m. The Wildcats look to continue their recent winning streak against the Quakers as they are 4-0 against their Philadelphia rivals over the last five years.