Football: Wildcats dominate Tribe during Homecoming

Tim Richer

Villanova defended its turf during Homecoming Week in convincing fashion by defeating William & Mary 63-24 at Villanova Stadium on Saturday. The Wildcats put together a balanced effort with seven different players reaching the end zone for touchdowns. The ‘Cats never let the Tribe (3-3, 1-2 CAA) get into the game, jumping ahead 28-7 in the first quarter.

With 63 points, ‘Nova scored its third-highest total ever in school history and the highest since scoring 65 against University of Buffalo in 1998. The game also marked the fifth-straight home victory for the Wildcats (4-2, 2-1 CAA), dating back to 2006.

Sophomore quarterback Antwon Young continued his dominance of FCS, throwing for four touchdowns on 20-of-26 passing attempts for 216 yards. He also added a rushing touchdown in addition to 38 yards on the ground. With his performance, Young took over the CAA league lead in touchdown passes with 14.

The ‘Cats’ victory wasn’t entirely positive as Young went down with an apparent knee injury in the third quarter after a 4-yard touchdown pass to senior Matthew Sherry. Young was replaced by freshman Chris Whitney, who finished the game. Whitney picked up where Young left off, throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to sophomore running back Angelo Babbaro in his only passing attempt.

“It was really a bittersweet game,” Head Coach Andy Talley said. “Losing Antwon didn’t allow me to really enjoy the win.”

Young will be re-evaluated later in the week to determine the seriousness of the injury.

Villanova took over the game in the first quarter by scoring easily on its first two possessions. The ‘Cats hit the scoreboard with 10-yard touchdown run from senior running back Matt Dicken and followed it with Sherry’s first touchdown catch. After Sherry’s score, the ‘Cats recovered a fumble by sophomore defensive back David Caldwell on the ensuing kickoff. Four plays later, Young connected with junior wide receiver Phil Atkinson to put ‘Nova up 21-7.

Sherry ended the day with 7 catches for 105 yards to go along with his two touchdown receptions.

Trouble didn’t end there for Caldwell, as he fumbled his second consecutive kickoff in the first quarter, with the Wildcats recovering once again. After just five more plays, Young ran the ball into the end zone to put the home team up by 21.

“The two fumble recoveries were huge because they gave us some quick scores,” Talley said. “That gave us enough momentum to get the lead and stay ahead of them.”

The magic wouldn’t end there as ‘Nova pulled some trickery early in the second quarter. Young handed off to Atkinson on an end-around reverse; Atkinson then put the ball in the air, fooling the William & Mary defense for a 31-yard touchdown pass to sophomore running back Luca Ragone to bring the score to 35-14. From that point on, the Wildcats continued to roll with ease.

On the surface, the offensive numbers for both teams appeared to be quite similar. Villanova out-gained the Tribe by a slim margin of 505 to 461 total yards. The difference in the game was inevitably the visiting team’s three turnovers, including Caldwell’s two fumbles and a fumble by quarterback Jake Phillips late in the third quarter that led to a Wildcat touchdown after only two plays.

The defensive star of the game for Villanova was junior defensive end Greg Miller. Miller recorded five tackles and three sacks. He also forced and recovered Phillips’ fumble. For his efforts, Miller earned CAA Defensive Player of the Week honors.

“He’s a real positive player for us on the edge, and he just had a great day,” Talley said of Miller.

The Wildcats will look to win their second straight as they travel to Amherst, Mass., on Saturday to take on the Massachusetts Minutemen (4-1, 2-0 CAA). UMass is ranked No. 4 in the FCS polls; its only defeat was a 10-point loss at Boston College, who currently stands at No. 4 in the FBS polls.

“Playing UMass is like playing a FBS team,” Talley said. “We can’t let them have any cheap scores. They need to earn everything they get.”