‘Nova runs away with victory

James Evans

Going against the fourth-ranked Northeastern Huskies, the top rushing team in the Atlantic 10, one would think that No. 5 ‘Nova would be run over.But it was the ‘Cats who were the ones accumulating the yards on the ground, as they rushed for over 250 yards en route to a 28-7 win.

Terry Butler and Martin “Mo” Gibson carried the load for the ‘Cats, as they each combined for 212 yards on the ground.

Butler ran for 107 yards on 21 carries, including two touchdowns, while Gibson ran for 105 on 15 carries. It was the first time in five years that two ‘Nova tailbacks collected more than 100 yards in the same game.

The last pair was Brian Westbrook and Roger Harriott, who accomplished this feat on Oct. 31, 1998.’Nova’s reputation as a deadly passing team did not fail the ‘Cats, ranked first in virtually ever category in the A-10.

Sophomore quarterback Joe Casamento threw for 191 yards on 19-29 and a touchdown.But it was the running game that the coaches weighed on heavily to beat Northeastern.”You don’t get that many times to run the ball in a passing offense, because Joe does a real good job with his reads and checks, so when you get the opportunity, you just half to make plays and make things happen,” Butler said.”We kind moved the ball on them early in the first half, and coaches stuck with and it showed that we could run the ball on them.”

The teams traded possessions in the first quarter and opened the second quarter with the game scoreless.

Northeastern made an early drive for a first and goal at the six and seemed ready to score.

But Husky Anthony Riley fumbled the ball on the hand-off, and the ‘Cats pounced on the loose ball and recovered.

The fumble gave the ‘Cats the momentum they needed, and they drew first blood after Butler took it in from 10 yards out.Northeastern was able to battle back and tie the game at seven thanks to a special teams play. Faced with fourth and 10 at the ‘Nova 37, Huskies coach Ron Brown decided to call a fake punt pass. ‘Nova was caught off guard and the Huskies earned the first down inside the ‘Nova 20.

On the next play Peter Harris took it in from 13 yards out and put the Huskies on the board with little over a minute to play. The next minute of play was pure chaos.After a couple of passes and a run, ‘Nova was faced with a fourth and one at Northeastern’s 41 with 18 seconds left in the first half.

The ‘Cats handed the ball off to Butler, who got the first down and the clock stopped momentarily to move the chains.

Casamento then went to the line, hoping to spike it and stop the clock. But he fumbled the ball and with the clocked stopped the ‘Cats had to hurry back to the line to snap the ball again.

With just six seconds left to go and no timeouts remaining, the Wildcats decided to throw a Hail Mary toward the end zone.

The pass was just five yards short, but Noble Champen out-jumped three defenders and tipped the ball backwards.

Butler then tipped it into the waiting hands of Curtis Waltman, who was alone in the end zone.

“It was immense, because what it did was it took the wind out of their sails and kind of evened up the fake punt that they got to keep their touchdown drive going,” head coach Andy Talley said.

“For them to put seven points in like that, we were a little deflated, but we were able to come back and get inflated on a great play.”

The defense was once again stable and shut down any Northeastern threat.

‘Nova’s defense held the top-rated rushing attack in the nation to under 100 yards. “I think a lot of people are aware of us, but I also think that people underestimate our defense and how good we are,” defensive end Jamil Butler said.

The win over Northeastern will be sure to give Villanova the confidence that they can hang with any team in the Atlantic 10, if not the country. “What this [win] does is it enhances who we are by beating a good gritty team in good gritty fashion,” Talley said.