Wildcats win big over Rhode Island



Cailin Brophy

In their last home game of the season, the Wildcats gave the home crowd plenty of reason to cheer, when they defeated conference rival Rhode Island in fine fashion, 45-3. ‘Nova matched its highest offensive output of the season with the win. Earlier in the season, the ‘Cats had defeated New Hampshire by the same score. The strong performance was a much-needed one for the team, which was coming off a disappointing showing against Northeastern the week before. With their most recent victory, the Wildcats’ record now stands at 8-3 overall, with a 5-3 conference mark going into their season finale against bitter rival Delaware.

The Wildcats got back to their characteristically hard-nosed defense against the Rams, shutting them out for the final three quarters of the contest after allowing only a field goal in the first quarter. Senior captain Jamison Young menaced the Rhode Island offense all afternoon, collecting a game-high 11 tackles, while teammate Ray Ventrone racked up 10 of his own. Overall, the ‘Cats forced five turnovers and sacked Rhode Island freshman quarterback Jayson Davis six times. The ‘Nova offense was on point as well, as senior quarterback Brett Gordon, in his last game at Villanova Stadium, became the second player in school history to have two 3,000-yard passing seasons.

Gordon threw for 179, making good on 13 of 18 passes, while throwing strikes to three different players in the end zone.

The first touchdown of the day, however, came on the ground, as freshman tailback Mo Gibson finished off a seven-play, 47-yard drive with a one-yard dive into the end zone to close out the first quarter. The ‘Cats then added two more touchdowns before halftime, with Gordon completing passes to senior wideout Brian White and sophomore fullback Phil DiGiacomo. The second half would see more of the same from ‘Nova. Receiver Shaz Brown caught a pass from fellow captain Gordon to put another six points on the board, followed less than three minutes later by tight end Matt Chila catching a 12-yard pass to add to the lead. Running back Henry Ridley finished out the scoring for both teams when he ran in from two yards out for yet another touchdown with 5:19 remaining in the third.

The Wildcats got promising performances from their special teams, an area that has been streaky throughout the season. Senior safety Gary Johnson came up big for ‘Nova, blocking a Rams punt and recovering it at the 10-yard line, a play which led to White’s touchdown. Johnson later blocked a 36-yard field goal attempt.

The strong and convincing overall team effort made the day all the more special for head coach Andy Talley, who was able to celebrate his 150th win on the Main Line.

The Wildcats will square off against their biggest rival of the season when they face Delaware at 1 p.m. at Delaware Stadium Saturday.

For more on the matchup and rivalry of these two teams, plus the complete playoff picture, turn to Villanova Football Friday on page 41.