Wildcats fall in heartbreaker to A-10 foe UMass



Cailin Brophy

Villanova headed into Massachusetts for its fifth conference matchup with its heads high, boasting a number four ranking in the country and hoping to keep its road record perfect.

However, the ’Cats could not edge out the Minutemen of UMass, dropping only their second game of the season in a heartbreaking 17-16 loss.

Considering the chances the Wildcats had late in the game, the loss was particularly hard to swallow. With under three minutes left in regulation, ’Nova had its back against the wall, down 17-10 with a fourth and goal on the UMass 13 yard-line.

After a UMass timeout, Wildcat quarterback Brett Gordon connected with senior wideout Brian White on what was without a doubt the most remarkable catch of the season.

Gordon lofted a pass to the corner of the end zone that White looked over his shoulder to grab with one hand while managing to keep his feet inside for the score that left UMass fans in a state of shock.

“It’s a play we run all the time,” White said, describing the catch. “By the grace of God I caught it.”

However, the Villanova celebration was short-lived, as kicker Adam James shanked the extra point attempt wide left.

’Nova punted the ball back to UMass, and it seemed as if the game was over. However, Minutemen freshman quarterback Tim Day, who came on for the injured starter Jeff Krohn, made a costly rookie mistake on second and 10, choosing to put the ball in the air instead of sticking to the ground game.

’Nova senior safety Gary Johnson made the interception, giving the ’Cats the ball and another chance at the win. ’Nova managed to get in field goal range, giving James a chance to redeem himself with a 38-yard field goal attempt for the victory with 48 seconds remaining in the wild contest.

However, the ’Cats shot themselves in the foot again with yet another special teams breakdown, as several UMass players were able to break through and block the attempt, thus securing the win.

Villanova head coach Andy Talley was particularly disappointed with the wasted chances of his team.

“We should have won this game and got out of town thankful,” he said.

The 16 points scored by the Wildcats was uncharacteristic of their usual high-octane offense, which has been averaging 28.3 points per game while only allowing 11.3 to their opponents.

“This was one of those games where you walk away feeling good about your defense but bad about your offense,” Talley said. “We’re a lot better than 16 points.”

The game was close throughout, characterized by strong defense as well as strong winds. The Minutemen were able to draw first blood, however, capitalizing on a rare Brett Gordon interception deep in ’Nova territory. On the ensuing drive, UMass quarterback Jeff Krohn ran the ball on the keeper and was laid out by ’Nova safety Ray Ventrone, resulting in a concussion which forced him to sit out the remainder of the game. However, running back R.J. Cobbs was able to give his team the early 7-0 lead on a two-yard touchdown run.

The Wildcats were able to get on the board at the 10:43 mark of the second quarter, as tailback Terry Butler capped off an 11-play, 64-yard drive to even the score.

UMass dominated the third quarter, adding another touchdown from Cobbs to go along with a field goal, which proved to be just enough to hold off the ’Cats.

“It was a great game and both teams played hard,” UMass coach Mark Whipple said. “Nobody deserved to lose this game.”

With the loss, the Wildcats fell from No. 4 to No. 12 in the latest national rankings, while Massachusetts moved up from 20th to 16th.

’Nova’s record now stands at 6-2 overall, with a 3-2 record in the Atlantic 10. UMass is now 5-2, 3-1 in conference play.

The Wildcats will have the bye week to regroup and get ready for their next conference matchup, a noon showdown at home against co-defending Atlantic 10 champs William & Mary on Nov. 2.