Villanova Improves to 2-0 with a 38-21 Win Over LIU


Dez Boykin (above) had a 60-yard touchdown reception against LIU.

Owen Hewitt, Staff Writer

No. 6 Villanova football beat Long Island University 38-21 Saturday afternoon to improve to 2-0 on the season, while the Sharks dropped to 0-2. The ‘Cats pulled out the win despite the fact their passing game struggled throughout the afternoon. Junior quarterback Connor Watkins was 7-12 on passing attempts for 196 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. 

The Wildcats fared much better on the ground, out gaining LIU 365-129. Senior running back DeeWil Barlee led the team with 177 rushing yards, a career high, and senior running back TD Ayo-Durojaiye also broke the century mark on the day, with 109 yards, also a career best. Both Barlee and ​​Ayo-Durojaiye punched in a touchdown, with Watkins also contributing one with his legs. Senior wide receiver Jaaron Hayek continues to emerge as Watkins’ preferred target, as he led the team in receiving yards for the second straight game with 120 yards on four receptions. 

There was no shortage of turnovers in the game, as in addition to Watkins’ four picks, the ‘Cats defense came up with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Sophomore defensive back Tyrell Mims and sophomore defensive lineman Jake Green each registered an interception. Redshirt freshman linebacker Shane Hartzell forced the fumble, and sophomore linebacker Brendan Bell recovered it to give the ball back to the offense. Junior defensive back Jalen Goodman led the team in tackles with seven, four of which were solo efforts.

Villanova opened the game by scoring 17 unanswered points. A 34-yard field goal by graduate kicker Matthew Mercurio opened the scoring late in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Watkins was able to rush for an 11-yard touchdown, and then later Watkins threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to graduate wide receiver Dez Boykin. The long connection was Boykin’s lone reception on the day. LIU was able to answer with seconds left in the first half, connecting on a five yard reception to make things 17-7 after the PAT going into the half.

The ‘Cats then scored 21 more after the halftime break. The first of the second half came on the ground, with Barlee punching one into the endzone from five yards out. The next was a 14-yard pass from Watkins to junior wide receiver Rayjuon Pringle to make the score 31-7 after a successful PAT. The Sharks then responded in the fourth with a 22-yard touchdown pass, but the ‘Cats offense was able to put the game away with a 10-yard touchdown run by Ayo-Durojaiye set up by a 71-yard rush by Barlee. 

The PAT after Ayo-Durojaiye’s touchdown brought the scoreline to 38-14 with 6:17 left to play, essentially putting the game to rest. The Sharks did manage to score another touchdown before time ran out, picking up a four yard rushing touchdown with just under two minutes to play.

The ‘Cats now look forward to next Saturday, where they will face FBS opponent Army. The Army Black Knights are still on the hunt for their first win of the season after losing to Coastal Carolina in week one and dropping a game against UT-San Antonio in overtime 41-38. The ‘Cats will travel to West Point, N.Y., looking to contain a Black Knights offense that leans heavily toward rushing. The game is scheduled for a noon kickoff on Sept. 17.