Villanova Football Trampled By Army, 49-10


Victoria Margenat/Villanovan Photography

Villanova gave up a program-high 472 yards on the ground against Army.

Tyler Moore, Staff Writer

WEST POINT, N.Y. The cannons were blasting in West Point, New York on Saturday afternoon as the Villanova football team came up short of an FBS upset against Army, falling 49-10. The Wildcats fall to 2-1 overall on the season as the Black Knights improve to 1-2. The loss came as Army found its rhythm on both sides of the ball following a slow start in the first quarter. 

“When you play up (FBS), they’re always gonna have more guys to rotate through; they’re gonna stay fresher than you are,” Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante said postgame. “But the bottom line is you gotta do your fundamental assignment and alignment and do your proper technique, and we didn’t do that consistently.”

The Wildcats struggled offensively, only recording 247 total yards. Junior quarterback Connor Watkins threw for 74 yards and one touchdown along with two interceptions. Junior wide receiver Rayjoun Pringle accounted for 54 of those receiving yards, including a 25 yard catch when the game was still in doubt. On the rushing side, Watkins led the team with 60 yards on the ground highlighted by a 20 yard scramble to keep a drive alive. Graduate running back Jalen Jackson and senior DeeWil Barlee followed with 39 yards and 36 yards, respectively. 

On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats were no match for the Black Knights’ rushing attack. While this was the fourth game in Villanova football history where the opponent did not have a single completion, it was also the most rushing yards ever recorded against the Wildcats in program history. Army’s offense put up 472 rushing yards against Villanova, thanks to a season-high effort by junior running back Tyson Riley, who led the offense with 158 rushing yards. Riley’s day included a stunning 70 yard run to start the second half off for the Black Knights, showing that the second half would be a continuation of the first. Senior quarterback Tyhier Tyler and sophomore running back Tyrell Robinson also contributed heavily to the rushing total, tallying 89 and 77 yards, respectively. 

“It was hard. It was challenging,” Ferrante said. “When you play an offense like that you can never simulate the precision and the speed that they’re gonna run. No matter how well you do in practice, it’s gonna take a little while to adjust to.”

The Villanova offense started the matchup with a three and out to give the ball to Army for its first possession. With a strong offensive drive highlighted by a 55 yard run to the red zone by junior running back Jakobi Buchanan, the Black Knights started the afternoon with a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. 

The Wildcats wasted no time in responding to Army as Barlee ran for 16 yards on a first down play to enter Black Knight territory. ‘Nova decided to go for it on fourth down and six with Watkins finding the sideline for a 17 yard run to get within scoring position. Watkins passed over the Black Knights defense to Pringle in the end zone to tie the game up, 7-7, with 5:27 left in the first quarter.

After the Black Knight offense continued to run past the ‘Cats defense for a 14-7 lead, the Villanova offense looked for the opportunity to respond once again. Watkins used his legs to drive down the field, including a 20 yard run to get the offense near the endzone. However, Watkins threw the first of what would be two interceptions within the 25 yard line to give up the ball to the Black Knights. Army would go on a three and out of their own before Watkins threw his second interception on the next drive. 

“Two turnovers inside the 25-30 yardline is gonna kill you a little bit there,” Ferrante said. “[Watkins is] a game guy. He ran the ball well, he’s tough, he’s physical, he’s aggressive, he’s got a big arm– sometimes he throws it in some windows that might not be as big as it looks where he’s delivering a ball from– but he’s just gotta bounce back from this.”

The half ended 21-7 favoring Army and the Wildcats headed out for the second half with their heads high. As Army received the kick, a few runs set up Riley for an open 70 yard touchdown run to put the Black Knights in a comfortable position. ‘Nova would respond for its final time with a field goal by graduate kicker Matthew Mercurio to make it 28-10 with 8:28 left in the third quarter.

The Black Knights would not let up their offensive performance and scored three more touchdowns, including a 73 yard punt return touchdown by Robinson, to capture their first win of the season 49-10.

The experience of playing a game at West Point did not end when the clock hit zero, however. The Villanova football team joined the Army players to sing the academy’s alma mater to show its respect for their program and all they do.

“This is one of the service academies– it’s more than a game,” Ferrante said of the overall experience.

Villanova returns home to open CAA conference play on Saturday, facing the Monmouth Hawks. The Family Weekend game is set to kick off at 3:30 p.m.