Strong Defense Leads Football Past Hampton, 24-10


Quinn Bruns/Villanovan Photography

Connor Watkins (No. 4) rushed for two touchdowns and added another in the air against Hampton.

Owen Hewitt, Staff Writer

Villanova football defeated Hampton 24-10 on Saturday afternoon, improving to 5-3 on the season and 3-2 in CAA play. 

Junior quarterback Connor Watkins was 14-for-31 passing for 161 yards with an interception. Watkins had three total touchdowns: a passing touchdown to senior wide receiver Jaaron Hayek and two touchdown carries. Watkins’ first touchdown came on the first drive of the game for the ‘Cats, as he went up the middle on a quarterback run for 75 yards. The rush was the longest rushing touchdown by a quarterback in program history. 

“I wasn’t sure he was going to be that fast to take it all the way,” Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante said. “But sure enough, he did.”

Senior running back TD Ayo-Durojaiye had 112 yards rushing on 25 carries, with his longest rush for the day being a 20-yarder. Hayek led the team in receiving, hauling in five passes for 97 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. The ‘Cats run defense held up throughout the game, only allowing 21 total rushing yards on the afternoon. Sophomore defensive back Ty Trinh led the team in tackles with seven, while graduate linebacker Antonio Montero had two tackles for loss. 

“It didn’t feel like 100 yards,” Ayo-Durojaiye said. “I’m just doing my job. They’re asking me to go out there and take a little more carries, and try and help this offense and try and win games.”

“We don’t really expect or want any of them to carry the ball 25 times like TD did,” Ferrante said. “But, to his credit, he accepted his role and he stepped up. He was the horse today, and he’s the guy that has the hot hand, we’re going to feed him.”

Hampton struggled for the first quarter, but began to gain some traction with the outside run and short passes in the second quarter. The Pirates were able to put together a drive that culminated in a 30-yard field goal to move the score to 7-3.

Outside of the long touchdown from Watkins, the Wildcats’ offense struggled to capitalize on 248 offensive yards in the first half. The ‘Cats were only able to find a 26-yard field goal from graduate kicker Matt Mercurio to make things 10-3 going into halftime. 

The Wildcats had another chance to score in a two minute drill, but as heavy pressure came down on Watkins, he threw to the end zone where he was picked off by Pirates sophomore cornerback Corey Wilson. The ‘Cats were able to thwart the Pirates hope of scoring right before the half with an interception of their own, as graduate linebacker Danny Abraham picked off Pirates junior quarterback Malcolm Mays.

Into the third, the ‘Cats were able to put together a 10-play, 64-yard scoring drive, capped off with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Hayek, increasing the ‘Cats lead to 17-3 with 7:11 left to play in the quarter.

It wouldn’t take long for the Pirates to answer however, finding a touchdown pass of their own, as they took advantage of a short field given to them by a shanked punt. Graduate receiver Trent Cloud hauled in a 23-yard pass with 2:16 left to play in the third. 

The ‘Cats would score one more time to seal the game up, with Watkins finding the end zone on his feet again, this time from 30 yards out. His touchdown gave Villanova a 24-10 lead, which was the final score. The ‘Cats denied the Pirates a chance for a comeback by controlling the ball in the fourth quarter, leaning on their run game. 

“We had the ball for over 11 minutes in the fourth quarter,” Ferrante said. “So we definitely controlled the clock.”

The ‘Cats next contest comes at Towson. The Tigers are 3-5 overall and 1-4 in conference play, with their most recent result being a win against Monmouth. The game is scheduled for a 2 P.M. kickoff on Saturday, Nov. 5.