Football Struggles in Blowout Loss to Towson


Quinn Burns/Villanovan Photography

Football drops to 5-4 with the loss against Towson.

Jacob Artz, Staff Writer

The game of football is won by excelling in all three phases of the game.

On Saturday afternoon, Villanova executed none of these.

The Wildcats (5-4, 3-3 CAA) struggled mightily against Towson (4-5, 2-4) in a CAA matchup at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Maryland, ultimately resulting in a 27-3 loss.

The offense could not establish any type of rhythm. The rush defense again showed its deficiencies. The special teams cost the Wildcats valuable field position and points.

The game sealing sequence that ultimately cost Villanova was the struggling special teams. The audience was given a sneak peak at the beginning of the game when running back D’Ago Hunter returned the opening kickoff 60 yards to the Villanova 34-yard line.

After another stalled Villanova drive on its six yard-line with 13:15 to play in the 4th quarter, the punt was shanked for only a 23-yard net gain to set Towson up at the Villanova 29-yard line. After going for it from the Villanova 20 on 4th & 1 and gaining 10 yards on a keeper from quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, the quarterback connected with wide receiver Isaiah Perkins for his second touchdown of the game to make it 20-3 with 11:22 to go in the fourth quarter.

The end of the game occurred when Hunter executed a 77-yard touchdown punt return on a Villanova punt from its own 30 yard line. This made it 27-3 Towson with 9:23 to go in the fourth. Hunter tallied up 334 yards of all-purpose yards last week against Monmouth, including a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 74-yard punt return that set up a touchdown.

Offensively, the Wildcats showed promise on their first drive. After a missed 52-yard field goal from Towson kicker Keegan Vaughan, Villanova used 17 plays spanning 59 yards in 7:14 to convert a 25-yard field goal by graduate kicker Matthew Mercurio. The end of the drive was a foreshadowing of the rest of the game as senior quarterback Connor Watkins could not find his aim.

On second and goal from the Towson seven yard line, Watkins misfired on a low ball to junior wide receiver Rayjuon Pringle. On third and goal, freshman wide receiver Jaylan Sanchez dropped a quick slant that went through his hands. That set up the field goal by Mercurio.

Watkins struggled mightily in the first half, completing only one of ten passes for seven yards. Watkins also threw a costly interception late in the first half that resulted in a Towson field goal.

Watkins threw the interception with 46 seconds remaining in the first half, which was intended for graduate wide receiver Dez Boykin. Watkins was fooled by the disguised prevent defense. Towson mismanaged the clock, resulting in a 22-yard field goal by Vaughan. 

Towson led 10-3 at the half but Villanova could not find any synchronization on offense. Watkins was held to 7-for-21 passing in the game for only 68 yards and an interception. He was pulled around the nine minute mark in the fourth quarter.

The offense was hurt by injuries. Senior wide receiver Jaaron Hayek, who has 810 receiving yards on the season, missed the game with a broken bone in his leg. The Wildcats also missed two running backs: graduate Jalen Jackson and senior DeeWil Barlee. 

The offense only gained 153 total yards of offense. Senior running back TD Ayo-Durojaiye carrying the ball 19 times for 49 yards and freshman running back Eli Smith had five carries for 26 yards. Ayo-Durojaiye had three straight games of more than 100 yards, but the streak ended today.

The defense was showing signs of improvement after giving up only 83 yards on the ground combined in the last two games after allowing 239.7 rush yards per game in its first six games. 

The improvement stopped today.

Villanova gave up a whopping 267 yards on the ground on 50 carries by the Tigers. The Tigers employed a five man rotation with running backs Joachim Bangda, Devin Matthews, Curtis Murray and Hunter along with Pigrome. 

An example was in the second quarter when the Tigers gained all of their 61 yards via the running game with two pass incompletions on their 13 play 61 yard drive resulting in a missed field goal. The drive took up 6:17 and ended at the 5:34 mark in the 2nd quarter.

Bangda carried 17 times for 107 yards for a 6.3 average, Pigrome ran 14 times for 73 yards, Matthews had four carries for 28 yards, Murray had four carries for 55 yards and Hunter had seven carries for 9 yards.

Villanova will look to bounce back next Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats will travel to Zable Stadium in Williamsburg, VA to take on William & Mary at 1 p.m. in another CAA matchup.