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No. 8 Villanova Beats Youngstown St. in Second Round, 45-28

Graduate+quarterback+Connor+Watkins+rushed+for+two+touchdowns+in+the+win.
Brian Luppy/Villanovan Photography
Graduate quarterback Connor Watkins rushed for two touchdowns in the win.

No. 8 Villanova has focused on playing complementary football all season. When the offense makes a mistake, the defense limits the damage. When the defense can’t get off the field, the offense goes out and responds.

It played that brand of complementary football in the second round of the FCS playoffs, balancing offense, defense and special teams to take down Youngstown State, 45-28. The win moves the ‘Cats to 10-2 and advances them to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs, where they will face No. 1 South Dakota State.

Graduate quarterback Connor Watkins finished the day with 275 yards, a passing touchdown, two rushing touchdowns and an interception. The ‘Cats scored five rushing touchdowns against the Penguins, with two coming from graduate running back Jalen Jackson and one more from graduate running back DeeWil Barlee. 

Watkins’ interception came early in the game on a screen pass. After the interception the ‘Guins took over at the Villanova 26. The ‘Cats were able to hold the ‘Guins to a field goal, limiting the ‘Guins’ offense to 18 yards on eight plays.

“I think we’ve played very good complementary football this year,” Watkins said. “It feels like every time that we might slip up and make a mistake and turn the ball over the defense goes out there and gets a stop and it’s okay, it makes us feel better.”

The defense helped out the offense throughout the game, as two second-half interceptions from sophomore defensive back Christian Sapp and senior defensive back Isas Waxter set the ‘Cats up with field positions in opponent territory. The ‘Cats capitalized on both created turnovers, scoring touchdowns on each ensuing drive. 

The pick from Waxter helped seal the game. The ‘Guins went from down 17 with the ball with seven minutes left on the clock to down 24 with 4:52 to play after Waxter’s interception led to Barlee’s touchdown. Barlee scored on a 22-yard rush.

“The concept going in is always going to be the same,” head coach Mark Ferrante. “Let’s be as balanced as we can on offense. Let’s stop the run on defense. Create a few turnovers maybe, which we had an opportunity to do, and our guys are just playing good football right now.”

The ‘Cats move on in the FCS playoff bracket to face South Dakota State in Brookings, S.D. In the 2021 season, the Jackrabbits handed the ‘Cats a home playoff loss in the quarterfinals. Villanova now has a chance to return the favor, two years later.

The time, date and broadcast for the ‘Cats quarterfinal matchup is yet to be determined, but will be scheduled for either Friday, Dec. 8 or Saturday, Dec. 9.

 

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Owen Hewitt, Co-Sports Editor
Owen Hewitt is one of two Co-Sports Editors in 2024. Entering his second year in this position, he is a Communications major specializing in journalism. Owen is a Memphis native and a die-hard Grizzlies fan, although his main loyalty lies with Memphis 901 FC. When not writing about basketball or soccer, Owen can often be found on stage, performing as part of Villanova's improv team Ridiculum. Owen has many goals in life, including going into sports journalism as a profession, but his main goal — always — is to stay jitty with it.
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