Homecoming Heartbreak: ‘Nova Surrenders Late Advantage


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Homecoming Heartbreak: ‘Nova Surrenders Late Advantage

Daniel Mezzalingua

The Villanova Wildcats fell to 6-2 after a shocking loss to the Stony Brook Seawolves, 36-35, on Saturday. The Seawolves completed an 18-point comeback after a strong fourth quarter and a last-second field goal. 

Stony Brook quarterback Tyquell Fields took matters into his own hands for the first touchdown of the game, completing a 15-yard run with 10:15 remaining in the first quarter. 

After a few empty series, the Wildcats answered back with an epic trick play in which wide receiver Jaaron Hayek received a handoff from quarterback Daniel Smith in the backfield, before throwing the ball to Smith who ran out to the left side. Smith bolted down the sideline for a 68-yard touchdown, tying the game at seven. 

“We practiced it for the past couple weeks,” said Smith. “We put it in, and Coach Boden did a great job of knowing when to call it and getting us in a good spot to run it well. Jaaron threw a good ball and I had good blocks downfield.” 

Villanova took control in the second quarter as TD Ayo-Durojaiye ran in a 24-yard touchdown with 13:32 remaining, giving the Wildcats their first lead of the game. 

After a Stony Brook field goal minutes later, the Wildcats extended their advantage with a 21-yard pass from Smith to Hayek, making it 21-10 with 9:21 left in the half. 

The Seawolves were unable to get past the ‘Cats stellar defense and were forced to punt, giving them the ball back with 7:21 remaining. From there, Villanova executed 11 plays, taking nearly six minutes off the clock, before ending the drive with another trick play. On Stony Brook’s 24-yard line, Smith handed it off to Ayo-Durojaiye, who passed it to wide receiver Changa Hodge for the touchdown, giving the Wildcats a commanding 28-10 lead and leaving just 1:27 before halftime. 

Head Coach Mark Ferrante admitted he planned to call the trick plays before the game. 

“We knew we were going to call those plays and our guys did a great job executing them,” Ferrante said. 

For the second straight year, Villanova had three different players (Hayek, Smith, Ayo- Durojaiye) throw a touchdown pass against Stony Brook. Last season, it was Zach Bednarczyk, Jack Schetelich, and Adeyemi DaSilva. 

In the time remaining, the Seawolves managed to sneak eight plays in while storming down the field in an attempt to score before the half. They made it to the Villanova 21-yard line, but all scoring was prevented after an interception from cornerback Jaquan Amos. 

The Wildcats out-rushed the Seawolves by 38 yards in the first half despite having two less attempts. The team also recorded 252 passing yards to Stony Brook’s 138. 

Villanova had the advantage of receiving the ball to start the second half but fumbled it on the kickoff as Stony Brook recovered. The Seawolves settled for a 25-yard field goal after five plays, making the lead 28-13. 

On the next drive, Smith’s pass was intercepted by Gregory Young on the ‘Cats 48-yard line. Stony Brook advanced down the field and ended a five-play series with a 10-yard touchdown run from Ty Son Lawton. The Seawolves suddenly climbed back into the contest with 9:48 remaining in the third quarter, as the 18-point halftime deficit was cut to just eight points. 

Ferrante said that the two turnovers to start the second half impacted the team’s energy.

“The offense was ready to take the field and we fumbled the first kickoff away so that probably took a little momentum,” said Ferrante. “I know we came out of the locker room ready to take the field with the momentum we had in the first half. Then, we had another turnover on our next possession so you get a little bit out of rhythm.”

The ‘Cats tried to answer back and made it down to Stony Brook’s 27-yard line but missed a 44- yard field goal attempt. 

Both teams went back-and-forth for the rest of the third quarter, but neither team were successful in putting points on the board. However, that would soon change when the fourth quarter sparked. 

The ‘Cats claimed possession at the 14:38 mark and began its series that included a 44-yard pass from Smith to Hodge, advancing the team to the Seawolves’ 10-yard line. After a short pass to receiver Zac Kerxton that brought Villanova to the two yard-line, running back DeeWil Barlee ran it in for the touchdown to make it 35-20. 

With 9:09 remaining, the Seawolves had a 14-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Fields to Shawn Harris which cut the lead down to 35-27 with 4:45 left in the game. Villanova had a short three-and-out that shortened the game two minutes and three seconds, but Stony Brook took possession with 2:42 on its own 25-yard line. In just over a minute, the Seawolves were able to go down the field and score on a one-yard run from Fields, making it 35-33. On the two-point attempt, Stony Brook had a perfectly executed play that left a receiver wide open, but the pass was dropped. 

The Wildcats took over with just 1:32 remaining, and it seemed like the game was pretty-much over. However, Villanova managed only three plays of possession during which the offense lost a total of 20 yards. The team was forced to punt, giving Stony Brook one final chance with 21 seconds left in the contest. 

“No lead is safe, we learned that today,” said Ferrante. “I obviously mismanaged the time clock at the end of the game and made the defense go back on the field.” 

Starting on its own 36-yard line, the Seawolves started their drive with a 19-yard pass to Andrew Trent. After spiking the ball, Fields shocked the entire stadium with a 40-yard pass downfield to Nick Anderson who went down on the ‘Cats five-yard line with just four seconds remaining. Kicker Nick Courtney completed the astonishing comeback after making a 22-yard field goal that put Stony Brook up 36-35, leaving no time on the clock. 

“This is going to hurt tonight, [but]we’ll be back in tomorrow,” said Smith. “We’ll learn from it. That’s all you can do when you lose a game like this, you just got to learn from it.” 

Villanova’s next test will be at the University of New Hampshire on Nov. 2. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.