#4 Wildcats Fall to Unranked William & Mary, 31-18


Courtesy of Graydon Paul/Villanovan Photography

The Wildcats could not slow down William & Mary’s run game, allowing 258 yards on the ground.

Matthew Ryan, Staff Writer

When the Villanova offense took the field to start the second half, it was in dire need of a solid drive following a flat first 30 minutes. The Wildcats were trailing William & Mary, 17-3, but when graduate quarterback Daniel Smith launched a pass some 50-yards downfield to an open Rayjoun Pringle, it seemed like the tides were shifting.

Instead, the potential touchdown slipped through the junior wide receiver’s hands and fell incomplete. Then, on the very next play, Smith threw his third interception of the game, and by the time the Wildcats were able to find any offensive success it was far too late, as the fourth ranked Wildcats were upset by the Tribe, 31-18.

“We had some plays there, and we missed them, and they had some plays there, and they made them,” Ferrante said following the game.

Except for two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter down multiple scores, the Villanova offense was dreadful. Smith finished the game with a career-high four interceptions and completed just 18 of his 38 pass attempts. It didn’t help that his pass-catchers were sub-par, dropping balls left and right.

The run game was stifled all afternoon, accumulating just 39 total yards on 20 carries. Graduate running back Justin Covington was out, and his backups, junior DeeWil Barlee and senior Jalen Jackson, could only account for 29 rushing yards.

The Tribe dominated the time of possession, holding on to the ball for almost 40 minutes, and Ferrante thinks that is one of the reasons why his run game couldn’t get going.

“When you look at time of possession, they doubled us up,” he said. “So you’re not going to be able to establish anything consistently when they have 20 more plays and the ball 20 more minutes than we do.”

The offense looked better towards the end, scoring the aforementioned two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and there is optimism inside the offensive unit going forward.

“We’re confident our offense will be able to learn from this and bounce back next week and have the chemistry and success we usually do,” senior tight end Todd Summers said.

Much like the offense, the defensive side of the ball struggled for the Wildcats. The Tribe only passed the ball 19 times totaling 109 yards, but their run game is what gave Villanova problems. The usually stout Villanova run defense had their worst outing of the season, giving up 258 yards. Running back Bronson Yoder led the way for the Tribe, running the ball 25 times — sometimes out of the Wildcat formation — for 106 yards and a touchdown.

William & Mary’s rushing attempts weren’t generating huge plays, but it consistently rattled off solid gains of four or five yards. The perfect example of the Tribe’s run game is Yoder’s performance, as his longest rush was just eight yards, yet none of his runs went for negative yardage.

“We just got to be better, more stout up front,“ graduate linebacker Forrest Ryne said. “They were getting us going very horizontal, which, in our defense, we want to be vertical in the gap.”

Overall, the game was sloppy for the Wildcats. They were called for four personal foul penalties and lost the turnover battle, four to one. The loss dropped Villanova’s record to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in CAA play. The Wildcats entered the game in sole possession of first place in the conference but now sit in third, behind James Madison (5-1 CAA) and William & Mary (4-1 CAA), with three games remaining.

Villanova was rolling, but now some adversity hits. Ferrante’s message to his team following the loss?

“I said to them I was proud of them,” he said. “I told them I love them, and I love their attitude. Let’s make sure we stick together.”

The Wildcats travel to Elon next weekend, looking to get back on track against the 4-4 Phoenix.