Strong Defense Leads Wildcats to 17-10 Win At Albany


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Senior tight end Todd Summers had two receptions, including a 24 yard touchdown.

Tyler Moore, Staff Writer

Despite a sloppy performance in rainy conditions, Villanova football survived at Albany 17-10 on Saturday afternoon to improve to 5-1 overall, 3-0 in CAA play. In its first matchup with Albany since 2017, the Wildcats were able to come out on top despite a late offensive push from the winless Great Danes, who fell to 0-6 on the season. 

The ‘Cats offense put up 204 rushing yards, led by senior running back Jalen Jackson, who had four carries for 71 yards. Not far behind, junior running back DeeWil Barlee had 16 rushes for 70 yards, and graduate running back Justin Covington had 14 carries for 61 yards. Covington became the twelfth player in program history to surpass 2,000 career rushing yards.

Led by senior linebacker Amin Black with 11 tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss and one interception, the Wildcat defense held Albany to just 259 total yards, forcing two turnovers. 

The game started slow for ‘Nova, as the first drive resulted in a three and out. Graduate quarterback Daniel Smith was unable to connect on his first three pass attempts, and the Wildcats were forced to punt.

Albany was able to strike first, as senior running back Karl Mofor ran for a short three yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. The Great Danes were in the red zone after two first down passes from redshirt sophomore quarterback Jeff Undercuffler to graduate wide receiver Mohamed Jabbie, with a roughing the passer penalty by graduate linebacker Forrest Rhyne in between the receptions. 

The Great Dane offense took over once again after the ‘Cats were unable to capitalize on their next drive despite a few runs by Covington and a pass to junior quarterback Qadir Ismail for 20 yards. However, Albany’s drive would not last long, as Undercuffler was intercepted by Black, the first interception of Black’s career. The Wildcat offense took advantage of the defensive play, as Smith threw a 23 yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Todd Summers to even the score at seven. 

After a series of three and outs from both teams, ‘Nova finally came up with a few first down plays after a run by Barlee and pass to Summers. Jackson picked up an 11 yard run but lost the ball as he came down, and his fumble was recovered by an Albany player to give possession back to the Great Danes. ‘Nova and Albany traded holding penalties, before a defensive stand by the ‘Cats gave the ball back to the offense.

The Wildcats found their way to break the tie just before half. After a holding call on Albany, ‘Nova converted on a 4th and 1 run by Barlee. A long pass to junior wide receiver Rayjoun Pringle gave Villanova a first down, and graduate kicker Cole Bunce made a 26-yard field goal with 1:26 remaining to take a 10-7 lead.

Another opportunity before halftime presented itself, as Albany was forced to punt with 46 seconds left. The snap slipped through the Great Dane punter’s hands, and junior running back TD Ayo-Durojaiye picked the ball up and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown, putting the ‘Cats up 17-7. Junior defensive back Elijah Glover intercepted a Great Dane pass to send the game into half.

However, the winless Great Danes would not give up. Albany started the second half and marched into field goal range, but a sack by Black forced the Great Danes to attempt a 51 yard field goal, which was no good. However, Smith threw an interception on the ensuing possession, and Albany took possession again. 

The interception brought hope to the Great Dane offense. A combination of a few good runs by Mofor and an unsportsmanlike conduct call on a ‘Nova defender set up another field goal attempt for Albany. The attempt from 24 yards made its way through the posts, cutting the score to 17-10.

On the next offensive drive for the ‘Cats, Covington took a 25 yard run to the 50 yard line creating a good scoring opportunity. ‘Nova soon faced a 4th and 1 scenario and decided to go for it, converting on the play. However, another attempt to run 4th and 8 soon after was one yard short, giving the Great Danes possession near the end of the third quarter. 

The Great Danes took advantage of the turnover on downs by bringing the ball all the way to the Villanova 19 before attempting a 36 yard field goal. Again, Albany failed to make the kick, keeping the score at 17-10. 

Both teams had no luck as their next drives both went three and out. The Wildcats took over and Jackson broke out a 53 yard run to the Albany 8, but fumbled as he was tackled. This play gave Albany one last chance to tie the game. After a 42 yard pass by Undercuffler and a pass interference call on ‘Nova, the Great Danes found themselves at 1st and goal with the game on the line. Undercuffler took a few shots at the end zone, all of which fell incomplete, setting up 4th and goal. The Wildcat defense held the line and broke up a pass to end the threat, virtually sealing the game.

On the final drive, Smith converted on 3rd and 5 with a six yard scramble, and the ‘Cats lined up in victory formation to clinch the game and emerge from Albany with a 17-10 win. 

‘Nova now leads the CAA conference with a 3-0 record, as the only undefeated team left in conference play. The Wildcats look to continue their winning streak and maintain their position as they return home for homecoming to face #12 Rhode Island. The game is set to kickoff at 3:30 p.m.