Defensive efforts continue, carry Wildcats past Lafayette



David Jarman

Courtesy of Villanova University

Defense is an attitude. 

It’s the part of the team that wins championships, especially in football. The great examples are the Steel Curtain and the ’85 Bears. When looking back on the highlights of those teams, one characteristic stands out—they had players who put fear into the minds of their opponents. 

Senior defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon  put fear in the mind of the Lafayette offense from the first snap of the game. Villanova’s strong defensive effort was able to capture a 31-14 victory last Saturday in  Easton, Pa.  

On the very first play of the game, Kpassagnon set the tone of the game by scoring on a 25-yard fumble return for a touchdown. 

“Kpassagnon, our defensive end, was putting their guy a lot and I would say this was a day, when you have a good defense, they can save the day,” head coach Andy Talley said about his team captain. Kpassagnon finished with seven tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks in addition to his first career touchdown. 

With momentum after its win against Towson, the Wildcat defense continued stopping the run and forcing turnovers in order to make the opposing offense out of their comfort zone.  

Villanova held the Leopards to 70 yards rushing and had contributions from sophomore linebacker Jeff Steeb, who had a 45 yard interception return for a touchdown. Senior Shayne Jones also had 10 tackles, and junior safety Rob Rolle had two interceptions—one of which would have counted as a TD if there wasn’t an illegal blocking in the back penalty. He would have made history with back-to-back games with an interception for a touchdown.  

“Rolle is really selling out,” Kpassagnon said. “Our defense is kind of young, and I knew they were going to show a lot of stuff this year.” 

Villanova’s defense has had four defensive touchdowns this year. On the other side of the ball, Villanova did not have the solid, balanced attack of run and pass like it did against Towson, however. 

QB Zach Bednarczyk was 13-of-26 with 135 passing yards, a sack and an interception. The offense seemed to be rolling early with a 17-0 lead, but the Lafayette defense was able to force a few stops and allow their offense to get back into the ball game. Lafayette’s Tim Vangelas scored a touchdown in the 3rd quarter to make the score 17-14. 

“We didn’t have a very good game offensively,” said Talley. “I think Lafayette had a lot to do with that, quite frankly. They blitzed us several times and put pressure on Zach [Bednarczyk].”

 Talley earned his 253rd career victory. When Villanova needed to respond on offense, it turned to the strength of its team—the running game. Sophomore running back Aaron Forbes scored on a three-yard touchdown following the Lafayette score with 3:32 left in the third quarter and added a career-high 111 rushing yards. The competition in practice every day and the competitive nature instilled in him helps his success. 

“Being a sophomore is actually amazing for me,” Forbes said. “It’s good experience. I get to watch guys like Javon White [who had 18 carries for 61 yards and a TD]. He does well every game and helps me in practice [in order to] do what I need to do. My competitive nature helps my game because the running back group is so deep that the competition in practice makes us better every day.”  

In addition to Forbes, junior wide receiver Taurus Phillips, who had over 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns last week, led the Wildcats with five catches for 59 yards.  

Another bright spot for the Wildcats was their kicking game. Though this area has been a struggle this year so far, kicker Gerard Smith made all four of his PATs and made a 37-yard field goal in the second quarter. 

In the first quarter, Villanova tried to catch Lafayette off-guard by attempting a fake field goal pass for a touchdown but was unsuccessful. 

“Coming into the game, we knew we haven’t been very successful with the field goal,” Talley said. “Now we have a short field goal so they’re figuring, they’re going to kick a field goal. Had [punter] John Hinchen thrown the ball better, it would have been a touchdown, but he underthrew it.” 

The Villanova offense and special teams have some work to do as the 19a-ranked Wildcats travel down to North Carolina to play Elon next Saturday. The defense, on the other hand, hopes to continue its success as it continues to lead the team. 

More importantly, if they can intimidate the Phoenix offense, it will give them a greater chance to extend its winning streak in conference play.