Villanova walked out of Rentschler Field empty-handed. The Wildcats’ search for their first win against a FBS opponent will have to wait for at least another year as the Huskies held them off in the fourth quarter. UConn won 20-15.
The Wildcats were unable to get the necessary stops at the end of the game, as UConn running back Ron Johnson rumbled ahead for the game-sealing first down. The Huskies killed any chance for a comeback. Out of time outs, Villanova had to watch Bryant Schirreffs kneel the clock away.
Shirreffs, a transfer from NC State, had a solid debut game for the Huskies. The redshirt sophomore finished with 202 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
As for Villanova’s signal caller, John Robertson had a bit of a rocky game. UConn’s defense did allow him to get comfortable. He completed 17 of 32 pass attempts for 153 yards. Robertson had one pick and one touchdown pass.
Outside of a couple long scrambles, the Walter Payton Award winner was kept in check on the ground. One such exception was when he willed his way for 22 yards to convert a third-and-21 situation in the second quarter. However, the effort was ultimately wasted as a missed 24-yard field goal concluded the drive.
UConn got on the board first, scoring a touchdown in the first quarter. The Huskies responded to a Villanova’s game opening three-and-out with a long drive to wear out the Wildcat defense. The ensuing extra point would be blocked by Tanoh Kpassagnon.
Villanova would not score until the second quarter, and got its points in a unique way. After the missed 24-yard field goal attempt, UConn quickly found itself in a third-and-28 situation on its own two yard line.
Backed into his own end zone, Shirreffs rolled out to his right and threw the ball away in order to avoid getting a sacked for a safety. Ironically, a holding penalty inside the end zone granted two points to the Wildcats regardless.
Riding the momentum of the safety, Villanova marched down field. John Robertson connected with an open Matt Gudzak for a touchdown. Steve Weyler converted the PAT to give Villanova a 9-6 lead late in the second quarter.
Jason Ceneus thwarted UConn’s last minute attempt to put points on the board before halftime. The junior cornerback picked off Shirreffs in the red zone to preserve Villanova’s 9-6 lead going into the break.
While the second quarter was dominated by the Wildcats, UConn changed the tone early in the third. A 69-yard reception by Tommy Myers put the Huskies in a first-and-goal situation. A couple of plays later, Johnson punched it in for a touchdown to reclaim the lead for UConn.
Villanova could not replicate the same success moving the ball as they did earlier in the game, stalling on both of their third quarter drives. The first ended in an interception and the Wildcats punted the ball away in their second drive.
A streak of back-and-forth empty handed drives was put to an end with another UConn touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Arkeel Newsome reeled in the checkdown pass from Shirreffs and took it in for the score.
Down 20-9, Villanova did not go away quietly. Robertson capped off an 11 play, 54 yard drive with a rushing touchdown. The Wildcats failed to convert on the two-point conversion.
With 1:40 left in the game, Villanova strangely chose to kick it off instead of going for the onside kick. UConn got the necessary first down to put an end to the game.
The Wildcats will hit the road and open up FCS play with Fordham on Saturday, September 12th. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.