‘Cats swat Spiders

Kyle Stephan

The two most recent FCS National Champions, Richmond and ‘Nova, battled it out at Villanova Stadium this past Saturday.

The CAA contest ended in a 28-7 victory for the Wildcats.

It was a tale of two halves for ‘Nova. Two shifts in momentum, which featured an exciting goal-line stand and a bizarre fumble recovery, sealed the win for the Wildcats (6-2, 4-1 in CAA) over the Spiders (4-4, 2-3 in CAA).

“I think what happened today is a result of who we are and what we’ve accomplished up to this point,” Head Coach Andy Talley said following the game. “We seem like we are ready and poised to make the run I think we need to make.”

Senior quarterback Chris Whitney dominated in the first half. After a direct snap, Whitney entered the open field after clearing the first and only line of defense from Richmond.

Whitney would score the first touchdown of the day to tie his longest career-rush of 45 yards.

“I just saw man coverage all across the board and everything very spread out,” Whitney said. “Once we got past that first level, after basically an all-out blitz, there was no one else behind us.”

On the next ‘Nova drive, Whitney faked a handoff and rushed to the right into a sea of Spider defenders, but dodged them all and stiff-armed another down the sideline for a 36-yard gain.

Whitney finished the day with 11 carries for 116 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. Whitney followed his impressive gallop down the field with a five-yard touchdown pass to junior Norman White to put the Wildcats up 14-0.

“In the first half, Chris Whitney was phenomenal,” Talley said. “He basically willed himself on their defense.”

The first major shift in momentum came in favor of the Wildcats after a fantastic goal-line stand. Richmond quarterback Montel White led his offense down the field to a first and goal at the Villanova one-yard line. On fourth and goal, Villanova stopped Spider running back Tyler Kirchoff and secured a monumental possession change.

“I thought the key to the game was our goal-line stand in the first half,” Talley said. “I think more than anything it was a mental heartbreak for them that they didn’t score on the goal line. I think that was a big lift for our team.”

After senior Aaron Ball’s touchdown run into the open field, the score stood at 21-0 Villanova at the half.

In the second half, the Wildcat defense stepped up in a big way after an injury to Richmond’s quarterback White. White was pulled from the game and replaced by redshirted sophomore quarterback and current punter Nick Hicks.

After the game, Spiders Head Coach Latrell Scott confirmed that White probably scratched his cornea from a piece of rubber from the turf.

Nevertheless, Hicks provided a slight spark to the Spider offense and forced a battle of field position. The Wildcat defense kept Richmond at bay for the most part, with the only exception being a fake punt by Hicks that led to the only Richmond score of the day in the third quarter to make it 21-7.

The Villanova defense, led by senior Marquis Kirkland with 11 tackles, faced a critical juncture in the game, yet again. But the shift in momentum again favored Villanova,on a play that fan’s don’t often see.

Hicks passed the ball behind the line of scrimmage, thus making it a backward lateral. The pass fell harmlessly to the ground as it was batted by redshirt freshman defensive end Rakim Cox. The officials never ruled the ball dead, so senior safety John Dempsey picked up the ball (ruled a fumble) and ran it for 32 yards. Whitney finished the job with a touchdown pass to senior tight end Chris Farmer.

“Nobody knew it was a fumble,” Dempsey said. “I just grabbed it and took off and ended up getting caught.” As the score remained 28-7, Villanova secured the game and a 6-2 record overall. The Wildcats will face the Rhode Island Rams at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Rhode Island.