‘Cats tackle Bears

Nate McGann

The No. 6 Villanova Wildcats came off its bye week firing on all cylinders in a 48-18 blowout against conference opponent Maine. Senior quarterback Chris Whitney single-handedly delivered the Black Bears their third conference loss with a career performance.

Whitney notched over 300 passing yards and three passing touchdowns while adding another two on the ground.

If Whitney was banged up entering the contest, he didn’t show it on the field.

“I think, today, it looked like we were getting our legs back, back to performing with confidence,” Head Coach Andy Talley said. “We were playing with confidence on both sides of the ball.”

The Wildcats controlled the game from the start, opening with a 97-yard touchdown drive that ended with his first rushing score.

After the defense forced a Maine punt, Whitney once again led a scoring drive, this time through the air to senior running back Angelo Babbaro on a 63-yard pass play.

The early momentum proved to be more than enough as the Wildcats extended the lead to 27-3 entering the half.

Any chance of a Maine comeback was put to rest in the third quarter when Villanova stretched the margin to 34-11. Whitney finished with his most impressive stat line as a collegiate quarterback. He went 20-25 passing for 322 yards and an additional 37 yards on nine carries.

“He ended up just patting the ball, patting the ball,” Talley said of Whitney. “Then he just stuck it in there. We had some great catches, and he was laser-sharp today.”

Whitney has always been one of Talley’s offensive weapons, but on Saturday he showed he has an ability to make big plays, especially through the air, something that has been uncharacteristic during his tenure. In addition to the big pass play to Babbaro, Whitney also completed a 73-yard touchdown pass to sophomore receiver Dorian Wells.

Villanova entered the game with a deliberate plan to throw the ball.

“We knew their front seven was good,” Whitney said. “[We knew]we’d have to throw the ball to beat them.”

As impressive as Whitney was, the Wildcats dominated every facet of the game, despite star senior receiver Matt Szczur missing from another game with an ankle injury.

“What it really came down to today was us just playing together,” Whitney said. “Our O-line played unbelievable today. They gave so much time to throw.”

Villanova put up 559 yards of total offense with no turnovers. On defense, the ‘Cats forced three turnovers of their own which the offense turned into three touchdown drives. In total, Villanova had possession for just over 33 minutes, 19 in the second half. In short, Maine was no match.

“We played an outstanding football team,” Maine Head Coach Jack Cosgrove said. “I thought they played very well, and we didn’t do the things we needed to do, obviously, to beat a team of that level of talent.”

Maine’s gameplan clearly wasn’t as effective as Villanova’s.

“Having a chance to keep them off the field was something we wanted to do with running the football and the short passing game,” Cosgrove said. “We weren’t able to do that.”

Wells quietly had a career game of his own, stepping in for Szczur on the outside. He hauled in seven receptions for 111 yards and a score. Not to be outdone, junior receiver Norman White caught six passes of his own for 94 yards.

White, Babbaro and sophomore receiver Mikey Reynolds all caught passes for touchdowns.

The story of the game was Villanova’s passing attack, but the ground game continued to put up big numbers.

Senior Aaron Ball led all backs with 61 yards on 14 carries and five different players ran for at least 23 yards. Babbaro scored on the ground late in the third quarter to go with his long touchdown reception.

The road win was a welcomed sight after Villanova entered the bye week on a sour note from a difficult loss to conference rival William & Mary.

However, the win should come as a surprise to no one since it was the fifth straight win for the ‘Cats after their bye.

This Saturday’s game should not come as easily since Villanova hosts No. 11 James Madison at Villanova Stadium for Homecoming.