‘Cats declaw Tigers

Nate McGann

The Wildcats returned home for their first game at Villanova Stadium since winning the national championship and didn’t disappoint the sellout crowd of over 12,000, crushing conference opponent Towson 43-7.

“We played really hard,” Head Coach Andy Talley said. “It wasn’t the cleanest game we ever played. The result was tremendous. We’re where we want to be. We put some points up on the board and played some defense when we had to.”

While much discussion has focused on whether or not the program will make the jump to the FBS level, and even after a ceremony celebrating the national title, the players remained focused in the conference opener — and it showed.

Senior quarterback Chris Whitney accounted for four touchdowns in the game, two through the air and two on the ground, and helped the No.1-ranked ‘Cats jump out to a 36-0 lead before the end of the first half.

Whitney was a model of efficiency on Saturday as he completed 9-of-12 passes for 115 yards and added 44 yards rushing on 14 carries.Senior running back Aaron Ball continued putting up big numbers this season with his second straight 100-yard performance as part of a dominating Villanova ground attack. The Wildcats ran for a total of 243 yards.

While the offense continued putting up impressive numbers, the defense continued to set the tone. Villanova forced Towson to punt on its side of the field early in the first quarter, a punt that resulted in a safety when the long snapper sent the ball sailing over the punter and into the endzone.

On the ensuing kickoff, senior receiver Matt Szczur kept the momentum going with a big kickoff return. The ‘Cats never looked back.

The defense gave up nothing on the ground, limiting the Tigers to just 17 rushing yards on 28 carries. The early success has brought about comparisons to last year’s stellar defensive unit.

“I think it would be difficult [to match last year’s defense],” Talley said. “It could. We probably need a few more tests against some of the better teams in the league. We’re just so thin, especially on the defensive line. But aside from Temple, we really haven’t seen a top-level team.”

Towson didn’t score until the middle of the third quarter when replacement quarterback Bar Blanchard connected on a deep touchdown pass. It was the lone highlight during a long day for the Tigers.

“I think that [Villanova’s] defense is better than last year,” said Towson Head Coach Rob Ambrose. “I don’t want to take anything away from the guys who played last year. But I think there’s an experience level of hustle and aggressiveness. They can make a difference on defense.”

The score marked the first points Villanova’s defense had surrendered in over 95 minutes, having shut out Lehigh the previous week. The defense forced two turnovers, one interception and a fumble, both of which led to touchdowns.

Dorian Wells led all receivers with four catches and 75 yards, hauling in two touchdown passes.

“I was just wide open,” Wells said. “Szczur threw me a great ball and I just caught it.”

Five different players notched at least 25 yards on the ground. Junior quarterback Christian Culicerto saw his first action as a replacement for Whitney late in the game.

With the win, Villanova is now unbeaten at home in its last 12 games and 20-1 in its last 21. That one loss came by way of a James Madison Hail Mary pass as time expired in 2008.

The ‘Cats take on city-rival Penn on Saturday at 7 p.m.