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Villanova vs. Richmond football recap: Wildcats last-gasp winners, 21-20

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Gerard Smith with the game-winning PAT!

Matthew Gregory|VUHoops

On a chilly Saturday during Homecoming (and Senior Night), Villanova took on the 9th ranked Richmond Spiders to keep their playoff hopes well and alive. Time and time again the Villanova defense came up big in the red zone, and Zach Bednarczyk marched down the field in the final minutes of the game to allow the `Cats to pull off the upset, 21-20.

Richmond came in averaging 36.4 PPG, second in the CAA. Villanova ranked first in the CAA in points against with 16.0 PPG. Conversely, Richmond ranked 9th in defense. The `Cats knew keeping Richmond's offensive efficiency down was the only way to win.

"I told my guys before the game, 'If we keep them below 21 points we'll have a shot of winning.'"

Boy, did he call under 21!

Villanova's first drive was a quick punt, and Richmond responded by marching down the field into field goal range. Peter Yoder of the Spiders attempted a 46-yard field goal that was no good, so the game remained scoreless.

The Wildcats gained momentum on their next possession by converting on a 4th and 1 in Richmond territory thanks to a Gary Underwood 4-yd run, however an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by center Jonathan Green pushed the Wildcats out of Richmond territory and ultimately punted.

The 2nd quarter started sloppy for both sides. Richmond threw an incomplete pass on 3rd down, but an offsides penalty by Villanova gave the arachnids a second chance to convert. They did with a 22-yd pass from QB Kyle Lauletta to Porter Abell. On the next play, Austin Calitro forced a fumble on Lauletta on the Villanova 12 yard line and `Nova returned it to their own 34. Unfortunately two plays later Devin Cook poked the ball out of Underwood's hands and David Jones of Richmond recovered, giving the ball right back. That subsequent drive resulted in a Richmond touchdown when QB David Broadus (their keeper QB) ran up the edge for 10 yards with 6:11 left in the half.

Villanova sloppiness continued on their next drive when Bednarczyk complete a 49 yard pass and run to Kevin Gulyas to set up the Wildcats within the Richmond 10. On the run, Gulyas was called for a facemask which spotted them back at the 25. All ended well as the Wildcats tied the score into halftime thanks to a 5-yard pass to Gulyas.

The Wildcats took a quick lead in the second half after Richmond fumbled their opening kickoff return. Jarrett McClenton carried the ball 14 yards to the endzone to give Villanova their first lead of the game at 14-7, just eleven seconds into the half.

Whenever Lauletta was subbed from the game for David Broadus, it was an automatic QB run. Still, Villanova could not stop him and he kept their drive alive. The key play on their possession was a 22-yd catch by Brian Brown after Malik Reeves slipped on the play. Runningback Jacobi Green powered through the O-Line on the 1 yard line to tie the game.

The fumble on the opening kick of the half proved to be Villanova's only true offense of the quarter; in the 3rd they totaled 41 yards.

Poor play ensued for both sides to start the 4th quarter as a pass interference call on Richmond turned a 4th and 8 into a Villanova first down. Soon after, Zach Bednarczyk fumbled and Richmond's Andrew Clyde at the 47. That drive ended in another Jacobi Green touchdown. Yoder came out to try to extend the lead to 21-14 but Tanoh Kpassagnon and Reggie Paris both got their hands on the PAT to keep the lead at 20-14.

With 5:00 left, Villanova started what would be their final drive on the game. Zach started the drive with a 38-yd pass to Anthony DeCamillo to get into Richmond territory. Later in the drive `Nova faced a 3rd and 8 in the four down situation, and Gulyas took a 6-yd pass and pushed his way to 12 yards to get the first down. On 3rd and goal from the 7, Bednarczyk was rushed and threw it out the back of the endzone. Villanova called timeout with 46 seconds left to set up the next play, and Gulyas hauled in the game-tying TD on a slant route. Gerard Smith came out to kick the extra point, and while the kicking game had been shaky this season, he had no trouble splitting the uprights and gave `Nova a 1-point lead with 41 seconds left.

Gulyas took us through what the team saw on that game winning touchdown: "They were in a Cover 2 Shell. We sent a guy in motion and their safety just flew to the field, and he was already outside leverage. It was just beating him to the inside." He added that the slant "was designed [and] was most likely blown coverage."

With two timeouts remaining all the Spiders needed was a field goal to win the game. They got to the Villanova 47 when a pass tipped at the line with 7 seconds left took away the chance for the Spiders to try a game-winning field goal, so a hail mary was all they could hope for. It was batted down well before the endzone, and Villanova escaped with the win.

Villanova improves to 6-4 (5-2) while Richmond falls to 9-3 (5-2).

A glaring issue with the `Cats was the penalties. Richmond had only 3 penalties for 35 yards, however Villanova had 7 for 75 yards and multiple were personal foul calls that pushed the Wildcats out of good offensive position. Another concern was 3rd down efficiency, where the Wildcats only converted on 4 of 12. They alleviated some of that by going 3-3 on 4th down.

One positive was the red zone defense. We have seen for a few weeks now that the defense has made stops when it matters, and today they forced two turnovers when it seemed like Richmond was about to score.

Villanova will conclude its season at James Madison on November 21st at 12:00pm. It'll air on Comcast Sportsnet.

More to come.