Villanova got out to an early lead against Rhode Island today, and never really looked back. After taking a 7-3 lead into halftime, the Wildcats locked down on defense in the second half, keeping the Rams off of the scoreboard through the final two quarters. Quarterback Zach Bednarczyk was responsible for two of the three touchdowns his team scored, running in the first, and connecting with receiver Kevin Gulyas on a 7-yard score in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats won the game, 24-3, dropping URI to 1-8 on the season and improving their own record to 5-4, with a 4-2 conference mark keeping them -- mathematically -- in the picture for the a CAA title for at least another week.
After ending the opening drive with a punt, Villanova locked down on defense, holding the Rams to just 5 yards on their first possession, and getting the ball back. With a second chance to put a drive together, the Wildcats didn't disappoint, handing off to emerging star freshman, Jarrett McClenton, who ripped off a 32 yard run to the URI 28 yard line and putting the 'Cats in position for their eventual score. Relying on a mix of short passes and running plays, Nova was able to keep the ball moving toward the goal line over eight plays, before scoring on a 4-yard Bednarczyk run.
Rhode Island would respond on their next possession, running 11 plays before being halted at the Villanova eight-yard line on third down. The clock expired on the first quarter, and the Rams kicker, Justin Rohrwasser, recorded his field goal from 25 yards out in the opening seconds of the second quarter.
Villanova's defense was strong for the duration of the second quarter, however. Rhody had two other possessions, ending with a punt and Corey Majors interception, respectively. While the defensive side of the ball was giving Rhody fits, the 'Cats offense wasn't breaking through in the second quarter -- turning the ball over on downs after a conversion attempt on 4th and 2 from deep in enemy territory. Their third and final drive of the game resulted in a missed field goal from 45 yards out by Gerard Smith, sending them into halftime with just a 7-3 lead.
After the break, however, the Wildcats would score three more times. Sophomore running back Matt Gudzak carried the ball three times on Nova's first drive of the half, picking up 23 yards, 28 yards, and 14 yards, consecutively to take it all the way for the score.
They would score again on their first possession of the fourth quarter, relying on more of a team running effort, with Bednarczyk, Gary Underwood, Gudzak and McClenton each carrying he rock on the 6-play, 46 yard drive that finished with a nice 7-yard pass to Kevin Gulyas and the score. Then, with just under seven minutes to play in the game, Gerard Smith got his chance for redemption from a more-manageable 22 yards, nailing the field goal to put the Wildcats ahead, 24-3, the final margin of victory.
Rhode Island quarterback James Caparell had a rough go of it in the second half, meanwhile, turning the ball over three times with interceptions. In the third quarter he had engineered a drive down to the Villanova 29 yard line before Jason Ceneus grabbed a ball away from him in the endzone. In the fourth quarter, he gave away balls to Cameron McCurry and Ed Shockley, both on the URI side of the field.
In total, two URI quarterbacks were picked off four times in the game, by four different Wildcats defenders. The Rams were held to just 208 yards of offense, and only 87 yards on the ground. Villanova certainly didn't look "beatable," as one Rhode Island fan site described them, when the defense was on the field. In addition to the interceptions and yardage, Caparell was sacked twice by Cameron McCurry and T.J. White.
Bednarczyk was 11-for-18 passing, gaining 116 yards in the air with one touchdown. He added 74 more yards with his legs, including a rushing touchdown, on 11 carries.
The Wildcats' offensive star, however, was Gudzak. In addition to powering the 'Cats to their second touchdown on three consecutive plays, he gained 118 yards on 10 carries overall. McClenton had 30 yards on two carries along with 31 yards as a receiver. Gulyas grabbed two passes for seven yards each and a score, while Aaron Wells led the 'Cats with 36 yards receiving.
Villanova returns home next weekend to face the CAA-leading Richmond Spiders in what will surely be an important game in the conference standings.