Villanova’s defense and rushing game literally carried the day for the Wildcats. The defense recorded 9 sacks, the most by any FCS team this season. Ed Shockley led the team with 3 sacks and recovered a fumble as well. On offense, Aaron Forbes totaled 151 yards on 24 carries and 2 touchdowns.
Over 100 Villanova Football Alums lined the tunnel as the Wildcats took the field. But they weren’t the only ones in attendance to watch Villanova play today. NFL scouts from the Eagles, Dolphins, Rams, Vikings, and Bears were also on hand to watch defensive standout Tanoh Kpassagnon and the rest of the Wildcats.
But the day truly belonged to Andy Talley, who was honored both yesterday and today with the naming of the new athletic center. “I want to always handle it in a first class way, and take the press off of me and onto the players where it should be. It was really on my mind, but everyone kept just saying ‘enjoy the moment’.” Talley went on to express his gratitude for the university, the alumni, and his players, adding “I’m glad it’s all behind, and we won, and I’m going to have a hoagie tonight as soon as I get home.”
The first half was all Villanova. On offense, Aaron Forbes lead all rushers in carries, yards, and punched in Nova’s first touchdown. Bednarczyk and Gudzak also contributed to Villanova’s 137 first half rushing yards, with Gudzak getting the Cats second touchdown of the half. When asked if it was part of the rotation to get the majority of carries today, Forbes said “It varies game to game. Today I just got the most.”
On Defense, Tanoh Kpassagnon lead the Cats with two of their four first half sacks. The team would rack up 9 total sacks by the end of the game. Talley commented on the sacks, “Unbelievable. A lot of it was Tanoh. He had a lot of pro scouts here today, so he was juiced up.” Trey Johnson added an interception to Nova’s impressive first half shutout.
Albany won the coin toss and chose to defer to the second half. Villanova started its first drive at the 20, and QB Zach Bednarczyk, whose availability was in question entering this game, lead his team onto the field. They relied on the short passing game early, but it wasn’t enough to break into Albany territory, and the Wildcats were forced to punt. But Albany would be sacked on third down, and forced to punt quickly, giving Nova first and 10 at their own 48.
On the very first play of the second drive, Aaron Forbes took the ball 13 yards, breaking into the Albany side of the field. A few more Forbes runs and an off-sides by Albany gave Villanova a first and goal from the Albany 7. Two plays later, Forbes would complete his terrific drive with a stand-up touchdown from the 2. Villanova took the lead 0-7 with 7:56 left in the first quarter.
Villanova’s defense was impressive in its second showing, once again keeping Albany from crossing mid-field. Nova took over from their own 7 yard line. A quick pass to TE Ryan Bell gave Nova some breathing room and a first down at the 21. At this point, Aaron Forbes took over again, pushing the ball out to the 38. Bednarczyk would take it himself on three straight plays, bringing the ball again into Albany territory. The rushing attack continued as RB Matt Gudzak took a 3rd and 1 20 yards for a first down. Bednarczyk took the ball another 8 yards to the Albany 14 to end the quarter. Villanova still lead 7-0.
Forbes would start the second quarter by breaking multiple tackles on his way down to the three. Two plays later, Mat Gudzak would take a pitch from Bednarczyk into the endzone for a touchdown to cap off the team’s longest scoring drive of the season (93 yards). Villanova lead 0-14 with 14:07 left in the half.
Steve Weyler’s kickoff would go out of bounds, giving Albany 1st and 10 at the 35. However Tanoh Kpassagnon would bring down Albany’s QB on second down, and on 3rd and long, Trey Johnson would pick off an overthrown pass to give Nova the ball again at their own 44.
Aaron Forbes would start off the drive again with a 6 yard game, and at this point it became apparent that Javon White was only being used as a decoy in today’s game. He was dressed and on the sidelines, but only saw 1 snap and 0 touches through the first four Villanova possessions. After two more short rushes, Villanova decided to go for it on 4th down from the Albany 47. This time Albany was up to the challenge, and stuffed Forbes in the backfield for a turnover.
Even with their best field position of the day, Albany couldn’t keep Kpassagnon out of the backfield as he got to their rusher this time for a 1 yard loss on first down. With pressure in his face, Albany QB Neven Sussman again through an errant pass downfield, but this time was bailed out by an off-sides call on Villanova. But it wouldn’t take long for the Wildcat’s defense to recover, as Kpassagnon’s second sack of the game forced Albany to punt.
Villanova again started deep in their own side of the field, and Javon White finally got his first carry of the game with just over 6 minutes left in the half. Unfortunately he wasn’t very effective, gaining just 1 yard on two carries. Albany would commit a pass interference to keep the Wildcats drive alive, but a sack and two solid defensive stops would force Villanova to punt for just the second time. Hinchen would get off a great punt for 54 yards.
Villanova’s defense was again stellar, giving up nothing deep and successfully defending the run. After Albany was able to get a rare first down, they were immediately pushed back 10 yards on first down by a Jeff Steeb sack. The Great Danes weren’t able to recover, and had to punt on 4th and 15.
With just 34 seconds left in the half, Villanova would take over at mid-field. Bednarczyk would carry twice for minimal yards, and the Cats would take a 14 point lead into halftime.
Halftime featured a moving video tribute to head coach Andy Talley, capped by receiving an honorary key to the new athletic center, and a standing ovation from Nova Nation.
The defense picked up right where it left off, forcing Albany into a quick 3 and out. Once again Villanova’s offense would take the field, and once again they’d go to work on the ground. Forbes would again being the workhorse, topping the 100 yard mark en route to his second touchdown of the game. This time it was a 3 yard rush that he carried in with ease. Villanova lead 0-21 with 11:33 left in the 3rd quarter.
Albany finally got some momentum going, keying off a 21 yard gain by Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks that got them up towards mid-field. But even then, a holding penalty knocked them back to first and 20. That’s too far to go against this Nova defense, especially when Ed Shockley and Bryan Osei combine for back to back sacks to bring up 4th down and another Albany punt.
Javon White finally got things going in the second half, taking his first carry of the second half for a 21 yard game. He then drew a face-mask penalty on the next play, moving Villanova across mid-field. Bednarczyk, McClenton, and Gudzak also contributed on the drive, and after a measurement that Nova got by just the nose of the football, the Cats had 1st and 10 at the Albany 24. After a few batted balls, Villanova was facing 4th and 1, but Forbes was able to pick up 6 yards to keep the drive going. The Wildcats continued to move the ball on the ground, but the Albany defense was getting tougher in the red-zone, bringing up 3rd and 5 at the 14 yard line. Bednarczyk was stopped as he tried to salvage a busted play, and Smith was brought in to kick the field goal. He put the 32 yard kick right down main street to give Villanova a 0-24 lead with 1:38 left in the quarter.
Albany’s offense was again unable to get anything going, and Ed Schockley picked up his second sack on the day, team’s 7th, on a 3rd and 10. Albany, now with just 49 yards of offense to this point, was again forced to punt.
Villanova’s offense went back to work on the ground. Matt Gudzak ripped off a 15 yard gain to give Villanova a 1st down in Albany territory and bring the 3rd quarter to a close. Nova continued to move the ball deeper into Albany territory, but were finally stopped with a sack on 4th down, giving Albany the ball at their own 35 yard line.
On their second play of the possession, Albany finally broke through the Villanova defense. Ibitokun-Hanks broke free for a 65 yard touchdown run. But when Albany tried to press their luck and go for two, but Villanova was able to get to the quarterback and force an incomplete pass. Villanova still lead 6-24 with 12:13 left in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Albany attempted an onside kick, but an illegal touch by the Great Danes looked to give Villanova the ball. The was reviewed, and while there was no illegal touch, Albany still had an offside penalty and had to kick again. This time they kicked it to the back of the end-zone for a touch back. On the next play, Javon White took the ball nearly 20 yards before losing a fumble, giving Albany the ball back. But even with the great field position, Albany’s offense couldn’t keep Villanova’s defense from getting to the quarterback. Ricky Young recorded the team’s 8th sack, which tied for the most sacks by an FCS team this season. Albany was forced to go for it on 4th and 13, and while Sussman was able to escape from another sack, he wasn’t able to pick up the necessary yardage, turning the ball over on downs.
Villanova couldn’t do much with the ball, going 3 and out after a couple of incompletions. Albany would take over at their 22. Albany finally got their passing game going on a 20 yard completion to Manzo-Lewis. Ibitokun-Hanks continued to improve on the ground as well, moving the ball inside the Villanova 40. The Cats hurt themselves too as Jason Ceneus was flagged for defensive pass interference, giving the Great Danes 1st and 10 at the Villanova 29 yard line. Albany continued to move effectively, picking up a 1st down in the red zone for the first time all game. But on second down, Ed Shockley picked up his 3rd sack, team’s 9th, to bring up 3rd and 12. That gave Villanova the most sacks in a game in the FCS this season. After an incomplete pass, Albany decided to go for it on 4th and long. But again it was Ed Shockley, this time recovering a fumbled snap, who came up big for the Wildcats with just over 5 minutes left in the game.
Villanova stayed on the ground to try to run the clock, but Albany stayed tough up front. On 3rd and 9, Bednarczyk was able to find Gudzak for a first down, keeping the clock running. But on the next 3rd down, Bednarczyk and Gudzak fumbled the handoff, and Albany’s Michael Nicastro took the ball 40 yards for the scoop and score. After the extra point, Albany had now closed the gap to 11 points as Villanova lead 13-24 with 2:15 left in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Albany went for the onside kick again, but this time Nova was able to recover at the Albany 44 yard line. Nova was able to successfully run out the clock this time, sealing the 13-24 victory.