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Villanova Football vs. Lafayette Leopards: Wildcats Cruise To First Road Victory 31-14

Defense and rushing were the keys for Villanova as the Cats controlled this one from start to finish.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova's defense controlled the game from start to finish Saturday night with a dominating performance against the Lafayette Leopards.  It started right away with a scoop and score for the early lead, and a pick six in the second half would all but seal the victory.  Lafayette just couldn't extend most of their drives, going just 3-16 on third down for the game.  They also couldn't hold onto the ball, coughing up 4 turnovers.  Despite a quick scare to start the second half, Nova's defense contributed 2 touchdowns on the night, giving them 4 for the season.

After the game Coach Talley praised the defense saying, "I think we won this game defensively.  Tanoh Kpassagnon, our defensive end, was putting pressure on their guy a lot.  When you have good defense they can save the day, cause we didn't set the world on fire offensively."  Star defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon would add about the defense, "Our DB [Rob] Rolle, he's really showing out.  Our defense is kind of young, but I knew they were going to show a lot of stuff this year.  I'm really excited to see what else they have."

On offense, it was a triple threat of White, McClenton and Forbes that were able to run all over a porous Leopards defense for 238 yards, 155 of which came in the first half.  Aaron Forbes would rush for 111 yards and a score on the night, and White would add his 5th touchdown of the season.  Taurus Philips also came up big in the passing game, leading the team with 5 catches for 59 yards.

Special teams was a big factor, especially the in the kicking game.  Gerard Smith was perfect on the night, getting all four extra points and hitting a perfect 37 yard field goal in the first half.  Coach Talley said, "I was so happy to see our guy make a field goal and make his extra points.  Cause every time he does something, extra point or field goal, you almost have a heart attack wondering how it's going to end up.  But he did a good job tonight, the efficiency was good."  Julian Williams also came up big, blocking a punt in the second half that would lead to a touchdown.

In the first half, Nova was able to continually force Lafayette QB into 3rd and long.  The Leopards went just 1 of 6 on 3rd down and had to punt 5 times.  The Wildcat offense did a great job of spreading the ball around, but Aaron Forbes stood out with back to back rushes for 56 and 18 yards, setting up a Javon White touchdown, that really stood out.  While just a Sophomore, he has two 50+ yard rushes this season and continues to show big play ability.

The Leopards came out aggressive in the second half, scoring quickly to make it just a 3 point game.  But a blocked punt and two interceptions, one returned for a second defensive touchdown, had the game out of reach early in the 4th.  Despite getting stuffed continually, Lafayette refused to stop trying to get their running game going.  In the end, it ended up being their downfall against a Wildcat defense built to stop the run.

The victory gives Villanova its first road win of the season and moves them to 3-1 on the year.  The Cats will head to Elon next week to take on the Phoenix.

Game Rundown

Villanova won the toss and deferred to the second half, giving Lafayette the ball to start the game.  On the first play of the game, C.J. Amill fumbled the ball and Tanoh Kpassagnon took it 25 yards for the score.  Gerard Smith made the extra point, and Nova was quickly on the board up 7-0 just 15 seconds into the game.  On the following possession, the Nova defense was able to stop Lafayette by mid-field, forcing them to punt and give the Wildcat Offense their first possession of the game inside the 10 yard line.

Villanova came out running early and often.  A combination of sweeps by Jarrett McClenton and power cuts by Javon White easily moved the sticks.  A big fake reverse by Aaron Forbes  picked up almost 50 yards, but it was called back on a holding call.  Despite the penalty, Bednarczyk continued to move the Cats down the field, breaking into Leopard territory.  Lafayette gave up a questionable pass interference call that gave Villanova the ball at the 31, and on the next play Bednarczyk hit Alex Padovani for a 23 yard a gain and a Wildcat 1st and goal.  Nova receivers were forced out of bounds on back to back plays, bringing on Smith and the kicking game.  Villanova faked the field goal attempt, but the receiver was stopped short at the 3 yard line and Lafayette took over on downs.  The Leopards couldn't do much with the short field position however, and punted after a quick three and out.

A good Villanova bounce on the punt gave them the ball inside the Lafayette 40 to start their second drive up the game, still up 7-0 with just over 5 minutes left in the first quarter.  Bednarczyk took some shots at receivers over the middle on the first two downs, but was forced into a quick 3rd and down.  He overthrew his intended target and the Cats were forced to punt.  John Hinchen, brother of Lafayette linebacker Rob, kicked a beautiful punt, once again pinning the Leopards inside their own 10.

Lafayette again struggled to move the ball on through the air or on the ground.  They almost got tackled for a safety on a botched reverse, but were finally able to gain back some yards and pick up a first down on a shuttle pass.  But the victory was short lived as a 3rd and long went off the fingertips of Matt Mrazek and Lafayette was forced to punt again from their own side of the field.

Villanova was able to start quickly and make their way up to the Lafayette 35, gaining 32 yards on two plays before the first quarter came to an end.  Taurus Phillips continued to be a threat in the passing game, picking up his 3rd catch of the night to bring the Wildcats into the red-zone.  The Cats had to call a timeout to avoid a play clock violation with 14:06 left in the quarter and 3rd and 7 from the Lafayette 19.  Bednarczyk tried to thread the needle to Phillips, but his pass was knocked down, bringing in Smith and the kicking team for a 37 yard attempts.  He nailed it right down the middle to give the Wildcats a 10-0 lead with 13:55 left in the half.

The Cats defense continued to be stingy to start the next drive, but QB Reed was able to find his tight end in the flat to convert on a 3rd and 8, giving Lafayette only its 3rd first down of the game.  But with one step forward came two steps back as Bryan Osei was able to pick up a sack on a three man rush, forcing another Leopards punt.  McClenton muffed the punt, but was able to pick it up and save some yardage before the Cats were called for holding.  Nova would start the drive at their own 17 yard line.

Now up two scores, Nova started to turn to Javon White and the running game.  On 3rd and 1, Aaron Forbes broke free for a 56 yard rush down to the Lafayette 18 yard line.  Forbes would reverse the rush on the very next play, taking the ball down to the Leopards 1 yard line for a first and goal.  Two plays later, Javon White punched the ball into the end zone for his 5th score on the season and Villanova's first ever offensive touchdown against the Leopards.  Nova was now up 17-0 with 7:48 left in the half.

The next two possessions were noted by solid gains on first down, only to have each defense's pass rush take down the quarterbacks, forcing punts.  Lafayette was able to get some momentum off two pass interference penalties by the Wildcats, giving them 1st and 10 at the Villanova 36.  Reed continued to move the ball down the field, hitting DeSean Brown in the flat who took it down to the Villanova 14.  From there Reed was right on the money as he hit Yasir Thomas for his first ever TD.  Nova was still in the driver's seat though, up 17-7 with 1:20 left in the half.

The Cats took over on their own 25 with a lot of field and not much time left in the half.  Bednarczyk came out throwing, but a short completion kept the clock running.  He would then take the ball himself up to mid-field on the next play, followed by another first down throw to McClenton.  Villanova would burn their 2nd timeout with the ball on the Lafayette 39 and just 24 seconds left in the half.  The next play was just a 8 yard pass, forcing Nova to call its final timeout with 16 seconds.  The next play though, McClenton took a pass to the outside and got out of bounds just inside the 20.  With time winding down, Bednarczyk tried to force a throw into double coverage in the end-zone, and corner Phillip Parham was able to come down with the pick.  Lafayette would take a knee and head into half-time down 17-7.

Villanova came out of the half by going right back to the rushing game that had worked so well for them this time.  But this time Lafayette was ready for them, forcing a 3 and out after a failed screen play.  Lafayette wasn't ready to let go of the momentum they grabbed at the end of the half, and quickly moved the ball down to the Villanova 20 yard line.  Two plays later, Reed rolled out and hit Tim Vangelas on a fade rout for his second passing TD of the night.  Villanova still lead 17-14 with just under 11 minutes to play in the third quarter.

With their lead dwindling, Villanova stayed in a run heavy offense that primarily featured Javon White.  Bednarczyk continued from there, moving his offense down the field in small chunks, but consistently picking up short first downs.  But a holding penalty and an easy drop by Lincoln Collins had Villanova in 3rd and 18.  Despite some fancy footwork by Bednarczyk, the Cats were forced to punt again, and Lafayette took over on their own 12.

Lafayette tried to keep their momentum going, but couldn't get the run going and often found themselves in 3rd and long.  This time, not only did Nova force the punt, but Julian Williams blocked it.  With the ball deep in Lafayette territory, Bednarczyk and White drove the ball down to the 3.  Then, on a carry up the middle, Javon White was hit hard and went down.  He was eventually able to walk off on his own with some help from the training staff, but it was certainly a scare for the team's lead back.  Aaron Forbes would come in on the next and easily take it in from 3 yards out for the score.  Another good PAT gave Nova its double digit lead back, as they lead 24-14 with 3:32 left in the third quarter.

A short kick-off gave Lafayette the ball at their own 33 to start the ensuing drive.  The Wildcats defense continued to give their opponents no room to run the ball forcing another 3rd and long.  This time Reed was off the mark as he threw the ball directly to Jeff Steeb who easily ran the ball back 45 yards for a pick 6.  Smith's PAT was true, and just like that the Cats were back up by 17 with a score of 31-14 and just over 2 minutes left in the third quarter.

Nova's defense would force another quick three and out, but Jarrett McClenton would muff his second kick of the night, and this time the Leopards were able to recover.  As the third quarter came to a close, they would take over at the Villanova 44 yard line.  Lafayette's first play was another run that was stuffed in the backfield for a loss of three as the Nova defense continued to dominate the game, especially on the ground.  Despite forcing the Leopards into going for it on 4th, the Leopards were able to capitalize and took a 26 yard gain down to the Villanova 7.  Two plays later, Reed threw an errant pass to Rob Rolle, who would have had a 100 yard return if it wasn't for a holding call on the return.  Villanova would take over at their own 1 yard line.  Villanova called timeout, still leading by 17 with 11:07 left in the game.

The Cats stayed with the running attack, and slowly starting moving the ball up the field.  Aaron Forbes would break the 100 yard mark as the drive continued, and Javon White would come back into the game to move his total yards over 50.  The Leopards would eventually slow them down and get the ball back, but their offense still couldn't get anything going against the swarming Nova defense.

The teams would trade punts back and forth before Rob Rolle came up with his second interception in the red-zone, all but sealing the game.  Villanova would continue to run out the clock, and despite a late drive by the Leopards, the Wildcats would hold them to just two scores on the night and walk away with the 31-14 victory.