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Villanova at Pitt Recap: 'Cats Are Overpowered By the Panthers, Lose 28-7

James Conner led the Panthers over 'Nova, who fall to 0-1.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In Andy Talley's final season opener, the Villanova Wildcats traveled to Heinz field to take on the Pitt Panthers. As 26 point underdogs not much was expected from the 'Cats, but they held their own for a good part of the game.

The Panthers won the toss and deferred until the second half, giving Villanova the first drive of the game. The 'Cats began the drive on their own 24, and the first play from scrimmage was a Zach Bednarczyk run for 24 yards, putting the Wildcats just around midfield. The drive stalled and on 4th & 3 Coach Talley attempted a fake punt but Ed Shockly fumbled, giving Pitt the ball at their own 41.

On Pitt's first play from scrimmage James Conner, who played in his first game since beating Hodgkin's lymphoma, rushed for a loss of one yard.

After a three and out for each team, John Hinchen again pinned Pitt deep inside their own end, this time at their 14. The Panthers responded with a solid drive and left 39 yards for a Chris Blewitt field goal attempt, but he missed, keeping the score tied at zero. Bednarczyk was picked off by Terrish Webb on the ensuing drive, the 'Cats second turnover of the game.

A Villanova three and out resulted in a 31 yard punt return by Quadree Henderson which could've been more if it wasn't for punter John Hinchen knocking him out of bounds at the Villanova 32. On the resulting six play drive James Conner scored the first points of the game on a three yard run, making the score 7-0 in favor of Pitt.

Mike Caprara's second sack of the game forced a Villanova punt, giving Pitt the ball on Villanova's 32 yard line, with just over a minute left for the Panthers to add on to their lead. A nine yard pass from Nathan Peterman to James Conner with 19 seconds left in the half made gave Pitt a 14-0 lead.

Pitt received the 2nd half kickoff and Quadree Henderson took it back 96 yards to put Pitt up 21-0.

After Villanova's 7th punt, linebacker Drew Wiley hit Peterman hard, forcing a fumble which defensive back Rob Rolle returned for the 'Cats first and only touchdown of the game. Gerard Smith's point after made it a 21-7 game. On Pitt's next drive Blewitt lined up for a 47 yard field goal which was blocked by Tanoh Kpassagnon, making Blewitt 0-2 on field goals.

Nathan Peterman threw his 2nd touchdown pass of the game 16 yards to Jester Weah, extending the Panthers lead to 28-7. For the day, Peterman went 19/32 for 175 yards in the air in addition to those 2 touchdown passes.

James Conner led the Panthers in rushing, running for 53 yards and 1 touchdown, and catching another. On the defensive end Mike Caprara led the way, accounting for 4 tackles and 2 sacks.

Zach Bednarczyk went 16/31 for 119 yards and 1 interception, but his decision making was greatly improved from last season. Tight end Ryan Bell led the 'Cats in receiving yards with 52. Overall, the Wildcats defense was solid only allowing 3 touchdowns and not allowing many big plays.

The 'Cats return to Villanova Stadium next Saturday when they face Lehigh at 6 P.M.