The Villanova Wildcats kicked off their first home game of the season in dominant fashion on Saturday night, defeating the Lafayette Leopards 59-0. In head coach Mark Ferrante’s home debut, the Cats scored touchdowns on offense, defense, and special teams as they flat out routed the Leopards. The team celebrated by dousing the coach with a Gatorade bath as the clock ticked down on his first home win of the season.
Villanova’s defense was the star of the game, holding Lafayette scoreless while returning two of their three interceptions for touchdowns. The defense held Lafayette to 72 yards of total offense, including -17 rushing yards.
For Villanova, Junior quarterback Zach Bednarczyk threw for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns, adding another rushing score and a 2-pt conversion all in the first half. With the Wildcats leading by 7 touchdowns at the half, he would get the rest of the night off. Ryan Bell also had himself a first half, as the TE put up a career high 119 yards on 5 catches and two touchdowns.
If there was one area Villanova needed to improve, it was with penalties. The Cats racked up 12 flags for 107 penalty yards in the game, and that will surely be a focal point this week as they head into conference play. Villanova will play next week at Albany.
Full Game Rundown
The Villanova Wildcats entered their first home game of the season at 1-1, and the campus was packed for family weekend (aka parents weekend). Coming off a disappointing loss against city rival Temple, Villanova was looking to bounce back with its second win of the season against a Patriot League opponent. Last season, Villanova defeated Lefayette 31-14 in a dominating performance on the road. They looked to continue that success in the first match-up between these teams at Villanova Stadium.
Villanova won the coin toss, and chose to receive the opening kick-off to start the game on offense. Despite a short kick-off that bounced at the 20, Villanova committed a hold and started the drive at their own 21. The early game struggles continued as QB Zach Bednarczyk was sacked for a 5 yard loss on the first play from scrimmage.
But those set backs were quickly in the rear-view mirror as Ryan Bell caught a quick slant over the middle and took it 54 yards, well into Leopards territory. Villanova continued to move the ball quickly through the air, setting up a 4-yard scramble TD for Bednarczyk on a delayed QB draw. Villanova quickly led 7-0 less than 3 minutes into the game.
Villanova’s defense, which has been stingy in both games this season, continued to look good early on as they forced a quick 3 and out on Laffayette’s first possession. This included an 8-yard sack on 3rd down by DT Malik Fisher.
Star RB Aaron Forbes kicked off the Wildcat rushing attack on the second drive, but Villanova quickly faced a 3rd and 4 deep in their own territory. Bednarczyk found Josh McGrigg on the sideline for quick first down, and followed it with an 18-yard gain over the middle to WR Jarrett McClenton to bring Nova to mid-field.
The passing attack continued as Bednarczyk found McGrigg again for a 3rd consecutive first down in 3 plays. Then Villanova went back to the ground with three rushes with Forbes that would have resulted in a first down, but a holding call on third down pushed Villanova back to the Lafayette 42 yard-line facing 3rd and 12. Unphased, Villanova’s Junior QB fired a rocket over the middle to McClenton for 20-yards and another first down.
Villanova almost went up two scores on a well executed play action pass that was dropped inside the 5, and Villanova would face 4th and 3 at the Lafayette 16. The Wildcats went with a direct snap to RB Matt Gudzak, who picked up 12-yards and another first down. Villanova now faced 1st and goal from 4 yards out for the second time this game, and for the second time Bednarczyk found the end-zone. This time he simply floated the ball to his open TE Bell for the score. Bell now had 63 yards receiving and a touchdown in just the first quarter. Lafayette’s defense came up big on the extra-point though, getting a block to keep the score at 13-0 with 3:21 left in the first.
The Leopards started their second drive at their own 25, but didn’t see any more success than they had on their previous attempt. Villanova’s Rasaan Stewart let a would be interception drop right through his hands on third down, and Lafayette would again be forced to punt after a three and out.
On their third offensive possession and up two scores, the Wildcats started to get a little too complacent. After a 1 yard run and a wide open drop, TE Ryan Bell almost gave up a fumble after a reception on third down that would give the Wildcats first and 10 at their own 38. He was called down before the ball came out, but the play was close enough that it went up to the booth for review. The call stood, and Villanova continued the drive.
After a broken play on first down, Justin Covington ran for a first down. He followed that with a four yard carry into Lafayette territory as the first quarter came to an end with Villanova winning 13-0 and again driving down the field.
Quarterback Zach Bednarczyk started off the half with a 14-yard run of his own, but a holding call on the next play gave Villanova a first and 20 to deal with. But that was no problem for the junior QB, as he used a pump fake to free up his main target Ryan Bell for a deep 37-yard pass to the end-zone to continue the TE’s big night. Bell now had a career high 119-yards and two touchdowns in under 17 minutes of play. After a successful 2-point conversion was called back by a penalty, Villanova kicked an extra point to go up 20-0 with 13:19 remaining in the half.
Despite dominating on both sides of the ball, Villanova continued to lose yards to penalties as they picked up their 7th flag of the night, now totaling 55 penalty yards. That penalty would finally allow the Leopards to pick up their first 1st down of the game. But Villanova quickly responded as MLB Jeff Steeb got to the quarterback for an 8-yard sack to set up 3rd and long. This time, Villanova was able to tip the ball at the line, and CB Jaquan Amos grabbed the interception for a 35-yard return touchdown. The Wildcats would again attempt a 2-pt conversion, and again Bednarczyk would run the ball in. This time, there were no flags to bring it back, and the Wildcats extended their lead to 28-0 with 11:32 left in the half.
Lafayette was again shut down on the next drive, forcing another punt on 4th down. But Villanova was in the zone in this one as Taurus Phillips reversed field on the punt return and ran it back for a 64-yard touchdown. The extra-point was good, and with 10:12 left in the half, the Wildcats now held a commanding 35-0 lead.
The Leopards offense came out for its 3rd consecutive possession, and were forced into a 4th and 1 on their own 29. Lafayette came up short by a yard on a pass to the flat as Villanova’s defense continued to dominate.
With the Leopards putting up little fight, Villanova seemed to be playing themselves as they committed another early foul to give themselves a first and 25. But Bednarczyk came out firing on the next play and hit Andrew Smith inside the 5 yard-line for a 38-yard gain. But two plays later, Matt Gudzak fumbled the ball while trying to turn the corner to the endzone and Lafayette took over on their own 2-yard line.
Even with the timely turnover, the Leopards couldn’t get past Villanova’s pressuring defense, and they were forced into a quick three and out after gaining just 1 yard. With Villanova pressuring the punt, Lafayette could barely get the ball off, and Villanova would start their next drive on the opponents 41-yard line with 4:53 left in the half.
With time winding down in the first half, Villanova’s rushing attack pounded the ball down the field, keeping the clock running. Red Shirt Freshman Justin Covington continued a solid evening, picking up 11 yards to move Villanova into the red-zone. On the next play, he picked up another 8 yards to bring the ball to the 5-yard line. But it was Senior Matt Gudzak who would finally carry the ball over the goal-line on a direct snap. With just 36 seconds remaining in the half, Villanova now led 42-0.
But Villanova’s defense wasn’t done with their amazing first half yet, as LB Keeling Hunter returned another interception for a 27-yard touchdown, putting another 7 points on the board in just 8 seconds. Villanova now led 49-0 with 28 seconds in the half.
Lafayette was able to get a quick first down on the following drive, but it was simply not enough against Nova’s elite defense. Lafayette managed just 25 offensive yards in the first half, including -12 rushing yards. Add in the defense’s two interception returns for touchdowns, and you couldn’t ask for a better half.
On the other side of the ball, Villanova was moving the ball with ease. Zach Bednarczyk already had 3 touchdowns (1 Rushing, 2 passing) and a 2-pt conversion, while Ryan Bell posted 119 yards and 2 touchdowns on 5 catches. Red-Shirt Freshman Juston Covington led the team in first half rushing with 36 yards on 6 carries.
Lafayette got the ball to start the second half, starting their drive at their own 23. Villanova’s defense continued to dominate both at the line and in the secondary as they held their opponents to just 4-yards on the drive, leading to yet another three and out.
With the Wildcats maintaining their giant lead, backup QB Jack Schetelich started the second half for Villanova. He was joined by fellow red-shirt Juston Covington, who had led Villanova in rushing in the first half and picked up a first down on his first drive of the second. Schetelich showed his own ability to carry the ball, picking up 7 on the next play and taking the ball over mid-field. But now with the second team offense on the field, Villanova’s drive started to slow, and on third and long the rookie QB threw an interception to end his first drive of the night.
But even when Villanova’s offense wasn’t in top shape, the defense was. Villanova again picked off Lafayette, recovering the ball at mid-field. Then on the first play of the drive, Juston Covington took the ball up the middle for a 25 yard gain to get the Wildcats into field goal range. But again, a flag would push the Cats back into a 3rd and long for the young backup-QB. This time he handed it off to Junior RB Corey Russo who took it 22-yards down to the Lafayette 5-yard line. After a pair of Russo carries took the ball down to the 1-yard line, the junior finally broke into the end-zone for Villanova’s 3rd rushing touchdown of the night. With 5:24 left in the 3rd, Villanova extended its lead to 56-0.
Another offensive possession for Lafayette, another three and out by Villanova’s defense. Even with most of their second string in the game, the Wildcats were still getting excellent penetration up front to stuff the run game and put pressure on the quarterback. Lafayette still hadn’t been able to cross mid-field in the game.
On offense, penalties continued to be the one area that the Cats needed to improve. Now with 10 flags for 82 yards in penalties, Villanova kept putting itself in first and long situations. But even so, the offense always seemed to have an answer, finding big rushing plays from Aaron Forbes and Jack Schetelich as they ran the ball down inside the Lafayette 20 yard-line to end the 3rd Quarter. Villanova was maintaining their shut-out and running down the clock as the entered the final quarter up 56-0.
Villanova’s drive finally stalled, and backup kicker Gerard Smith split the uprights to extend Villanova’s seemingly insurmountable lead to 59 points. With 13:44 remaining in the game, Villanova’s defense returned to the field in an effort to preserve the shutout.
Lafayette finally crossed mid field on a 25-yard pass to open their drive. They continued their momentum, picking up another first down to the Villanova 33-yard line. But on 3rd and short, Lafayette actually lost 6 yards on a pass to the running back in the flat, and with time running down in the game they were forced to go for it. The Villanova defense again came up big, forcing a turnover on downs and denying Lafayette their first score of the game.
Now with under 11 minutes to play, Villanova’s third-string QB Jackson Bradley came into the game on the ensuing drive. Now playing almost all 2nd and 3rd stringers, Villanova quickly found themselves in 3rd and long. But it was Aaron Forbes who came up big with a 16 yard run for a first down, keeping the Wildcat drive alive. But this time Nova wasn’t able to convert a long third down, and Villanova was forced to punt with 6:33 remaining.
Lafayette tried to put together one last attempt to put up some points, but after being sacked on 3rd down, they were forced again to punt with 4:23 left in the game.
Villanova continued to rundown the clock on their next possession, and by the time Lafayette got the ball back, there were just 22 seconds remaining in the game. The leopards would run the ball to kill the clock and finally put an end to the blowout.