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Villanova outlasts Lehigh 38-35 in offensive thriller

Villanova’s offense looked in mid-season form, and the defense did just enough to seal the win.

NCAA Football: Villanova at Lafayette Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

If the first game of the season is any indication, we could be in for another fun season on the Main Line. The #10 Villanova Wildcats went on the road and took care of business against a top opponent, beating the #17 Lehigh Mountain Hawks 38-35.

Villanova opened the game as they drew it up in the pre-game meetings, going 67 yards in four plays that ended with a 13-yard Zach Bednarczyk pass to Ryan Bell for the first score of the day.

After several possessions that resulted in no action, Lehigh responded with a touchdown drive of their own with a 4-yard Dom Bragalone rush. Villanova didn’t waste time after that though, putting together back-to-back touchdown drives.

First, Bednarczyk finished off a drive with an 18-yard touchdown run, and then Matt Gudzak ran it in from 14 yards out on the next drive.

Lehigh’s passing attack started to give the ‘Nova defense some trouble late in the first half, and the Mountain Hawks were able to bring it within a score when Troy Pelletier caught a 2-yard touchd pass.

A stalled Wildcats drive before the half seemed to give the Mountain Hawks life, but they fumbled deep and ‘Nova territory. Rob Rolle recovered the fumble and took it 85-yards for a touchdown, but it was called back for a needless block in the bakc. Matt Gudzak ran it in from 33-yards to give Villanova a 28-14 halftime advantage (Lehigh missed a late FG attempt).

The second half started with fireworks for both teams. Lehigh needed just 2 plays to score on their opening drive. Luke Christiano caught a beautiful pass over the top of the Villanova secondary and then won a footrace for a 66-yard touchdown.

Not to be outdone, Bednarczyk followed up with a gorgeous throw of his own and connected with Taurus Phillips for a 75-yard touchdown to stretch the lead back to two scores.

Both teams traded stalled drives before Lehigh struck again late in the third quarter. Brad Mayes struck with his third touchdown throw of the day when he found Gatlin Casey in the end zone to make it 35-28.

Villanova marched back down the field but stalled out when Bednarczyk and Changa Hodge narrowly missed connecting in the end zone, and the ‘Cats had to settle for a 38-yard Drew Kresge field goal to extend their lead 38-28 in the fourth quarter.

Both defenses turned it up a notch and turned their opponents over on downs, and then Lehigh went to work. A long driv got down inside the Villanova 5-yard line, and Mayes hit Casey for a 3-yard touchdown - after a Julian Williams deflection - to make it 38-35 ‘Nova with just under 5 minutes to go.

Staying true to the Talley-era, Villanova went to work and was able to essentially kill the game off with some effective offense. Bednarczyk keepers and short passes to Phillips and Jarrett McClenton were enough to seal the victory.

Villanova (1-0) now heads into their FBS buy-game against the Temple Owls next week at Lincoln Financial Field.