The #5 Villanova Wildcats returned from their bye week to take on the Stony Brook Seawolves at Villanova Stadium on Homecoming Weekend and blew an 18-point lead in a 36-35 loss. They fall to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the CAA.
Head coach Mark Ferrante took a lot of the blame himself, “We live in the CAA, no lead is safe. We learned that today obviously. I obviously mismanaged the time clock at the end of the day and made our defense go back on the field.”
With 1:22 on the clock and the ball on the Stony Brook 45-yard line, Ferrante called two passes that resulted in sacks before a two yard run and a punt. His explanation?
“The strategy there was we’re gonna burn time, if we got it down to 1:20 or less we’ve could’ve taken knees and ended the game. The referees then came over after they used their timeout. It was 1:19 on the clock, we take two or three knees, game’s over. Referees came over and said there’s a new rule in place, they can’t remember if it was last year or the year before when the rule came into place. That if the game is under two minutes then the opposing team can decide to start the [clock] on the play for ready from the referee, or on the snap. Obviously, they chose to start the clock on the snap and they gave them their timeout back.”
Did Ferrante know about this rule? “I’m gonna look it up as soon as I leave here, I got the rule book sitting on my desk right now.”
Trickery was the story of the day for Villanova (in the first half at least), as two trick plays led to two scores, and one weird statistic. For the second straight year, Villanova had three different players throw touchdown passes against Stony Brook. Last season, it was Zach Bednarczyk, Jack Schetelich, and Adeyemi DaSilva. Bednarczyk and Schetelich were quarterbacks, and DaSilva came in as one before moving to wide receiver. This year, however, the passes came from Daniel Smith, wide receiver Jaaron Hayek, and running back TD Ayo-Durojaiye.
Ferrante said those calls were decided on coming into the day, “You get the extra week to throw a couple wrinkles in some things. We knew we were gonna call those plays and our guys did a great job executing.”
The Villanova defense was able to force a quick three and out to start the day and put the offense on the field in a hurry. Freshman running back DeeWil Barlee, filling in for Jusin Covington who is out for the season with a torn ACL, broke out for a 20-yard rush to move the Wildcats near midfield. The offense could not get anything else, however, and Nathan Fondacaro’s punt was blocked by defensive back EJ Fineran to give the Seawolves the ball at the Villanova 44.
Stony Brook was able to make quick work of the Villanova defense this time, going 44-yards in just two minutes, capped off by a 15-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tyquell Fields to give the Seawolves a 7-0 lead.
The defenses exchanged quick stops, before Villanova got the ball back and decided to use some trickery. On 1st and ten from their own 32-yard line quarterback Daniel Smith handed it off to wide receiver Jaaron Hayek, who ran to his right and then tossed it back to Smith who ran it 68-yards for a Wildcat touchdown. After the extra point, the game was tied at seven.
After the Wildcat defense had a quick three and out, the offense went 77-yards in five plays to take a 14-7 lead. Freshman running back TD Ayo-Durojaiye finished off the drive with a 24-yard rushing touchdown, the first of his career.
Stony Brook was able to move the ball on the ensuing drive, but the Wildcat defense held an forced a 27-yard field goal from red shirt senior Nick Courtney to cut the Wildcat lead to 14-10.
Villanova only needed 1:16 to answer back, however. Smith hit tight end Todd Summers for a 50-yard gain and followed that up with a 21-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Hayek to put Villanova ahead 21-10.
The Wildcat defense was able to make another quick stop to give Villanova the ball back with 7:21 left in the first half. The offense mixed the run and the pass to work their way to the Stony Brook 24-yard line on a second and eight. From there, the offense got tricky once again.
Smith handed the ball off to Ayo-Durojaiye and as he was going to his right he jumped up and completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to junior Changa Hodge. Junior Drew Kresge added the extra point and grew the Wildcats lead to 28-10.
The Seawolves were moving the ball as the end of the first half approached, and were knocking on he end zone door. Fields dropped back to pass, and Junior Jaquan Amos got high off the ground to make his third interception of the season and keep the Wildcats halftime lead at 28-10.
The Wildcats were able to amass 359 total yards in the first half, including 252 passing yards. Smith accounted for 160 of them, but trick plays gave Hayak 68 and Ayo-Durojaiye 24. The Villanova defense did its job after letting up a score on the first drive, allowing 207 yards of total offense.
Villanova received the kickoff to start the second half and were all set to fully blow the game open. Stony Brook had other plans. On the opening kickoff of the second half Josh McGrigg took the ball out and fumbled. It was initially ruled that he was down, but after review it was ruled a fumble and Stony Brook took over at the Villanova 24-yard line. The defense did its job and forced a 25-yard field goal to make the lead 28-13.
The Villanova drive only lasted three plays before Smith threw an interception, he was picked off by Gregory Young and after the return they were at the Villanova 34-yard line. The Seawolves needed only five plays before Fields ran it in for a 10-yard touchdown to cut the Villanova lead to just 28-20.
The Wildcats offense started to drive again behind Barlee, who picked up big runs of 13 and 26-yards to push Villanova to the Stony Brook 25-yard line. Three straight runs led to losses and Kresge missed a 44-yard field goal to keep Villanova’s lead at 28-20.
Villanova’s defense forced a crucial three and out and Stony Brook set up to punt. McGrigg got injured on his fumbled return, so Hayek was back receiving kicks and the rain had started to fall. Stony Brook’s punt was short of Hayek and after calling a fair catch he dove for the ball, causing it to bounce off his chest and be recovered by the Seawolves. However, Villanova caught a break when fair catch interference was called, giving them the ball at their own 47-yard line.
Ayo-Durojaiye picked up a first down on the ground, but four incomplete passes later Villanova turned the ball over on downs and had a 28-20 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Wildcat defense made another key stop, but on the ensuing punt Hayek muffed it and the ball bounced out of the back of the end zone seconds before Stony Brook was able to jump on it. That made it a touch back and gave Villanova a chance to put the game away. Not without some stress, though. First, they went for it on fourth and one from their own 40-yard line with Barlee breaking through the line. A 44-yard pass to Hodge moved the ball all the way to the Seawolves 10-yard line. Another fourth down came up for the Wildcats, and Barlee pushed it in again, this time for a 2-yard touchdown and 35-20 lead.
Stony Brook, and specifically Fields, responded like they had to. They went 73-yards in 14 plays, capping it off with a 10-yard pass from Fields to Shawn Harris, shrinking the Villanova lead to 35-27.
A quick three and out gave Stony Brook a chance to tie the game and Ty Son Lawton broke off a 47-yard run all the way down to the Villanova three-yard line. Fields rushed in it two plays later to make it 35-33. The two-point conversion was dropped by an open receiver, and Villanova had the ball after an onside kick went out of bounds.
Instead of running the ball the Villanova offense opted to have Daniel Smith drop back and try to throw for the first down. Smith was sacked for losses of 13 and nine yards, eventually forcing a fourth a 30 situation.
Wide receiver Zac Kerxton, not Nathan Fondacaro, punted the ball 29-yards to the Stony Brook 36-yard line, meaning the Seawolves had 21 seconds to score. A 40-yard pass from Fields to red shirt senior Nick Anderson set up a 22-yard field goal with four seconds left. Courtney’s kick split the uprights as time expired and Villanova had blown an 18 point lead.
Ferrante said Kerxton kicked by design, “Zac’s our backup punter, so we practice punting every day. His time, he gets it off quicker. We figured that would be a critical situation to get snap, catch, and kick off quicker because we figured they might be coming after it.”
Villanova’s offense totaled 509 yards of offense, 341 of which came through the air, and 249 from Smith. The transfer went 17-29 through the air and threw one touchdown and one interception. Barlee led the Wildcats on the ground, rushing for 131 yards on 22 attempts, including one touchdown. Ayo-Durojaiye added 40 yards on seven attempts and one touchdown.
The Villanova defense let up 478 total yards, 320 of them through the air for Fields. Anderson was his primary target with eight receptions for 137 yards. Linebacker Forrest Rhyne totaled 10 tackles, and Drew Wiley added Villanova’s only sack of the day.
Villanova returns to action next Saturday at 1 P.M. at New Hampshire.