The #8 Villanova Wildcats returned home in front of a packed stadium of 10,071 on parents weekend and put their undefeated record on the line against #12 Maine Black Bears in a match-up of top-15 teams. The Wildcats thoroughly dominated the first half and ran away with a 33-17 victory.
The win moved Villanova to 5-0 for the first time since their national championship campaign in 2009. They also improve to 2-0 in the CAA.
The Wildcats got the ball first and stormed down the field in a hurry. They went 80 yards in nine plays in under four minutes to go up 7-0. Junior Justin Covington continued his hot start to the year picking up chunks of yards to get Villanova near the red zone. A pass interference call moved the Wildcats to the Maine three yard line, where freshman DeeWil Barlee pushed it in for a touchdown.
Both running backs made it a successful day on the ground for the Wildcats. Covington finished with 118 yards on 19 carries, extending his streak of games with 100+ rushing yards to five games. Barlee finished with 54 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown.
The Wildcats defense was able to force a Maine punt, and two plays later junior Changa Hodge blew by the cornerback and Daniel Smith hit him down the field for a 77 yard touchdown pass. The extra point was missed, putting the Wildcats up 13-0.
Smith turned in an all around performance himself, getting it done through the air and on the ground. Through the air, Smith went 15-24 for 213 yards and one touchdown. On the ground, he rushed for 32 yards and two touchdowns.
Smith has been a consistent figure behind center thus far in 2019 for Villanova, and head coach Mark Ferrante isn’t going to take that for granted after major injury issues the last season or two. “To have Dan continue to progress the way he has and pick up our offense and control the offense on the field is phenomenal.”
Hodge finished with 82 receiving yards on two receptions with one touchdown. Freshman Jaaron Hayek finished with 70 yards on six catches. Five different receivers had catches in today’s game and Smith doesn’t have problems spreading the ball around, “The 88 strong isn’t just a saying. We all trust each other, we all have each other’s back. I trust that when they have the ball in their hands they’re gonna make plays just as they trust me to get them the ball.”
The Villanova offense ended with 413 total yards, adding 200 rushing yards to Smith’s 213 through the air.
The Wildcat defense forced another punt, but this time freshman Elijah Solomon blocked it and Barlee fell on it, giving Villanova the ball at the Black Bears 23 yard line. A three and out followed, and Drew Kresge hit a field goal from 38-yards to extend the Wildcat lead to 16-0.
The next play from scrimmage for Maine was picked off by sophomore Elijah Trent, his third interception this season. A penalty gave the Wildcat offense the ball at the Black Bears 26 yard line, and five plays later Smith ran it in for a touchdown. The extra point was good, and the Wildcats made their lead 23-0.
The Wildcat defense forced another three and out, and the offense capitalized again. An eight play, 70 yard drive was highlighted by a 29 yard rush from Barlee. Smith ran in his second touchdown of the day a few plays later, and the extra point made the score 30-0 in favor of Villanova.
Maine started to move down the field on their next drive, making it down to the Villanova 28 yard line. Sophomore defensive back Darius Pickett had other plans, going up to get a pass from Black Bears quarterback Chris Ferguson, the second interception for Ferguson on the day.
Villanova punted for the first time on the ensuing drive, and junior Kenny Doak made a 44 yard field goal for Maine, making the score 30-3 as the game headed into the half.
On the first drive out of the half, Maine made quick work out of the Villanova defense. They moved the ball down to the Villanova eight yard line in three plays, and on the next one they ran some trickery with wide receiver Earnest Edwards passing to fellow receiver Andre Miller to close the Villanova lead to 30-10.
The Wildcat offense slowed down for the rest of the quarter, but the defense continued to keep Maine at bay, including a couple of big fourth down stops. They were able to work the ball down the field at the start of the fourth quarter and Kresge made a 24 yard field goal to make the lead 33-10.
Late in the fourth Ferguson hit Edwards for a 32 yard touchdown pass, making the score 33-17, and giving Edwards a touchdown pass and reception in the same game. Edwards finished with 140 receiving yards on just four catches.
The Wildcat defense did allow Ferguson to throw for 347 yards and one touchdown, but they forced two key interception that first put the game out of reach. Villanova only allowed 68 rushing yards on the day, and red shirt senior Joe Fitzpatrick had 53 of them for the Black Bears.
Junior linebacker Amin Black went down with an injury in the first half and was visibly upset. He did return to the sideline in street clothes in the second half with crutches and a knee brace on his left leg. Ferrante said they’ll get an MRI and know by Monday or Tuesday, but any loss would be big. Heading into the game, he was second on the team in tackles with 26. “He’s one of our true motivational type guys, just the way he plays and the energy that he brings. I know that took a little bit of wind out of our sails at halftime, but they’re going to rally around him regardless of what it is.”
Villanova returns to action next Saturday at William & Mary at 3:30 p.m. ET.