In their first ever meeting with the Elon Phoenix on the gridiron, the Villanova Wildcats pressed all the right buttons to win, 42-7. The ‘Cats were solidly in control of the game throughout, producing 557 yards of total offense to Elon’s 130, and holding onto control of the ball for a little over two thirds of the game.
On Monday’s conference call, Andy Talley had expressed some trepidation about a game against the Phoenix who were coming off a win over a top-10 opponent last weekend, who the ‘Cats had no experience with, and who are one of the longest road trips in the CAA. His team managed to do very well, despite those factors.
The Villanova defense smothered their opponent for most of the game. The Phoenix gained just 33 yards in the air on 8-of-22 passing, and just 97 yards on the ground. 72 of those rushing yards came on their only scoring drive of the game. The Phoenix ran 10 times out of 11 plays, taking the ball near the end of the 3rd quarter and finally punching it into the endzone at the start of the 4th quarter to cut the Wildcats’ lead down by seven.
Linebacker Jeff Steeb led the defense with six total tackles, while star defensive lineman Tanoh Kpassagnon was credited with a sack for the fourth straight game.
The Wildcats’ offense came out of the gate strong, as well, going 6-of-11 on third down conversions, and 2-of-3 on fourth downs. Zach Bednarczyk was 14-of-21 passing for 270 yards and three touchdowns, though he also threw one interception (backup QB Adayemi Da Silva also got a pass attempt in — a completion for four yards). They spread the targets out this week, with Alex Padovani being the largest recipient with 97 yards and a score. Taurus Phillips also had a big game with 80 yards receiving, and Matt Gudzak and freshman Zac Kerxton each also caught a touchdown pass.
The Wildcats recorded a school record with 35 first downs in the game.
Matt Gudzak made his timely return from injury this weekend to carry the ball 12 times for 77 yards. His return to the depth chart was well timed, with Javon White — the starter through four weeks — sidelined with an ankle injury this week. The ‘Cats combined for 283 yards on the ground this week, with Bednarczyk and Aaron Forbes pitching in 59 and 58 yards respectively, toward the cause. Forbes added two rushing touchdowns to the record, while the quarterback took one in himself.
Vitally, Gerard Smith connected on all six extra point attempts.
Villanova got things going early, with a touchdown scored on each of their five first half possessions. That took them into the half with a 35-0 lead over Elon.
After mid-game adjustments, the Phoenix seemed to get a little more traction on defense — forcing Villanova to punt on their first possession of the second half. Elon’s special teams unit, however, couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity, fumbling on the return and giving the ‘Cats the ball on the Elon 17. Four plays later, however, the Phoenix D was able to jump a route on the Villanova QB, intercepting his pass on 2nd and Goal from the 3-yard line.
Again, the Phoenix did not capitalize on the Wildcats’ mistake, going 3-and-out on the ensuing possession. Villanova scored its final touchdown of the contest on the next possession — their last of the third quarter.
With the win, the Wildcats move to 2-0 in the CAA standings, and 4-1 overall. The only blemish on Villanova’s record so far this season being a respectable loss at FBS opponent Pittsburgh. They will return to action at home next Saturday to face the Rhode Island Rams at Noon.