DEFENSE GETS THE JOB DONE AS VILLANOVA WINS
Updated: Nov 3, 2022
BY ROCK HOFFMAN
College Football Editor
VILLANOVA – Villanova was stingy on defense and quarterback Connor Watkins accounted for three touchdowns – two using his legs and one with his arm – as the Wildcats (5-3, 3-2 CAA) topped Hampton 24-10 on Goodreau Field at Villanova Stadium on a perfect afternoon for football. The Wildcats' defense held the Pirates (4-4, 1-4 CAA) to 163 yards of offense including just 46 yards and one first down after halftime.
"I tell the guys all the time," said Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante, "that the only stats I'm concerned with are how many points we score, and how many we give up. Those are the two most important and turnovers. [I'm] happy with the defensive performance for sure."
"It's an accomplishment," said Wildcats' linebacker Shane Hartzell, of the team's defensive effort, "but that's the standard we're trying to go for every week. It looks different, this week, but going forward that's what it should be."
Watkins raced 75 yards for a touchdown on the second play from scrimmage, it was the longest run by a quarterback in school history. For the quarter, the 'Cats dominated on the stat sheet (outgaining Hampton 129 yards to 29) but had only the one score to show for it. Penalties helped disrupt the other two drives of the quarter. After the Wildcats drove deep into Hampton territory, a holding penalty put them behind the sticks and then a sack on a third-down play knocked them out of field goal range.
On the final play of the quarter, Watkins completed a 49-yard pass to Rayjuon Pringle that would have given Villanova a first down at the Pirates' 11-yard line, but an illegal man downfield wiped out the play and the 'Cats would punt.
Early in the second quarter, the Pirates put together a nearly seven-minute drive, matriculating the ball down the field by mixing the run and pass but a penalty hurt them too and they had to settle for a 30-yard field goal by Axel Perez.
Leading 7-3, the Wildcats overcame a flag for holding that negated a 40-yard run by TD Ayo-Durojaiye when Watkins and his roommate Jaaron Hayek hooked up for a 43-yard pass; it would lead to a 26-yard field goal by Matt Mercurio.
After a three-and-out by Hampton, the Wildcats put together a nearly textbook two-minute drive, but they came up empty when Watkins was intercepted in the end zone.
With their first possession of the second half, Villanova ran the ball seven-straight times and moved from their 36 to the Pirates' 12. Their first pass of the drive was an option toss by Hayek that was incomplete. On the next play, a fourth down, Hayek did what he did best and caught an 11-yard touchdown from Watkins.
Hampton failed to get a first down on the next possession, but Perez boomed a 58-yard punt that Pringle fair caught at the 11. The Wildcats didn't move the ball and Will Bartel's punt went just 14 yards. Starting at the Villanova 29, the Pirates only gained six yards but the on fourth down, quarterback Malcolm Mays ran around all day before hitting Trent Cloud for a 23-yard touchdown and it was 17-10.
An exchange of punts worked in Villanova's favor as the game moved from the third to the fourth quarter, Bartel's 47-yard kick pinned the Pirates at their 10 and when the 'Cats got the ball back they were at their own 46. One play after converting a fourth down with a 7-yard pass to Ayo-Durojaiye, Watkins called his own number, going around the right side for 30 yards and his second touchdown of the game.
Villanova took the air out of the ball after that, controlling it for over 11 minutes in the fourth quarter as the Pirates ran just six offensive plays.
"We started running the ball a little bit more effectively," said Ayo-Durojaiye, who finished with 112 yards on 25 carries. "We got the looks we wanted, and, at the end of the day, we just executed a lot better in the second half."
The win is the 'Cats second in a row as they start a two-game road trip and try to keep their playoff hopes alive.