BY ROCK HOFFMAN
COLLEGE FOOTBALL EDITOR
Villanova - In the first regular season, Friday night game at Villanova Stadium since October 12, 2001, the Wildcats defeated Long Island University 35-7 to improve to 8-3 on the season and greatly enhance their chances of receiving a bid to the 24-team FCS playoffs. Wildcats quarterback Danny Smith threw four touchdown passes and ran for another as the 'Cats won for the second week in a row, after a three-game losing skid. Wide receiver Changa Hodge was on the other end of two of those touchdowns and he finished with 103 yards on seven catches.
This could've been a classic trap game for Villanova (8-3, 4-3 CAA) playing a winless team, in a non-conference game. Plus, their regular season finale with archrival Delaware is one week away. The 'Cats are poised to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and they couldn't afford to slip up against the Sharks (0-9, 0-7 NEC).
If you consider a fumble on the first play from scrimmage that led to a three-and-out, a slow start then Villanova started slow but things didn't stay that way. On the 'Cats second possession, Hodge converted two third downs with catches of 12 and 23 yards. He set up Smith's 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Simon Bingelis.
"We've been preaching that all week," said Hodge, "just start fast and keep pushing."
After a punt by LIU (the Sharks would manage just 183 yards of offense in the game), TD Ayo-Durojaiye raced 28 yards on a fourth-and-one play, it led to a seven-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Jaaron Hayek.
Elijah Solomon blocked the punt that ended LIU's next possession and on the next play Hodge had the first of his touchdown catches, this one was for six-yards.
For the only time in the game, the Sharks were able to move the ball, they went on an 11-play, 64-yard drive that consumed more than seven minutes. They got on the scoreboard with a six-yard run by Malcolm Denbow and it was 21-7.
More punting problems set up Villanova's final touchdown of the half, punter Briant DeFelice dropped the ball but still managed to get a kick off that traveled 18 yards after Solomon partially blocked it. The resulting short field let the Wildcats score on another one-play drive. This time, Hodge caught a 30 yarder from Smith.
"On the two touchdowns, we just had to execute," said Hodge, who has 784 yards and eight touchdowns on the year.
On their first possession of the third quarter, 'Nova extended their lead to 35-7 on a five-yard run by Smith.
From that point, the Wildcats were basically in run out the clock mode, thankful for another victory.
"What's the saying, 'winning ain't easy,'" said Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante. "Any way we can get them, we're excited to get a win."
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