After a tumultuous month that included three consecutive loses, Villanova football found a way back into the win column with a 35-28 victory over the Richmond Spiders. After trailing 28-21 at halftime, a couple of fourth quarter touchdowns helped the Wildcats secure a win on the day that the program celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the 2009 National Championship team. With the win, the 18th ranked Wildcats move to 7-3 on the season and 4-3 in CAA Conference play.
The fireworks started out early on both sides. On the opening kickoff by the Spiders, ‘Nova defensive back Nowoola Awopetu took the kick 100 yards to the house for an early 7-0 lead. On Richmond’s first drive of the game, Spiders quarterback Joe Mancuso scored a 25-yard rushing touchdown to even the score at seven. Villanova quarterback Daniel Smith responded back with a 25-yard touchdown of his own to take a slight 14-7 advantage, but the dual-threat Mancuso scored once again on the ground to even the score at 14 at the end of the first frame.
Early on in the second quarter, Villanova punter Nathan Fondacaro was called down while catching the snap on a punt. As a result, Richmond scored again on a short field when Mancuso found wide receiver Keyston Fuller for a 15-yard touchdown for a 21-14 lead. When Villanova got the ball back, Smith led the offense on a seven-play drive, which culminated in a 37-yard touchdown from freshman running back DeeWil Barlee. Following Barlee’s fifth rushing touchdown of the season, the ‘Cats were once again level with the Spiders, 21-21. On the ensuing drive, Mancuso connected with Fuller for a second time from four yards out for a 28-21 lead going into the half.
The third frame did not bring as much excitement as the preceding two. The Spiders’ first drive ended after Mancuso threw an interception to Wildcats linebacker Drew Wiley. Villanova would fail to capitalize, though. Both teams would trade punts, and Villanova kicker Drew Kresge missed a field goal to keep the score at 28-21 to end the third.
On the ‘Cats’ first drive of the final quarter, Smith scored another rushing touchdown from nine yards out to tie up the game at 28. After a stop by Villanova’s defense, freshman running back T.D. Ayo-Durojaiye scored a 20-yard touchdown to give Villanova the lead, 35-28. Following another punt by Richmond, ‘Nova’s offense iced away the final seven minutes to end the game for their seventh victory of the season.
Villanova’s offense led the charge throughout the game. Smith threw for 235 yards and rushed for 113 yards with two scores. Barlee also had a 100-plus yard performance with 116 yards on the ground and a score of his own. Wide receiver Change Hodge led the receiving corps with five catches for 95 yards. On the defensive end, junior captain linebacker Forrest Rhyne led the ‘Cats with 10 total tackles. Along with his interception, Wiley had five total tackles, three and a half for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble.
After enjoying the victory, the Wildcats will be back in action on Friday against LIU Post. Kickoff under the lights is set for 7 p.m.