The Villanova Wildcats fell to the Rhode Island Rams in a crushing 40-37 overtime loss.
Daniel Smith’s performance was not far different from the one he had last week in the win against Stony Brook, completing 12-of-27 passes for 116 yards and running for 110 yards, one rushing touchdown and one interception. Rhode Island’s quarterback situation was similar, opting for junior Kasim Hill instead of transfer Brandon Robinson. Hill finished 18 for 28 with 246 passing yards, 36 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown and one interception.
The overtime section of the game was as brutal to watch as it was exciting. With the score tied
34, Villanova senior kicker Cole Bunce nailed a game-long 45 yard field goal straight down the
middle to go 3 for 3 in the afternoon. Down by three, the Rams went up the field and capped off
with a throw from Hill straight into the hands of Ivory Frimpong for a 23 yard gain and a first
down. After a failed running attempt by Brown for no gain, the Rams put it in the hands of Hill for an isolation run off the left side for a touchdown to seal the game, 40-37.
This game was overwhelmingly decided by the running attack. Nine total rushing touchdowns were tallied up between the two rosters, five for Rhode Island and four for Villanova. Four of the five for the Rams came from junior Kevin Brown, who averaged a monster 7.1 yards per carry, gained 141 yards and scored a 61-yard rushing touchdown in the first half. Villanova senior Justin Covington had two touchdowns, including one for 76 yards, and 141 yards, with 11.8 yards per carry.
Villanova was able to utilize the tandem backfield and the split backfield - multiple running backs are set up behind the line of scrimmage - to offset the Rhode Island secondary. The team would motion over one of the backs to move across the back field to manipulate any sort of high-one coverage. This would give the wide receiver inside leverage, causing the safety to make a choice between blocking off one of the receivers or staying with the back. If the corners were playing zone and had to drop back, that would give the second running back room to move off the wheel route or on the shallow slant to gain yardage. In addition, since the backs were on either side of the field, they were able to manipulate the line of scrimmage so the linebackers couldn’t decide which back to strike until the very last second, allowing for more time for gaps to generate.
The Wildcats’ next game is at home against New Hampshire on March 27.