The Villanova Wildcats routed Bucknell 55-3 in the team’s home opener. The Wildcats improved to 2-0 on the season thanks to a balanced offensive attack.
Villanova outgained Bucknell extensively on the ground and in the air, out rushing them 233-21 and out passing them 145-68. Because things became one-sided so quickly, these numbers came from a tandem of quarterbacks and running backs. Daniel Smith, Connor Watkins and Matt O’Connor all took snaps for the Wildcats, while time was shared between five running backs led by Jalen Jackson for 70 yards. He was one of three backs to have more than 50 rushing yards.
Bucknell’s typical gameplan did not work against the ‘Cats this Saturday. The team’s typical approach of blitzing down the middle with linebackers did not go well. Villanova made the adjustment to play with close tight ends to run heavily to either side of the offensive line. Villanova also adjusted to Bucknell’s five man rush by utilizing many different running backs to keep the defense on its toes.
Offensively, Bucknell utilized the play option tactic to generate bootleg plays off of out routes. To counter this, Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante played his cornerbacks close. Senior defensive back Christian Benford ended the game with two interceptions.
“We only have three linebackers and five DBs in our set … we always like to bring five up the line when we can, allow our more experienced seniors and four year starters to press man, play off, sit on routes, jump on routes,” he said. “So we’re usually gonna bring five when we feel like we can.”
The game was in Villanova’s favor from the jump. Benford picked off Bucknell quarterback Nick Semptimphelter in the opening minutes of the first quarter, leading to a quarterback sneak by Smith for Villanova’s first score of the game. This would be followed by two of Smith’s touchdowns, one to Jarron Hayek and the other to Jaquan Allen.
The momentum continued into the second quarter, starting from the first play with a nine-yard pass from Smith to junior wide receiver Rayjoun Pringle, his first of two scores of the evening. Benford would be celebrated again on the sideline with his second interception of the evening that would lead to a 19-yard pick six for Villanova. With a 35 point lead, Smith was given a breather, giving Watkins a chance to take the field. He made his presence known just four minutes after entering the game with a 49 yard touchdown pass for Pringle’s second score.
The second half was just as dominating as the first, as Bucknell’s only successful field goal attempt required what was essentially a miracle.
Although his Wildcats are on a two-game winning streak with both victories being by more than 40 points, Ferrante is not letting his foot off the gas as his team goes into their next home game against Richmond.
“We’re going to prepare the same way we always do, we’re going to look at what we think went well but actually could’ve been better and we’re going to look at what seemed awful but actually wasn’t all that bad,” Ferrante said. “We know that things will get more difficult as we move into conference play, that’s no shot at the Patriot League and their programs. But with the CAA, there are teams from top to bottom where if you don’t prepare the right way, you could find yourself in trouble.”
Villanova will host Richmond on Saturday, Sept. 18 at 3:30 pm.