There was something strange about today’s game. Both teams didn’t look right, as if they were still sporting Halloween costumes because they just weren’t themselves. Today’s game featured two high powered offenses facing off against each other. However, at the end of the first half, there were more turnovers by both teams than combined points. There were a number of miscues and mistakes for both offenses, slowing down their progress with missed opportunities and ultimately keeping points off of the board.
Richmond won the coin toss and elected to receive to start things off for the game. They slowly moved along, however were ultimately stopped. They sent out Peter Yoder to attempt the 47-yard field goal in hopes to get the first few points on the board. However, Yoder missed the attempt and Villanova took over at their own 30-yard line. After converting a fourth-and-one, the Wildcats brought out a trick play; something they haven’t done in a while. Chris Polony sent a long deep pass that was picked off. Richmond would go three-and-out on the ensuing possession. However, Poppy Livers would muff the punt. It wasn’t totally his fault though, a teammate ran into him as he tried to field the ball. The Spiders would recover the muffed punt.
Later in the drive, Villanova’s defense would come up big again. Jason Ceneus would pick off Michael Rocco‘s pass. It would be Ceneus’ fourth interception of the season and his third in the last two games. After a few bruising runs by Kevin Monangai, the Wildcats had to punt the ball when they faced a fourth down situation. Richmond sent junior Dominique Miller back to return the punt. Miller had his fair share of punt return issues today, as he was not able to field the ball cleanly. A swarm of white jerseys flocked to the ball and Rob Rolle was able to recover the muffed punt.
It was now first-and-goal for the Wildcats. A short run by Monangai got them two yards and on second down, there was an incomplete pass. On third down, John Robertson looked for the end zone but was unfortunately picked off. It was Robertson’s second interception of the season. From there, Richmond was able to piece together their first nice drive. They marched down field and into the red zone, but Villanova had other plans. On third-and-goal, there was a botched snap on Richmond’s part. Rocco wasn’t able to truly handle the ball as they attempted a QB sneak, and the Wildcats were able to capitalize by recovering the fumble.
Both offenses continued to struggle for most of the second quarter, while both defenses continued to shine. Late in the first half, Villanova found a breakthrough. They converted a few third downs in order to keep the drive alive and made their way into the red zone. Richmond’s defense was able to settle down before giving up anymore yardage and held the line in the red zone. Steve Weyler made a 24-yard field goal attempt to put Villanova on the board first. It was the first made field goal in the young freshman’s career. The Wildcats would hold onto the small 3-0 lead going into halftime.
Villanova had the ball to start off the second half and they did not do so well. After a three-and-out, John Hinchen bobbled the snap on the punt and struggled to come up with the ball as Richmond’s defenders started to close in. He kicked the ball away, leading to an ‘illegal kicking of the ball’ penalty. Richmond now had a great opportunity to at least tie the game, taking over first-and-goal at the six yard line. After a few nice stands capped off with a sack by Dillon Lucas, Richmond sent out Yoder to attempt the 37-yard field goal. He missed the first two, but would make his third attempt of the game in order to tie the game up at 3.
Villanova would answer right back on their next drive, which was marked by a long 41-yard reception by Poppy Livers and a third down conversion by Lincoln Collins to keep the drive going. Not too long after, Robertson would dance around the pocket until he connected with Collins once again for a touchdown. Collins put together a great effort, diving for the ball and doing a good job of keeping his hands under the ball for the catch. However, Weyler would miss the PAT. Villanova only had a 9-3 lead over Richmond in the third quarter. During that touchdown scoring drive, veteran center Ross Hall went down with an injury. He would not return to the game, resulting in Peter Sotiriou snapping in his place.
Richmond would immediately respond on the next drive. They methodically picked apart the Villanova defense, finding their way into a first-and-goal situation from the ten yard line. It finally looked like their momentum would be stopped as they were sent back five yards due to a false start penalty. On the next play, Rocco dropped back to pass until he found an opening in the middle. He decided to take off and keep it for himself. After getting a nice block from one of his offensive lineman, he aimed for the second level. He lowered his shoulder and powered his way into the end zone. Yoder would make the PAT, giving Richmond the one point edge.
The fourth quarter was more of the same, a defensive showdown and filled with stalled offensive drives. Richmond was in the middle of a clock-killing drive that started on their own three yard line. They were moving the ball along nicely and was knocking on the door for another touchdown to really put pressure on Villanova’s offense. On third-and-goal, Villanova’s defense got great pressure on Rocco and the quarterback was hit as he threw. The ball went up like a pop fly and a swarm of white jerseys were waiting for it to come back down. Don Cherry logged his first career interception and gave Villanova another shot. However, the Wildcats would not be able to produce a scoring drive. They would get one last chance after another defensive stop late in the fourth quarter, but they came out empty-handed. Richmond knelt the clock away and held onto the one point victory.
John Robertson looked mortal today. The Walter Payton Award candidate did not look like himself, with credit to the Spiders’ defense for containing his scrambles and playing well all-around. Robertson finished 12-for-25 with 139 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He added 22 carries and 65 yards on the ground. Kevin Monangai carried the ball 18 times for 52 yards. Their defense did well, stepping up when necessary and holding the Spiders’ run game to just 66 yards.
For Richmond, they outgained the Wildcats on total offense by a margin of 380-253. Michael Rocco completed 50% of his passes for 314 yards and two interceptions. Brian Brown had eight receptions for 119 yards. Reggie Diggs added another four receptions for 80 yards.
Villanova drops to 7-2 as their win streak ends, but their postseason playoff hopes and CAA title aspirations are still alive. They will return home next Saturday, November 8 for a game under the lights against Towson. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.