Last year, Villanova put on an amazing display of perseverance in front of their home crowd. They came from behind in the fourth quarter with a 23 point swing that came down to the final second in the fourth quarter. Villanova kicker Mark Hamilton spoiled any chances of Delaware securing a playoff spot, as he made the game-winning field goal as time expired.
This time around, Delaware had the chance to spoil the fun. While Villanova is already guaranteed a playoff spot, a win today would give them a first-round bye.
Early on, it seemed that Villanova would have their way. With the first possession of the ball game, they easily marched down field. A big gain off of a nice reverse by Aaron Wells set the Wildcats up with a first-and-goal. A couple of plays later, the Wildcats handed the ball off to Kevin Monangai, who took it up the middle for the first score of the game. After a three-and-out by Delaware, they punted it away to the Wildcats. Aaron Wells caught a screen pass from John Robertson and took it upfield for a 45-yard gain, putting the Wildcats into the red zone. Villanova inched closer and closer to the end zone, until a nicely executed shovel pass found its way for a touchdown. The PAT was blocked, but Villanova now had the 13-0 edge over Delaware.
The Fightin’ Blue Hens couldn’t find their footing just yet. After converting two first downs, they eventually had to punt. The Wildcats continued to make steady progress on offense until their momentum was derailed by penalties. A 5-yard reception by Mike Burke was called back due to an offensive pass interference call. What was once third-and-six, became third-and-21. On the following play, Robertson was sacked by Derrick Saulsberry. However, Saulsberry was offsides on the play and spotted Villanova with a do-over. Now, on third-and-16, a Robertson scramble picked up 12 yards, but was not good enough for the first. Villanova opted to go for it on fourth down. This time around, Robertson looked deep to Poppy Livers for a long 42-yard touchdown.
Delaware would respond with a touchdown of their own. A long reception by Michael Johnson set them up inside the red zone. On the following play, Trent Hurley found Nick Boyle for their first touchdown of the game. Later in the quarter, the Blue Hens started marching into Villanova’s territory. A holding call pushed them back to first-and-20 from Villanova’s 33-yard line. Immediately after, Hurley threw an interception that was reeled in by Dillon Lucas. Lucas returned it 72 yards before being tackled just outside the end zone. He went down and was helped off the field. Delaware’s defense would come up big. After the goal line stand, they went ahead and blocked Villanova’s field goal attempt. The Wildcats had a 20-7 lead going into the half.
The third quarter was highlighted by both teams trading touchdowns. Kevin Monangai ran it up the gut for his third touchdown of the game. Delaware responded immediately after with a run-heavy drive led by Jalen Randolph. Randolph capped the drive off with a touchdown. Early in the fourth quarter, Hurley found Randolph for a short touchdown pass to cut Villanova’s lead to six. Both teams traded three-and-outs before Delaware would break through. A nice sideline catch by Jerel Harrison put them deep into Villanova territory. A few plays later, Randolph would score again and Delaware would convert the extra point to put them on top.
Now clinging to just a 28-27 lead, it was up to the Blue Hens to protect their house. Villanova had just under two minutes to score. They started the drive on the wrong foot, a false start penalty put them five yards further back. First-and-15 quickly became fourth-and-15, until Robertson found Livers crossing the middle for a 23-yard gain. Later in the drive, Villanova found themselves facing a fourth down situation once again. The Wildcats went with a QB Sweep, which Robertson took for ten yards to convert for a first down. On the next play, Robertson looked to the end zone where Kevin Gulyas was there to haul in the go-ahead touchdown pass. Villanova opted to go for two and successfully converted it to take a 35-28 lead. Delaware had 16 seconds to make something magical happen, but instead the opposite happened. On third-and-13 the ball came loose and it was recovered by Don Cherry.
John Robertson finished with 217 passing yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He added another 117 yards on the ground. Kevin Monangai had 17 carries for 71 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns. He added another receiving touchdown. Poppy Livers added six catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.
For Delaware, Trent Hurley completed 15-of-21 pass attempts for 212 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Wes Hills ran for 99 yards off of 19 carries. Jalen Randolph had 14 carries for 59 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Michael Johnson chipped in six receptions for 117 yards.