The game against Delaware was predicted to be a slug-fest. It was predicted to be a game where grit and toughness would endure over mere strategy and play-calling.
Just like in years past, grit endured.
In the fourth quarter, star quarterback John Robertson went down with what is believed to be a PCL tear at first glance. Up until that point, he had 208 passing yards and one touchdown through the air. Villanova had to move on, and as any football coach will tell you, sometimes it’s all about the next man up. The next man up for Villanova was redshirt freshman quarterback Zack Bednarczyk.
“[When I was told I was going in], I wasn’t thinking anything, I just grabbed my helmet and ran onto the field,” said Bednarczyk, when asked how he felt. “I wasn’t feeling nervous, my team just kept saying ‘you got this, you got this.’”
In just his second pass attempt as Villanova’s quarterback, he threw a laser to a well covered Kevin Gulyas, who came across the field on a drag route. Unfortunately, Steve Weyler missed the game-tying extra point. Delaware still had a 21-20 lead.
For most of the game, Villanova’s defense struggled to stop the smash mouth Delaware offense. Power back Jalen Randolph had 14 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He showed tremendous patience in the hole, waiting for his blockers and showing maneuverability in the hole. Although he never broke any huge runs, he was a guaranteed five or six yards every time he ran, which is exactly Delaware needed.
“The game was going the way we had hoped it would go,” Delaware head coach Dave Brock. “We were able to control the ball and control the clock.”
Unfortunately for Delaware, Randolph did not play in the second half due to an apparent knee injury. Outside of a 23-yard touchdown in the fourth, the Wildcats were able to slow down Kareem Williams and Thomas Jefferson. However, that left it open for quarterback Joe Walker, who punished the Wildcats with the read-option a number of times on third down.
However, not this time.
The Villanova defense came up big and contained Walker, forcing Delaware to punt. This stop gave the Wildcats the momentum they needed.
Bednarczyk was asked to deliver. It was a tall order for the backup who had never played a down under center before this.
Despite this, he wasn’t going to shy away from making big plays. On the first play of the drive, he launched a rocket pass to Gulyas for a 34-yard gain. He would finish the afternoon with 5 catches for 168 yards and a touchdown.
This pass would prove to be a glimpse of things to come in that drive, as Bednarczyk showed pocket poise that was beyond his years. On third-and-15, he connected with Aaron Wells. Immediately after catching the ball, Wells got rocked by Delaware’s Nassir Adderley but managed to hold onto the ball. This would prove to be the most important catch of the drive.
A couple of plays later, Bednarczyk showed off some wheels. The defense was caught off-guard as he summoned his inner John Robertson. Bednarczyk ran left, and then cut to his right against the defensive flow. The defense was caught off-guard as he ran it in for a touchdown. Villanova successfully converted the following two point conversion to take a 28-21 lead.
The packed Villanova Stadium erupted in cheers for Bednarczyk’s efforts.
“He did a lot with both his arm and his feet,” Villanova head coach Andy Talley said.
Delaware was unable to answer the late Villanova score. Two consecutive sacks by linebacker Don Cherry and defensive lineman Reggie Paris would make it fourth and forever for Delaware.
They would not convert, as Walker went on to throw a tipped interception to free safety Wes Smith on a Hail Mary attempt. This interception would prove to be the dagger in a spectacular game. All in all, it was a fantastic installment in the Battle of the Blue series.
Villanova’s Gary Underwood and Javon White were kept in check throughout the game. The tandem combined for 47 yards off of 13 carries. It was Underwood’s first game back since being injured in the season opener against UConn.
As for Delaware, Joe Walker completed 13-of-28 pass attempts for 94 yards and one interception. He added another 48 yards on the ground, but it felt like he had more. Walker showed off his quickness and even his strength, lowering his shoulder to break a few tackles.
Villanova improves to 2-1. The Wildcats will have a quick break before having to play the Penn Quakers on Thursday. Kick-off is at 7 p.m.