Villanova has been the underdog the majority of the season. Most did not expect today’s game to be this close, nor did they expect Villanova to be in the game at all.
Villanova looked different today, but in a good way. The defense was strong as usual: but the Villanova aerial assault, not the running game, carried the offense to victory.
Quarterback Zach Bednarczyk came full circle today. He was clutch in his first game against Delaware, delivering last-minute game winning drive. Tonight, he was cold-blooded yet again. He served up the winning touchdown pass to give the Wildcats the 21-20 upset win over Richmond.
The redshirt freshman completed 17-of-26 pass attempts for 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The game’s first half was a dud overall, with a few splash plays, including a Bednarczyk touchdown pass to star wideout Kevin Gulyas.
Gulyas had a great performance on senior night, finishing the game with 122 yards and two touchdowns off of eight catches.
Villanova made it clear from the start that the Richmond offensive juggernaut could be contained with a hard-nosed defensive effort. This was the story of the whole game, as Villanova contained the Richmond attack to just 20 points on the game.
“It was a great game,” Villanova head coach Andy Talley said. “Tough game. I’m not a prognosticator but I said if we held them to under 21 we were gonna win the game.”
Outside of a couple of touchdown runs, The Wildcats contained Richmond powerback Jacobi Green. Green couldn’t find a clear rhythm, often being stuffed after a few yards. He finished with 135 yards off of 28 carries.
The passing game seemed to be working for Richmond, although it faltered in the redzone. Spiders’ quarterback Kyle Lauletta completed 20-of-31 pass attempts for 283 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
Despite the defensive efforts, and the Gulyas touchdown, the first half was sloppy for both sides. The ‘Cats were unable to get the running game going the entire time, as the run game was inevitably held to 94 yards on 29 total carries. At the end of the half, the score was 7-7.
The second half was when things picked up.
On the opening kick-off for Richmond, safety Cameron McCurry forced a fumble which would be recovered by star linebacker Don Cherry.
“To be able to cause a fumble at the kickoff at the beginning of the second half was big” said Coach Talley.
On the subsequent play, a sweep play to runningback Jarrett McClenton would put the Wildcats ahead 14-7. This would be the only score the team would muster for the majority of the second half, as the Spiders defense played very well in the second half. The offense for the Spiders also gained some gas, as Jacobi Green would go on to score his two rushing touchdowns. The ‘Cats, however, would come through in the clutch, as they would go on to the block the extra point from the second Green touchdown. This put the game at 20-14 Richmond.
Bednarczyk exploded in the situation when it mattered most. His team needed a touchdown, and you could tell he was determined to get it.
“The drive to score at the end was as good as it gets,” Talley said.
The final drive, which showed off Bednarczyk’s uncanny accuracy and arm-strength, culminated into a critical fourth-and-seven situation on the Richmond 12. It was then that Talley called upon Gulyas and Bednarczyk to make a play.
“They were in Cover 2 shell,” Gulyas said. “It was just beating the guy to the outside, and Zach threw a good pass. I didn’t think the safety would fly out like that.”
Gulyas would go on to beat his guy, and catch a rocket pass on a slant route for a tying 12 yard touchdown. Freshman kicker Gerard Smith, with all the pressure on him, would go on to make the go-ahead PAT.
“I didn’t really have a lot of pressure. Like coach always says: ‘put it through the uprights’”, said Smith of the PAT.
The Spiders would not answer this go-ahead score, and the upset would go on to be completed.
“That was a playoff game today”, said Talley. “We won four out five now. The key right now I think for us is to play well at the end in the significant games”.
They have indeed played well these past few weeks. The Wildcats will have one more obstacle in their way. They look forward to their game on the road against CAA powerhouse James Madison. Kick-off is at noon next week.