The deciding points in Villanova Head Coach, Andy Talley’s 250th career victory were posted with 4:20 remaining in the fourth quarter this evening in Villanova stadium as Javon White pounded into the end zone from two yards out on a crucial fourth down play. The ensuing two-point conversion failed but the resulting 26-21 lead held up as the ‘Nova defense repelled the Mountain Hawks final drive which started on the Lehigh 34 yard line but ended on downs at the Wildcat 23.
The game saw each team battle back from deficits to attempt to wrestle away control. ‘Nova drew first blood, scoring on a three-yard Javon White run in the first quarter but missed the PAT. Lehigh responded with two second quarter touchdowns to lead 14-6 at the half. The Wildcats owned the third quarter scoring on a 20 yard run by Aaron Forbes, a Zach Bednarczyk two point conversion, and a 1 yard run by Adeyemi DaSilva. The Mountain Hawks answered with a fourth quarter TD pass from Nick Shafnisky to Derek Knott to grab a 21-20 lead with 8:03 remaining.
‘Nova’s winning touchdown drive began started at 7:58 on the Wildcat 17-yard line. 8 rushing plays and 83 yards later - White scored the eventual game-winner.
The Villanova rushing attack was the story of the game as the Cats accumulated 396 yards on the ground on 52 carries. The 7.6 yards per carry doubled what the Lehigh offense produced. Javon White rushed for 162 yards, Bednarczyk for 106 and Aaron Forbes added 87.
Lehigh’s offense focused more on the aerial attack - amassing 246 yards through the air including 121 receiving yards for the Mountain Hawks offensive stand-out, Troy Pelletier.
‘Nova punter, John Hinchen had another solid game averaging 46.2 yards on 4 punts and dropping one inside the 20. On defense, linebackers Austin Calitro and Ed Shockley (10 tackles) led the charge with plenty of support from safety, Rasaan Stewart including his first career interception).
The Wildcat kicking game struggled with two missed PATs and a wayward, 38-yard attempt.
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Head Coach Andy Talley
Opening Statement: Obviously, happy to win the game. I thought Lehigh played great. We knew they would come in and give us their best game, which they did and we preached to the team, what they saw on tape against Monmouth, was not what we would see tonight. We would see a better football team, more prepared and ready to play and they certainly were. They gave us all we wanted and more. I was very impressed with them, they are well coached and they play hard. We have opportunities in the first half. We probably should've put 14 points on the board, but we didn't and the seven penalties were brutal, it really effected what we were trying to do. In the second half, we got after it a lot more in terms of selling to our players that frankly we were a little embarrassing, and I told them that, at a very high voice level, and I never do that with a team, but it's almost anticipated when you come off a 1A game, you have to be up here just to survive and then you come back the next week no matter who you're playing and no matter how much you preach to them, there's a drop off. I don't want to use that as an excuse, but it played into the way we played in the first half. To our credit, the second half we stuck to the ground game, Zach did a great job running the ball, our two running backs rushed for over 200 yards and our offensive line moved people off the ball, our defense came up with some plays when they had to and I'm really happy to win this game. It's one of those games where we had to hang on and I told them at halftime that were going to be in a lot of CAA games, just like that at halftime. You have to have the ability to fight back, and I liked seeing that because I don't know that about this team yet or I didn't know that about this team because we played PITT and didn't really have that opportunity to really fight our way out, just because they were very good. So I'm very happy with the win and pleased we fight to live another day.
On 250 victories: You know what, I didn't even know it actually. They gave me the game ball after the game. It's a nice round figure and it kind of goes along with my last year here to be able to be in that with the era that's with the guys with 250 wins. I've really been blessed to stay at this school long enough with an administration and a group of athletes over time that could help you accumulate 250 victories. The head coach technically gets all the accolades, but it's really a group of people that make that right.
Running Back Javon White
On his though process before the fourth down play: The only thing I'm really thinking about right there, is finish. I know I have my teammates backing me, so I had no doubt.
On the talk at halftime: The main idea ahead of time was just to come together as a collective team and focus on the main goal of winning. We knew we could do it, it was only a matter of time. After halftime, we buckled down and got right to business.
Quarterback Zach Bednarczyk
On the play call on fourth down: It was a straight hand off. We knew he'd be able to get it, we run it all the time in practice and the running backs were running great tonight so there was no doubt in our minds that they were going to get the touchdown.
On the timeout and if they changed the play: Yeah we changed the play actually. It was going to be a quarterback run but then we went to give the ball to Javon since he's been running great all game.
Linebacker Austin Calitro
On the defense throughout the second half and how they stopped Lehigh on the last series: Yeah we just found the holes in our coverage. We just had some weak spots in our coverage, but we buckled down, and knew what they were doing ahead of time.