On the opening play from scrimmage at Fisher stadium on Saturday evening, Villanova’s Tanoh Kpassagnon returned a fumble 25 yards for a touchdown and an immediate Wildcat lead.
On the ensuing drive, the ‘Nova defense held Lafayette to a short drive but a found themselves pinned back at the 9 yard line after a quality Leopard punt. The Cats went on a 14 play, 88 yard drive that burned 5:05 off the clock to flip the field but turn the ball over on downs at the Lafayette 3. Villanova’s final drive of the first quarter yielded the first made FG of the season for the Cats - a Gerard Smith, 37-yarder that staked the Cats to a 10-0 lead at 13:55 in the second quarter.
The ‘Nova defense held the Leopards to seven yards on five plays on their next possession and the resulting punt had ‘Nova starting at their own 17 yard line. From there, the Cats exploded for 83 yards on 6 plays to score on a Javon White, 1 yard run and build a 17-0 lead.
Two possessions later, Lafayette responded with 8 play, 78 yard drive, capped off by a 14-yard TD pass from Drew Reed to Yasir Thomas to cut the margin to 17-7 entering half-time.
Lafayette came out strong in the second half, forcing a quick three-and-out for the Cats and then driving the ball 68 yards in 7 plays to cut the lead to 17-14 on a 19-yard TD pass to Tim Vangelas from Drew Reed.
Seeing the lead cut to three points, the Wildcat defense responded by holding the Leopards to only 127 additional yards from scrimmage (grabbing 3 Interceptions, forcing 3 punts and ending the final Lafayette drive on downs). The first of the three interceptions was returned 45 yards for a TD by Jeff Steeb with 2:17 remaining in the third quarter to close out the scoring for both teams as the fourth quarter resulted in both teams going scoreless. Just prior to the Steeb touchdown, Villanova had taken a 24-14 lead by virtue of a 3-yard run by Aaron Forbes that finished off a short, 25-yard drive - the great field position for the drive was set up by a blocked punt.
Villanova advances to 3-1 on the season and gets back into the CAA conference portion of the schedule next week at Elon (Saturday, Oct 1st, 3:30 PM ET Kick-Off, 610 Sports).
Standout Stats for the Cats:
- 14-0 advantage in points of turnovers
- Perfect place-kicking game with 4-4 PATs and 1-1 FGs (37 yd)
- ‘Nova averaged 5.7 yards per rush
- Wildcat defense held Leopards to only 1.8 yards per rush
- 4-1 edge in turnovers (3 picks and a fumble recovery)
- 111 yards rushing for Aaron Forbes on only 11 carries
- Tanoh Kpassagnon - TD fumble return, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss
- 10 tackles for Shayne Jones, Jeff Steeb with 9, Austin Calitro with 8
Villanova Head Coach Andy Talley:
Opening Statement: I think Lafayette played really, really hard. I was impressed with Frank’s team. I think they came out and really played at a high level and really gave us a run. We got into the third quarter and they closed the gap, made it close and I think we were fortunate. We had a blocked punt which was a short field and gave us a chance to score, and we had a couple turnovers, interceptions which helped us.
We didn’t have a very good game offensively. I think that Lafayette had a lot to do with that frankly. They blitzed us several times and put pressure on Zach Bednarczyk, and I think that it forced us to try to get our rushing game going a little bit better. Aaron [Forbes] played very well for us, had 111 yards, just did a great job for us but I think we won this game defensively.
Tanoh Kpassagnon our defensive end was putting pressure on their guy a lot and I would say this was a day, when you have a good defense they can save the day because we didn’t set the world on fire offensively. So my hat’s off to Lafayette. They’ve played some really rough, tough teams; Delaware, us, I know they have Army on their schedule. There’s nothing worse when you’re trying to build something than to have a killer schedule like they have, so they gave us everything we wanted and more.
On having a 17-0 lead turn into 17-14 with Lafayette in possession of the ball: I think the only thing I can say right now is that it helps us as a team that’s on the rise to grow and be in a tough game. We had the same situation against Lehigh, we were down at halftime against them so it brings out the fight in your team. You’re always going to have to have the ability to fight and come back. The CAA is built that way. If you don’t have a team that can get yourself out of trouble and find a way to win, you’re not going to go far in the league. This was a great preparation for us to continue our acceleration. I just like that we won this game in a lot of different areas; special teams, defense, we had enough offense to get through it but we still have to continue to grow.
On whether he remembers scoring a defensive touchdown on the first play of the game: Yeah, I think we did against New Hampshire in the playoffs. I think it was the quarterfinal game.
On the kicking game: We were working hard to try to improve with the kicking game, especially with the field goal. I was so happy to see our guy make a field goal and make his extra points because it’s like every time he does something like an extra point or field goal you almost have a heart attack wondering how it’s going to end up. He did a good job tonight, the efficiency was good, we blocked a punt then we came back and misjudged a punt, dropped a punt and had a fumble on a punt. So it’s critically important for us to continue to improve. We have a lot of young guys. We have a lot of young guys playing right now so I’m really happy to win.
On the fake field goal in the first quarter: That was exactly the thought process on the fake. They, coming into the game know we haven’t been very successful with the field goal. Now we have a short field goal so they’re figuring, okay, they’re going to kick a field goal. Had John Hinchen thrown the ball better it would have been a touchdown but he underthrew it. Our kid had to slow down to catch it and they tackled us on the two.
Senior defensive lineman Tanoh Kpassagnon:
On Lafayette cutting a 17-0 lead to 17-14: Our motto on defense is stop the run and I feel like we did that. We tap the rock every day as a team and that’s just another way of us tapping the rock. We were down but we knew what we could do, we fixed our mistakes and came back.
On the team having four defensive touchdowns in four games: Our goal is to have a lot of explosive plays, more explosive plays than their offense does, and scoring is obviously one. Our DB [Rob] Rolle is really shelling out. Our defense is kind of young and I knew they were going to show a lot of stuff this year. I’m really excited to see what else they have.
On whether he remembers a defensive touchdown on the first play of the game at any point in his career: No, never.
Sophomore running back Aaron Forbes:
On the Villanova running backs: We have so many weapons back there. Me being a young guy, being a sophomore it is actually amazing for me. It’s good experience. I get to watch Javon White, an older guy, he does well every game and helps me every practice do what I need to do. He actually pushes me because I’m a competitor, so he pushes me to do better. A guy who’s not on the field right now, Matt Gudzak, he also helps me a lot as well. He gives me enough pointers where I have games like this.
On moving the ball well early, then hitting a lull: Lafayette definitely plays hard defense. They fly to routes on the ball, they play very hard. We didn’t make many mistakes but it’s kind of a combination of both.
On whether he remembers a defensive touchdown on the first play of the game at any point in his career: Yes, in my high school. Senior year I played corner and had an interception for a touchdown on the first play.