Powered by a dominant pass rush and a ball-control running attack, Villanova (6-2 Overall, 4-1 CAA) dispatched of Albany (4-3, 1-3) with an impressive 24-13 victory to cap off an exciting Homecoming weekend on the Main Line. The win was key for the Cats as they fight for a playoff berth.
The Cats dominated the first three quarters of the game by playing strong defense and tallying one rushing touchdown in each quarter. ‘Nova took a 24-0 lead into the fourth quarter by virtue of a 32-yd field goal by Gerard Smith. The ‘Nova offensive line played well together and keyed the strong running attack.
Aaron Forbes scored two of the touchdowns on his way to accumulating 151 yards on the ground. Matt Gudzak scored the other touchdown on a 2-yd run. ‘Nova QB, Zach Behdnarczyk was able to play after clearing concussion protocol from the Richmond game. He completed 9 of 15 pass attempt for 82 yards and ran for 37 net yards.
Albany responded with two scores in the fourth quarter - first, on a 65-yd touchdown run and late on a 40-yd fumble recovery return.
The Wildcat defensive effort was highlighted by nine sacks which helped limit the Great Danes to only 161 yards of total offense. The one big play touchdown accounted for a huge chunk of that total offense for Albany. Albany essentially had no offense other than the running of Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks.
The ‘Nova sack attack was led by Ed Shockley (3.5 sacks - 10 total tackles), Tanoh Kpassagnon (1.5 sacks - 5 tackles) and Jeff Steeb (1.0 sacks - 9 tackles). Austin Calitro again had a solid game with 6 tackles and a half a sack.
On Friday night, Villanova dedicated the new Andrew J. Talley Athletic Center:
On Saturday the Wildcats emerged through a throng of alumni from the locker room in the new building to take the field.
Villanova wore special helmets honoring Coach Talley:
Link to Box Score
Opening statement: Obviously, happy to win, especially with Zach Bednarczyk really not having very much practice last week. We were really concerned. We knew going into the game that we would really have to rely on our running game and then assess how he was and make sure that he was safe and that he was on par in terms of knowing what was going on. It was a little slippery coming into this game. This is the same Albany team that took Richmond to the wire and actually should have won the game and then had a tough loss up at Maine. They were looking to rebound, so I knew we were going to be playing a talented team that was looking to rebound. All in all, we came up with the running game that we needed. Zach hung in there. Our defense was superb. They kept us in the game for sure and just did a fabulous job. At no time in the game was I worried that they were going to put a lot of points on us. We gave them a touchdown at the end with the fumble that they ran in. All in all, our defense really stymied them, and I was real confident that we could hang in there at the end. When we kind of got stuck there in the end, I never thought that we were in jeopardy unless something crazy happened. We're really happy to win. Six wins right now is important for us. We now have a week off to get our kids back to where we need to get them, get everybody healthy and see if we can make a playoff run.
On rebounding after a tough loss last week: I didn't really think about it that much, because we kind of erased the board when Zach went out of the game last week. I just felt like we didn't have enough of a package at quarterback. I can't emphasize to you how important the quarterback is to each and every college football team in the country. You go to number two, I don't care where he is, you're going to struggle against a team like Richmond. When he went out, that really limited what we could really do. He took all of the reps that week and Adeyemi DaSilva came in. I feel like that is something we put in the rearview mirror and we just felt like this was a team, Albany, that was an up-and-coming team and we needed to be ready and just stepped up. When you play in the CAA, you're going to have a war every single week.
On the running game: It was something we thought we needed to have in order to beat Albany. I knew we weren't going to sling it, first of all because of where Zach was not practicing a lot, and secondly with the wind. It was hard to throw into it, and it was hard to throw with it. We tried to hit a pass down the sideline, and normally he'd put that on the money. It just outstretched the hands of Taurus Phillips. It was a tough game to throw, so we needed to have a good running game. We do have one. It was exactly what the doctor ordered.
On his defense getting nine sacks during the game: Unbelievable. I feel that a lot of it was Tanoh Kpassagnon. He had a lot of pro scouts here today. He was geared up, and we felt like we had an opportunity to get after their quarterback pretty good.
On when he knew he was going to play: I felt comfortable out there. For most of the week, I was experiencing no symptoms, so that was a good sign. With the protocol, you have to wait a bunch of days. All week I was taking mental reps, because I couldn't get on the field at all. I felt confident in the game plan. Thursday toward the end of practice, I was finally cleared. So that was helpful. Friday, we went over a little bit more, because it looked like I was going to pass the contact test, which I was able to pass. For the most part all week, I felt confident.
On if the team felt any pressure this week: I think we were excited, because we knew a bunch of former players were going to be back, a lot of guys that we knew, plus a lot of guys that we had never met before. So, we wanted to go out and play the very best that we could play to make them proud. It was a great ceremony yesterday, but we definitely tried not to let it get in the way of our playing.
On how the team splits reps and the running game plan: Sometimes, Javon White gets more carries. Sometimes, Matt Gudzak gets more carries. It just varies game to game, and it just happened today that I got the most. As a group, we get very excited with the weapons that we have and what we can do on the field against other teams.
On the way the defense played today: We definitely executed the game plan. Everybody did their job. If we do that every time, that's going to be the result. We definitely have a lot of great players that take the attention off of other people, such as Tanoh Kpassagnon, Austin Calitro, Jeff Steeb and even Rob Rolle in the safety position. You can't key in on one guy. If you key in on one person, it allows other people to make plays. I feel like we just have playmakers all across the board on our defense.