“So you’re telling me there is a chance?” -Lloyd Christmas, ‘Dumb & Dumber’
The Villanova Wildcats entered the fourth quarter trailing the Delaware Blue Hens 34-12 in the ‘Battle of the Blue’ at PPL Park on Saturday, November 23rd. Down by a score of 14-9 at the half, Villanova was outscored 20-3 in the third quarter. Delaware seemed to be in complete charge, and possibly on the way to a FCS playoff appearance. In the third quarter, Delaware’s defense took advantage of an errant pass by QB John Robertson that was picked off by Travis Hawkins, as well as a flag against the Wildcats, which resulted in the Blue Hens stretching their lead to 21-9. Villanova responded by driving 62 yards in 8 plays to make the score 21-12 on a Mark Hamilton 28-yard field goal.
Delaware scored twice more to close out the third quarter. With 5:16 left in the quarter, Delaware scored on a 22-yard flea flicker from QB Trent Hurley to wide receiver Michael Johnson. Sean Baner converted the extra point to push the lead to 28-12. With 1:24 to go in the quarter, Delaware scored again on a 10 yard run by star running back Andrew Pierce to make it 34 -12. However, Baner’s extra point was blocked.
In the fourth quarter, after forcing the Blue Hens to punt, Villanova drove 74 yards in 10 plays to score a touchdown on a Robertson 10 yard pass to senior Joe Price (who had missed the last several games with an injury). Hamilton, who had an extra point blocked in the first half, converted to make it a 34-19 game with 8:01 left on the clock. The Wildcats again forced Delaware to punt and took over on their own 19 yard line. Villanova went 81 yards in only 6 plays scoring on a 21 yard toss from Robertson to Price. Hamilton converted the extra point to make it 34-26 with 3:17 to go in the game. Villanova’s defense forced yet another punt by the Blue Hens. The Wildcats then culminated a 5 play, 58 yard march with a 25 yard pass from Robertson ( his third of the day) to Gary Underwood, who was wide open as the Blue Hens came with an all out blitz. The score now stood at 34-32 with 1:45 left. Villanova’s two point attempt was no good as Robertson’s pass went astray under heavy pressure .
At this point in the game it was crystal clear to everyone on the field and in the stands that Villanova would try an onside kick. Even Lloyd Christmas knew the Wildcats would try an onside kick, and so they did. Chris Gough dribbled a perfect onside kick which he himself recovered. The Wildcats now found themselves in position to pull off an amazing comeback if they could take advantage of Gough’s terrific footwork and recovery. Villanova took 7 plays to march to the Delaware 7 yard line. With 0:05 showing on the clock, Hamilton booted the winning 24 yard field goal to give the Wildcats an astonishing 35-34 win over their fierce rival. For Villanova fans, the win was even more exquisite than the remarkable sunset that took place in the 2nd quarter.
Robertson ended up rushing for 165 yards on 31 carries, including his 20th rushing TD of the season. He also threw for 252 yards and 3 touchdowns, hitting on 19 of 28 passes. Kevin Monangai added 83 yards rushing on 12 carries, Austin Medley gained 82 yards on 9 runs. Price had a huge day for Villanova catching 5 passes for 103 yards and two TDs. Poppy Livers snagged 7 passes for 63 yards. Hamilton kicked three field goals , including the game winner. Villanova gained 355 yards on the ground, and 291 yards in the air. On defense, Co-Captain Antoine Lewis and LB Don Cherry were Villanova’s leading tacklers. It was slightly disappointing to not see a larger crowd at PPL Park for such a fierce rivalry (and fantastic game). Those fans in attendance were rowdy and engaged but a packed house would have been truly special.
For Delaware, Hurley completed 19 of 26 for 231 yards and two touchdowns Hurley also caught a Touchdown pass in the first-half. Andrew Pierce was the Blue Hens leading rusher gaining 52 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Michael Johnson caught 8 passes for a game high 127 yards and 2 TDs.
With the win in its regular season finale, Villanova is 6-5 overall; 5-3 in the CAA. Delaware, also playing in its regular season finale, fell to 7-5 overall; 4-4 in the CAA. With the win, Villanova Coach Andy Talley is now 14-12 versus the Blue Hens.
The question now is whether Villanova, with the win over Delaware, has a chance to gain a berth in the FCS playoffs. One out of a hundred? One out of a million? Coach Talley could always ask Lloyd Christmas if he thinks there is still a chance.
[Photo credit: D. Jacob Miller Photography]
You can view additional photos in the gallery below (click thumbnails to enlarge):