Villanova Wildcats Top Lehigh 26-21 in 2016 Home Opener

Javon White rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns, Zach Bednarczyk ran for 106 yards, and #22 Villanova recovered from a sloppy, mistake-filled first-half to defeat Lehigh 26-21 in its home opener. The win provided Coach Andy Talley with his 250th career victory.

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Villanova overcame a 14-6 halftime deficit by mounting a dominating rushing attack and eliminating penalties which hampered the Wildcats throughout the first-half. In the first-half, Villanova accumulated 7 penalties for 70 yards and experienced troubles with its kicking game. The Wildcats kicker Gerard Smith missed both an extra point and a field goal in the first quarter.

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Villanova opened the scoring on a 3 yard run by Javon White to take a 6-0 lead with 1:46 remaining in the first quarter. Smith missed the extra point attempt. Earlier in the period, Smith whiffed on a 39 yard field goal attempt. The Lehigh Mountain Hawks grabbed the lead on a 1 yard touchdown run by Dom Bragalone and a successful extra point conversion by Ed Mish at the 12:46 mark of the second quarter. Lehigh scored again on a 6 yard run by QB Nick Shafnisky with 2:03 left in the first half.Following Mish’s extra point conversion, the Mountain Hawks led 14-6.

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In the second half, the Wildcats relied almost exclusively on their running game to mount the comeback. After a failed 40 yard field goal attempt by Mish, Villanova marched 77 yards on 7 plays (all runs) to score on an Aaron Forbes 20 yard burst. Bednarczyk ran for a two point conversion and the game was tied at 14-14. Villanova then regained the lead following a 5 play 78 yard drive, all on the ground, culminated by a one-yard dash by QB Adeyemi DaSilva for the score. Once again, the Wildcats failed to convert the extra point try when Steve Weyler’s kick was blocked. This left Villanova in front 20-14.

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In the 4th quarter, Lehigh drove 75 yards in 10 plays to recapture the lead. The Mountain Hawks score came on an 11 yard toss from Shafnisky to wide receiver Derek Knott. Mish’s extra point made the score 21-20 in favor of the visitors. Villanova, showing its grit, then drove 83 yards in 8 plays to retake the lead, 26-21. The Wildcats scored on a 2 yard run up the gut by Javon White, his second touchdown of the night. The determined Mountain Hawks made one last try at the upset by marching deep into Villanova territory before coming up short by 2 yards on a 4th and 10 pass from Shafnisky to Troy Pelletier.

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Villanova amassed 417 yards on the ground. White gained a net 155 yards on 23 carries and 2 scores. Bednarczyk added a net 92 yards rushing. Bednarczyk also threw for 56 yards on 6-13 attempts. Aaron Forbes picked up 87 yards on 4 rushes, and Jarrett McClenton ran for 46 yards on 8 carries. Taurus Phillips was Villanova’s top receiver with 2 catches for 33 yards. On the defensive side, Villanova’s leading tacklers were linebackers Austin Calitro and Ed Shockley with 10 each. Rasaan Stewart had an interception. For Lehigh, Troy Pelletier grabbed 13 passes for 121 yards. Derek Knott had 7 receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown. Dom Bragalone was Lehigh’s leading rusher with 90 yards and a score. Nick Shafnisky completed 29-41 for 246 yards, 1 touchdown, and had one toss picked off.  Colton Caslow was Lehigh’s leading tackler with 10.

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Villanova (1-1) returns to action next Saturday, September 17 when it hosts Towson at 3:30 p.m. in a conference matchup. Lehigh (0-2), coached by Andy Coen, will return to Philadelphia next Saturday to play the Penn Quakers at Franklin Field.

[Photos by: Josh Campbell Photography]

[Article by Stephen Miller]

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