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The CAA Today: 'Nova Finishes the South's Dominance!
Bruce Dowd, CSN columnist
It was the last chance for a playoff hopeful team from the North to make a statement against a South team, but it wasn’t to be. Villanova took care of a very good New Hampshire team as the four elite teams from the South have now completed a perfect 12-0 record this year against the North.
As expected, Villanova proved to be too much at home for New Hampshire in a very hard fought and entertaining game. Also as I suspected, I think Villanova’s defense was the difference here between two very good teams both with powerful offenses.
The first quarter started out like a heavyweight fight with both teams exchanging punches and feeling each other out. Statistically, the first quarter was basically even but the big play was an interception from Whitney. While it was a tipped ball, it was still a bad pass which was intercepted by New Hampshire’s Sean Ware and returned 26 yards to the Villanova 34 yard line giving UNH a short field with about six minutes remaining in the first quarter.
On the very first series, R.J. Toman converted a big third down and 13 when he hit his favorite target, Mike Boyle for 22 yards. A few plays later, Robert Simpson went the final five yards in two carries as New Hampshire took the early 7-0 lead.
On the next series, Antwon Young took over the controls for Whitney. At first glance it seemed like that might be because of the turnover on the previous play by Whitney, but actually is was part of a game plan by Talley as he wanted to give Young some playing time in case Whitney goes down. After a bad exchange on the first play from scrimmage, Antwon looked sharp marching Nova downfield as the first quarter ended with Villanova on the UNH 35 yard line and driving.
The second quarter started with Nova and Antwon Young continuing their drive culminating in a Antwon Young touchdown from three yards out, tying the score 7-7. During this drive, Antwon rushed three times for a total of 14 yards and completed 3 of 4 passes for 40 yards.
New Hampshire answered right back with R.J. Toman doing most of the work. R.J. hit a big pass again to Mike Boyle, this time for 33 yards. Nova’s defense stiffened though and the drive ended in a Tom Bishop 36 yard field goal making giving UNH the lead, 10-7.
Not to be outdone in this back and forth battle, and with Chris Whitney back under center, Nova marched 69 yards on nine plays using four minutes off the clock to score a touchdown on a Whitney five yard toss to Brandyn Harvey.
Villanova now had the lead for the first time at 14-10, a lead they would never relinquish. As mentioned in many previous articles, there comes a time when you can look back at a sequence of plays and say that might have been the turning point. This next series was one of those times.
On first down from his own 20, Toman hit Scott Sicko for 41 yards and a first down on Nova’s 39 yard line. Two more passes by Toman had UNH first and ten on Nova’s 27 yard line when the wheels came off. On the next play, Toman hit Terrance Fox for 27 yards and an apparent touchdown. But the play was called back due to an illegal formation penalty, wiping out the go ahead score.
Three plays later, R.J. Toman fumbled while he was sacked and Villanova dodged a big bullet and had the ball back. Not much happened the rest of the way and the first half ended with Villanova leading 14-10.
Villanova had an edge statistically in that first half with six more first downs, and almost seven more minutes of possession time. The real story statistically though was 109 yards rushing for Villanova to five yards rushing for New Hampshire. This statistic was helped by three sacks on Toman, but just like against JMU and Richmond, this still very much underrated Villanova team was again winning the battle in the trenches.
The third quarter was a very interesting quarter and again a key factor in the outcome of the game. Perhaps embarrassed by the rushing totals in the first half, New Hampshire came out with a vengeance in the second half and started to run the ball right at Villanova. UNH started from their own 26 yard line and ran the ball on nine straight plays and got down all the way to the Villanova 34 yard line where R.J. Toman then hit Terrance Fox for 21 yards and a first down on Nova’s 13 yard line. The drive would stall though as Toman got dropped for one yard loss on a third and two forcing a second Tom Bishop field goal closing the gap to just one point at 14-13.
The next play was very interesting as New Hampshire took a big gamble and tried an onside kick, which didn’t work but kind of did work. What happened is that Villanova caught the kick and actually returned it to the UNH 30 yard line but then fumbled it giving the ball to back New Hampshire. UNH couldn’t do much with it and eventually punted, but on Villanova’s next possession, Nova went three and out and punted right back to UNH.
Two plays into the fourth quarter, a New Hampshire field goal attempt to take the lead hit the right upright and was no good. You could just sense that New Hampshire had blown their chance during this last stretch of time. Since the end of the first half, Villanova only had the ball for 1:37 and three plays and a punt. Yet during this entire time of dominate possession, 14 minutes in all, New Hampshire could only manage two field goal attempts and just three points. Failing to take advantage of this great start to the second half and huge time of possession, plus the touchdown called back in the second quarter with the subsequent fumble by Toman, together they proved to be UNH’s undoing.
Well, like all good teams do, Villanova smelled blood and went in for the kill. Nova then went on a 11 play, 73 yard drive ending in a Whitney four yard touchdown run making the score now 21-13. You could sense it was over at this point. Whitney accounted for all but 12 yards of this drive.
The rest of the quarter was mostly Villanova controlling the clock and time of possession. They did add a Marcoux field goal with 5:37 left to expand the lead to 24-13. Coach Talley had a very gutsy play call that kept that drive alive and it ended up being one of the key plays of the game. On a fourth down and one from their 38 yard line, Villanova faked the punt and Matthew Szczur took it around left end for six yards and a first down. After that play and subsequent field goal, it was obvious that any last minute heroics for UNH was not going to happen, as there just wasn’t enough time left to produce two more scores.
Like I said coming into this game, I felt that Villanova had the better team. Therefore, New Hampshire had to play a clean, mistake free game. Something they did not do, with a touchdown called back by a penalty, a fumble by Toman, a field goal that bounced off the upright and allowing a fake punt for a first down. On the other hand, Villanova played a very clean game, Nova only had one early turnover and incredibly, NO penalties in the entire game which is the first time that has happened since 1968.
In the press conference after the game, coach Talley had a lot of praise for his defense; “This game really belonged to our defense, they did the job that we needed in the second half. And then offensively when we needed to close things out . . . we came down to the punt [faked punt for a first down in fourth quarter as mentioned above] I had to do it then. It was unanimous from the staff, we had practiced that and I just felt the ball in Szczur’s hands was a good thing. It was a yard and we needed to close that drive out.”
Coach Talley also had this to say about the game; “This was a playoff game. I think you saw two playoff teams play today. I think we have been in three playoff games, JMU, Richmond and now New Hampshire . . . all in all, this was a very gutty and physical performance.”
Also, in describing his team’s defensive performance coach Talley talked about the game plan. There had been discussions earlier in the week as to how they should approach the game against New Hampshire and coach Talley decided to stay with the blitz, which is what Nova does a lot of defensively. Here was Andy’s comment on that; “Why change our personality. Let’s go in and see if they [New Hampshire] can handle it [blitzes]. If they can handle it you can always back off. But if you don’t get after it and try, you will never know.”
Coach Talley went on to say that while he had a lot of respect for New Hampshire and how good a team they are, that he still felt that he had the better team. When I pressed him to explain that further, like was it better line play, etc. his answer was different than I expected. He said that he just felt that Villanova had played a much tougher schedule than New Hampshire. That his team had already been in some wars and that would carry them when the going got tough at the end of the game.
After the game, coach McDonnell comments pretty much echoed what I saw and what coach Talley had to say. Here is what coach McDonnell said; “You get a feeling in the course of a game that some of those penalties that we had [were going to hurt us] . . . you can’t do those kind of things against a really good football team and that is a really good football team we just played . . . I knew we had to play pretty clean to win the football game and especially down here [Villanova]. You lose a touchdown in the first half on a penalty . . . I thought we did a great job in the second half of moving the football, did some things I thought we were capable of doing but just didn’t finish things off . . . they are blessed. They have two very good quarterbacks down here . . . hat goes off to Villanova, they played a lot cleaner game than us and won what I thought was a pretty good football game.”
It was obvious to me though that New Hampshire belonged on the field with Villanova. This was the first time this year that I saw UNH in person and I was impressed. A few breaks here and there and they could have won this game. They are also very balanced on offense and unlike in recent years past, they are much improved on defense.
I have now seen Villanova play three games in person this year, against Richmond, JMU, and now New Hampshire. I am convinced that Nova has the best lines in the CAA and in my opinion they won the war in the trenches against all three teams on both sides of the ball. They have a good kicking game, good return game, intricate and prolific offense and TWO quality quarterbacks. While I can’t really comment on which coaching staff is the best in the CAA, coach Talley and his staff are clearly at least one of the best. This is a complete football team. No weaknesses. I know they are not getting the respect that they deserve in the National Polls, but, when the smoke clears on December 19th in Chattanooga don’t be surprised if Nova is the last team standing. They are that good!
TAILGATE AND THE FANS:
Again, I must mention that it is a shame about the tailgating policy at Villanova. My rant from a few weeks ago about this situation has sparked many emails, all in favor of reinstituting tailgating at Villanova. I even cornered coach Talley after the press conference and asked him about it. I was surprised how strongly he felt as he expressed his desire to allow the tailgating, pointing out that other schools like Delaware are able to do it and control the problems. He is also very keenly aware of how it affects attendance. Many people point to the attendance problems for Villanova football and say it is because Philadelphia is a pro town, with the Eagles for example being so close. While, not so coincidentally, guess what the Eagles have that Villanova doesn’t have? You got it, tailgating open to the public.
Here are a few shots from my tailgating experience at Villanova last week and some good shots of the fans as well. You will see a few familiar faces from the last tailgate, but then again, there just isn’t that much tailgating going on.
The pictures above are of two guys who grew up knowing each other and then went to different schools, UNH and Nova. They are enjoying their time back together tailgating, playing some games and catching up. So, take note Villanova officials, two guys representing different teams having a great time tailgating WITHOUT any problems. It is just nice to see this stuff. This is what the spirit of tailgating is all about.
Here are two of my favorite guys, the Korwaski brothers holding court and serving a ton of people as they continue to raise money for the Blue White Scholarship Foundation. Thanks for the food and the shirt guys and keep up the great work.
The Korwaski brothers have some stiff tailgate competition from a guy I’ll called the NY Giants Guy. He always is flying a New York Giants flag with a Nova flag. He tailgates at the Vet when the Giants are in town, but wears his Giant gear at the Nova tailgate and then his Nova gear at the Eagles tailgate, so as to protect himself from any bodily injuries.
Here is the Giants Guy menu for the day. Like I said, some serious tailgating going on here folks with posted menus and all.
Giants Guy is joined by Joe Cahn, The Commissioner of Tailgating. We had a very interesting talk as this guy just travels all over the country doing nothing but visiting tailgates. When I grow up I want to be just like him. If you have never visited this guy’s site and if you are into tailgating, you need to click on the link above. It has everything you ever need to know about tailgating.
I wonder if #77 Travis Poston knows that this thing is on display in the parking lot.
Amazing what I find when I wonder around the Nova tailgating. Here is a guy, Burke Ward, who really believes in domestic beer. Here is what he had to say to me about his love for domestic beer; “Tailgating is great fun, and good beer is part of it. I will only drink quality beer and have traveled the world tasting beers and ales. About ten years ago, my friend Steve Wilsey and I began enjoying American craft and micro beers. Being patriotic Americans we decided that we would ‘buy American.’ . . . After sampling beers/ ales from many craft brewers between New York and D.C, we replaced the imports with exquisite full bodied brews from Victory Brewing, Downingtown, PA. Now, when we pour a cold one we know that we are helping our country and the local economy! We may have to import oil, but not beer.” So, I spent some time with these guys doing my part to help the local economy. It was the least I could do for my country.
I was told that these pretty ladies were the real bosses of the Football Club as they stayed under cover while sipping some fine wine.
You would think that nothing would surprise you this much about someone who you were sharing a blanket with.
No doubts who this guy is cheering for.
All together now; Ahhhhhhhh!
While dad didn’t want to miss this game, he obviously still has his priorities in the right place.
Wonder if this child will remember this game experience and what part will football play in this child’s life 15 years from now?
Another cute one, but are you noticing that the girls in the pictures are getting older as we move on in this article?
I had the impression that this “super cutie” knew one of the Nova players as she was sitting right behind where they come out onto the field.
A very happy Villanova Cheerleader.
Here is some of the halftime entertainment striking a nice pose just for us.
These cute Nova coeds are all smiles during this game.
More happy coeds. Must be something in the water.
Okay coach, be careful here as he is much bigger than you and by the expression on his face, he doesn’t look too frightened of you either. Perhaps a different tactic is in order.
And finally, again I want to mention how I worked hard supporting our American economy on Saturday.
That’s all for now and I hope you enjoyed the game article and please don’t forget to let me now what you think.
A special thanks to Enrigue Mendosa of Aurora Imaging Company for supplying a couple of great shots for your enjoyment, like the picture of Antwon running in the second quarter and the Antwon celebration picture at the end of the article. The rest of the pictures were supplied by yours truly. Please see the Villanova - New Hampshire Game Gallery on this site for all the pictures I took.