By Ben Sullivan
So much for Villanova’s dreams of an FCS national championship.
Richmond upset the fourth-ranked Cats 10-9 as each team scored a third-quarter touchdown and kicked a field goal earlier. Villanova (7-2, 4-1 CAA) missed its PAT attempt, wide right. The defense of Richmond (7-2, 4-1), ranked 13th in the FCS poll, played its best game of the season — maybe in several seasons — given the opposition.
Villanova, whose only loss came at Syracuse in double overtime Aug. 29, was averaging 42 points, tops in the CAA. The Spiders held VU quarterback John Robertson, a leading candidate for the FCS offensive player of the year, to 65 rushing yards on 22 carries and 139 passing yards on 25 attempts. The junior was averaging 233 passing yards and had thrown 25 touchdown passes.
“We knew that we could stop him with our base defense,” said UR linebacker Omar Howard (Midlothian High), who was involved in 18 tackles. “We played pretty much our base defense the whole game. We just knew that we had to keep him in a pocket, keep him contained, and not let him extend plays.”
UR limited Villanova to its fewest points since the Wildcats lost 20-9 to Monmouth in the 2011 season, which VU finished 2-9.
“Certainly, we needed it more than they did,” said UR coach Danny Rocco, whose team has won five consecutive games. “I don’t think there’s a whole lot of science to that.”
Michael Rocco (photo above) passed for 314 yards, 119 of them on eight catches by Brian Brown (Hermitage High), and scored Richmond’s touchdown on a 15-yard run with 6:18 left in the third quarter. That gave the Spiders the 10-9 lead that stood up because of the defensive effort keyed by constant pressure on Robertson.
Trailing by one, Villanova had three four-quarter possessions. Richmond prohibited the Wildcats from entering UR territory on all three.
“They played very well on defense,” Robertson said. “By the same token, I think I played very bad (compared) to what I should be doing. I let down my team. Our defense played great keeping us in the game. We shouldn’t play like this on offense.”
Each team had three first-quarter turnovers, a strange start for a game involving league championship contenders. Richmond lost a fumble (center-QB exchange) at VU’s 1, and early in the fourth quarter, Rocco threw an interception while getting hit on third and goal from the Wildcats’ 8.
Offensively, “we kind of played in spurts,” said Danny Rocco.
Villanova was more error-prone. Wildcats punter John Hinchen allowed a snap to slip through his hands, and Richmond took advantage of the field position by kicking a field goal. UR linebacker Eric Wright intercepted a poor Robertson pass in the end zone. And the missed PAT cost VU.
“It was just a really hard-fought game, kind of one of those old-time ugly games that could go either way at the end,” said VU coach Andy Talley. “They were better than us in the fourth quarter.”