For the first time since beating Bucknell six weeks ago, it all came together for Villanova in a 45-21 romp over Richmond Saturday.
After being shutout at home in back-to-back weeks for the first time in program history and scoring just 10 points in its last three games, the offense came to life and racked up 427 total yards to help the Wildcats snap a four-game losing streak and pick up its first CAA win of the season.
As for the defense, which surrendered 71 points in the last two games, the Wildcats (4-5, 1-5 league) forced seven turnovers (five interceptions, two fumbles) and held the Spiders to 335 total yards.
Sophomore cornerback Nowoola Awopetu became the first player in program history to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a single game. He returned an interception 20 yards for a TD midway through the third quarter and ran a pick back 18 yards for a score later in the period. Freshman corner Christian Benford had three interceptions.
Aaron Forbes carried the ball 20 times for a career-high 160 yards and one touchdown to become the 11th player in program history to rush for 2,000 yards in a career. He has rushed for 2,089 yards in his career. Forbes’ 19-yard scoring run in the first quarter gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead they would not relinquish.
Ball control was key, especially with freshman Qadir Ismail making the first start of his career. Playing for the injured Zach Bednarczyk, the 6-7, 220-pound rookie completed 8 of 17 passes for 132 yards and one touchdown. The Wildcats ran for 257 yards and held the ball for 38 minutes.
“I think our offensive line really came to play today and our running backs hit the right holes,” Ismail said. “That’s where it started, up front. They really played well today.”
The story of the day, though, was defense. Richmond (3-6, 1-5) could not get anything going against the Wildcats. Three of the Spiders’ first five possessions ended in turnovers. It didn’t get any better in the second half. Richmond coughed it up four straight times in the third quarter. Safety Chucky Smith recovered two fumbles and led the Wildcats with 10 tackles.
“We were able to come away with our first conference victory of the season and I told the guys in the locker room that was a good feeling,” Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante said. “I was proud of how they kept practicing all week and I am proud of how they played today. I told them that we put a lot of points on the board and I didn’t care how we got them after the last few games we had. It was just good to get in the end zone and obviously a couple of defensive touchdowns helped with that.”