Delaware trailed just 14-10 at halftime and was down by single touchdown heading into the final quarter before Villanova put the game away on an 11-yard run by quarterback John Robertson and two interception returns for touchdowns over the final four minutes.
The young Blue Hens, who lost a third of their scholarship players to injuries at one point during the season, dropped their fourth straight game - all to Top 20 ranked teams - and finished the season with a 5-6 mark (2-6 CAA). The losing season was the Hens’ first since 2008 but only their fourth since 1988.
“We tried to limit their big plays but they are a pretty potent offense,” said Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler of a Villanova offense that averaged 30.2 points per game entering the game. “Things got away from us at the end when we were doing everything in our power to muster up some points. In this day and age of college football, you have to score points. We just weren’t able to find ways to put points on the board today. A mistake here and there hurt and that seemed to be the nature of our season. We just weren’t able to make critical plays when we needed them. I’m disappointed for our seniors because they could not have practiced any harder over the last month, which is a credit to them. I’m just disappointed it ended the way it did, especially in a rivalry game.”
Villanova, which downed the Hens for the fifth time in the last six games in this Battle of the Blue Rivalry, won its second straight game and its fourth in the last five outings. The Wildcats (8-3, 6-2 CAA), who claimed a share of the CAA title with the victory, will now hold out hope for the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament (should Old Dominion defeat James Madison Saturday night) or for one of 10 at-large berths.
Delaware managed its only points on a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Michael Johnson (top right) just four minutes into the game and on a 30-yard field goal by Sean Baner just 4:17 before halftime to cut the Wildcat lead to 14-10 at the break. The field goal was Baner’s 18th of the season, just three shy of the UD single season mark.
The Blue Hens could not contain the Villanova running game, which picked up 305 yards on the day, surpassing that mark for the fourth time in the last five games and for the fifth time overall this season. CAA rushing leader Kevin Monangai picked up 146 yards and scored a touchdown while Robertson, a strong candidate for CAA Rookie of the Year honors, ran for 134 yards and a touchdown and completed 15 of 21 passes for 193 yards and another score.
Delaware managed just 283 total yards on the day as the Hens were held to 84 yards rushing and 199 yards through the air. Quarterback Trent Hurley completed 23 of 35 passes for 188 yards but was intercepted three times and sacked three times.
Julian Laing led the UD running game with 75 yards while senior Nihja White (at left) completed his outstanding Delaware career with career-high 12 catches for 88 yards. He finished the season with 57 catches and became the first player in UD history to reach the 50-reception mark in three seasons. His 188 career receptions ranks No. 3 all-time at Delaware.
Senior linebacker Paul Worrilow (bottom right), a two-time All-CAA selection, closed out his outstanding career with a team-high 12 tackles while sophomore linebacker Patrick Callaway (bottom right) recorded 10 tackles. Worrilow, the CAA's leading tackler, closed his season with 107 stops and his career with 377, good for fifth place all-time.
Villanova piled up 498 total yards, the second highest mark against the Hens this season, but it was the Wildcat defense that assured the win.
Wildcats kicker Mark Hamilton booted field goals of 28 yards midway through the third quarter and 37 yards just two minutes into the final stanza to up the lead to 20-10.
Delaware was driving early in the fourth quarter but Ronnie Akins intercepted Hurley in the end zone with 7:13 left to play and the Wildcats followed with an 80-yard drive capped by Robertson's 11-yard scoring run with 5:13 left to push the advantage to 27-10.Akins struck again when he returned an interception 45 yards for a score with 3:47 left to play and two minutes later Eric Loper sealed the win with a 42-yard interception return for a score.