Conventional football wisdom is if you win the toss, defer to the second half and put your defense on the field. Real wisdom when you are facing a team that has given up 462 yards per game against lesser opponents is to take the ball and see if they can stop you.
The answer came quickly Saturday night at Villanova Stadium. Lafayette could not stop the Wildcats. Nor could its offense move the ball. This is generally not a good combination – unless, of course, you are Villanova playing its final non-conference game before embarking on the always difficult CAA schedule Saturday at Albany.
Villanova had 20 points before Lafayette had a first down, 49 before the Leopards got a second first down. If there had been a mercy rule, this would have been called early in the second quarter. Alas, they played all 60 minutes and Villanova won, 59-0. It was 49-0 at the half.
First-year Leopards coach John Garrett (brother of the Cowboys’ Jason) might want to call on 1976 Lafayette grad Joe Maddon, the Cubs manager, for some divine intervention for his 0-3 team. First-year Villanova coach Mark Ferrante was bequeathed a very good team, with weapons everywhere, that is ranked No. 7 in FCS for a reason. The schools are 66 miles apart. It felt like 666.
“We did a real good job in all three phases,” said Ferrante, who was also excited that he was able to use players who might be needed later.
At one point, `Nova (2-1) had 260 yards, while Lafayette had 4. It was 340-25 at halftime, 505-77 for the game. Cats reserves played the second half.
Villanova quarterback Zach Bednarczyk had near perfect passing. He threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and did not play after halftime.
“Every single time, it felt like they were going three and out.” Bednarczyk said. “It was great to get back on the field with a chance to score.”
Junior tight end Ryan Bell was borderline unstoppable. The former walk-on turned NFL prospect had two touchdown catches, the second a 37-yard streak down the right sideline worthy of a wideout. He also took a slant 59 yards on the second play from scrimmage. The Cats scored three touchdowns on returns – two on interceptions, another on a punt.
It was a great performance against an overmatched opponent. It is all about the conference now, and the competition will be ratcheted up dramatically.