The Collegian
Saturday, April 13, 2024

Two missed kicks sink Spiders, end winning streak

Villanova University ended the University of Richmond football team's 17-game winning streak with a 21-20 victory in front of 11,667 at UR Stadium.

Richmond senior place kicker Andrew Howard had a chance to win it for the Spiders, but he missed a 35-yard field goal wide left with 5 seconds to play. He also missed an extra point on the previous Spider touchdown.

"That was a range we were hitting in pre-practice," Richmond head coach Mike London said. "You've got to kick those things and make them."

The Spiders had a chance to win the game on defense during the previous drive, but Villanova converted on a 4th and 11 from the 29-yard line when junior quarterback Chris Whitney hit senior wide receiver Brandyn Harvey for a touchdown with 59 seconds to play in the game.

"That was a great catch," London said. "We got a little pressure on the quarterback and made him put some loft under it ... [Harvey] used his athleticism and his hand kept going up and up and up and up and he just came down with it."

The loss snapped Richmond's 17-game winning streak, which dated back to October of last season when the Spiders lost at home to James Madison University. A win also would have guaranteed the Spiders at least a share of the Colonial Athletic Association conference title. Now, Villanova holds the tie breaker and controls its own destiny in the CAA championship race.

"Richmond really didn't deserve to lose today," Villanova head coach Andy Talley said. "I don't think either team did. ... In [FCS football] the deal is get to the playoffs and try to get some home field advantage. I don't think this loss is going to hurt them."

"We lost to a good team today," Richmond senior quarterback Eric Ward said. "The streak was good, but I mean we've got another football game to play next weekend. ... We just need to see what we did wrong in this game and try to correct it."

The Spiders scored with 2:22 to play in the fourth quarter to take their first lead of the game, 20-14. Richmond converted on a 4th and 1 from its own 47-yard line during the drive when freshman fullback Kendall Gaskins rushed for 3 yards.

"You play to win the game," London said of the decision to go for it on fourth down in Richmond territory during a tie game. "We're in this thing to win it. When it's fourth and one or less than two, I like our percentages."

Ward then completed a 26-yard pass to junior wide receiver Kevin Grayson to get the ball deep into Villanova territory. Two plays later, Gaskins punched in the touchdown from one yard out.

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But for the second time during the game, long snapper Jared Decker, the third snapper used by the Spiders this season, snapped the ball high to Ward, who was the holder. Ward managed to get the ball down, but Howard missed the PAT wide right, giving Villanova the opportunity to take the lead on the following drive.

"It was a great football game and unfortunately we were on the opposite end of it," London said. "It always stings when you lose a game, particularly when you had opportunities to make extra points."

Villanova could have taken a two-score lead early during the fourth quarter when the Wildcats were inside the Richmond 10-yard line, but Richmond junior linebacker Patrick Weldon intercepted Whitney's pass and returned it 70 yards, which led to Richmond's game-tying score early in the final period and re-energized the Spiders.

"We were running a blitz and my coverage responsibility I was able to get out of," Weldon said. "I was able to read the eyes of the quarterback."

Villanova started the scoring in the game during the first quarter, when the officials ruled that Villanova freshman wide receiver Dorian Wells was in bounds, even though replay showed he was behind the end line in the back of the end zone when he caught the pass.

When asked about the call, London said he had no comment. CAA officials said they would review the play before making a statement or admitting a mistake.

Richmond scored the second touchdown of the game to cut the Villanova lead to 7-6, but failed on the PAT because of another bad snap. Villanova added another score on a 23-yard pass from Whitney to junior wide receiver Matt Szczur in the second quarter and led 14-6 at halftime.

Ward finished the game 23 for 35 passing for 297 yards and a touchdown, but also threw two interceptions, including one in the red zone. Richmond senior running back Justin Forte ran for 57 yards on 14 carries.

For Villanova, Whitney completed 21 of 34 passes and threw for three scores. The Wildcats managed only 79 yards rushing during the game against a Richmond run defense that ranks third in the Football Championship Subdivision.

The Spiders, now 8-1 on the year and 6-1 in the CAA, will return to action at 1 p.m. next Saturday when they travel to play Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Ward said he thought his team would recover from the loss and learn from it, as they did last season when they started the season 4-3 before winning nine straight to win the FCS Championship.

"In the past, we've been able to handle losses like this in a positive way and come back out and do well the rest of the season," Ward said. "There's a lot of veteran leadership on this team and I know that we will do the same thing [next week]."

Contact staff writer Reilly Moore at

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