HAMILTON, N.Y — Defensive end Malik Fisher swung his arm down and clubbed the ball loose. After his Villanova teammates recovered the ball, he repeated the same punching motion, only this time on his helmet in celebration.
The first turnover of the season stopped Colgate’s best drive of the first half, and also sparked a string of four Villanova touchdowns in five drives that led to a 34-14 Wildcats win Saturday at Andy Kerr Stadium.
The series of touchdowns headlined a second quarter that saw the Wildcats outscore the Raiders, 27-0, and gain 183 yards to Colgate’s 34.
“The second quarter was where it was a breaking point,” said Fisher.
It all started with pressure on the Colgate quarterback Grant Breneman, who was hit numerous times while passing or running an option fake.
Early in the second quarter, Villanova linebacker Forrest Rhyne disrupted a screen pass that Jaquan Amos intercepted and returned 27 yards for a touchdown.
“Real pleased with how our defense came out and performed,” said Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante, “because [zone reads] are challenging and difficult when you have a guy that runs it as well as [Breneman] does.”
Last season, Colgate, a Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinalist, didn’t allow 34 points in its first 10 games combined.
On Saturday, the Wildcat offense poked holes throughout the defense.
Villanova frequently utilized motion, which quarterback Daniel Smith said shifted Colgate’s safeties, which left their previous locations vulnerable. A receiver’s motion and fake hand-off led to a wide open Jalen Jackson, who caught Smith’s pass for an 18-yard touchdown.
With 2 minutes, 7 seconds left in the second quarter, Smith connected with wide receiver Changa Hodge down the sideline for a 45-yard score.
Quick routes worked, too. Smith connected several times on basic curl routes near the sideline, and finished the game 14 of 29 for 205 yards and three touchdowns.
During Villanova’s final drive of the first half, Smith flashed the speed that made him the second all-time leading rusher at Campbell University before he transferred to Villanova. Smith is not a run-first quarterback, he said, but if the defense drops back in coverage and there’s a pocket, he’ll run. His 18-yard dash in the second quarter set up a third touchdown pass, a 15-yard strike to Andrew Perez with 12 seconds left in the half.
“After the pick six, the energy really shifted,” Smith said. “It kind of felt like, ‘Hey, we’re here let’s do this thing,’ and we started running around and making things happen as an offense.”