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Villanova rolls past Appalachian State and into FCS semifinals

BOONE, N.C. - Villanova advanced to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision semifinals with its second road win of the postseason, a 42-24 victory over No. 2 Appalachian State on Saturday.

Matt Szczur had a hand in five of Villanova's six touchdowns on Saturday. (Ron Cortes/Staff file photo)
Matt Szczur had a hand in five of Villanova's six touchdowns on Saturday. (Ron Cortes/Staff file photo)Read more

BOONE, N.C. - Villanova continued a strong bid to defend its national championship with a definitive 42-24 victory over top-seeded Appalachian State on Saturday, on the Mountaineers' home turf.

The Wildcats (9-4) advanced to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision semifinals, where they will face

With Delaware's victory over New Hampshire in another FCS quarterfinal on Friday, Villanova and Delaware remain on a path to a title-game matchup in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 7.

Villanova defeated Delaware in overtime in the last game of the regular season. The two teams have never met in the playoffs.

Wildcats senior wideout Matt Szczur scored or was part of five of the team's six touchdowns. Szczur tallied a career-high three rushing touchdowns, a 30-yard touchdown reception and a 54-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Norman White.

"He makes a big difference for us," Villanova head coach Andy Talley said. "It's hard to believe that one player could have that kind of grasp over a team."

After Szczur missed seven games with a high ankle sprain, Talley said the senior has proved to be a huge spark for the Wildcats' offense in the last three games.

"We knew if he could get back healthy, he'd have a helluva game," Wildcats quarterback Chris Whitney. "It's just how he plays every week and is a credit to the kind of person he is, and the kind of player he is."

Against the Mountaineers (10-3), Szczur rushed for 104 yards on 16 carries, completed 2 of 2 passes for 58 yards, and snagged five receptions for 45 yards.

"You never really know what he's going to do," Appalachian linebacker Bobby Bozzo said of Szczur.

Bozzo added that much of Szczur's versatility is a result of Villanova's strong offensive line, which Bozzo compared to that of the University of Florida.

"They have great technique," Bozzo said. "A lot of times when you have big guys like that, their technique will lack."

Szczur's healthy presence and a strong performance from the offensive line allowed Whitney, who hadn't practiced during the week after suffering a hard hit at the end of Villanova's game against Stephen F. Austin last Saturday, to relax a little.

Whitney completed 12 of 16 passes for 106 yards and one touchdown. He also had 13 rushing attempts for 33 yards and a touchdown.

"I think that's a credit to our offensive line, they played unbelievable today," Whitney said. "Even when they came in the box, our offensive line got push on them all day. That was the key to us winning today."

The Mountaineers scored on their first possession, and followed with a 19-yard field goal. But Villanova took complete control after that, scoring four touchdowns and taking a 28-10 halftime lead.

For Villanova's defense, junior defensive back James Pitts led in tackles with 14 overall, 11 solo and three assisted, as well as a fumble recovery.