Villanova Wildcats football
|Head coach||Andy Talley|
|Home stadium||Villanova Stadium|
|Stadium capacity||12,000 (expandable to 13,500 with temporary seating)|
|League||NCAA Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision|
|Conference||Colonial Athletic Association|
|Past conferences||Yankee Conference (1987-1996), Atlantic 10 (1997-2005)|
|All-time record||583–460–39 (.557)|
|Postseason bowl record||2–2–1 (.500)|
|Claimed national titles||1 (2009 FCS)|
Blue and White
|Fight song||"V for Villanova"|
|Mascot||Will D. Cat|
|NCAA FCS Playoff Appearances||2012, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2002, 1997, 1996, 1992, 1991, 1989|
|Rivals||Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens
The Villanova Wildcats football program represents Villanova University in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA). The Wildcats currently compete in the Colonial Athletic Association for football only. They play on campus at Villanova Stadium with capacity of 12,000, and play select games at PPL Park in Chester, PA with capacity of 18,000. Andy Talley has been head coach of the program since it was reinstated in 1985 and led the program to its first NCAA Division I National Championship in 2009.
- 1 History
- 2 Andy Talley era
- 3 Wildcats in professional football
- 4 Bowl games
- 5 Playoffs
- 6 Villanova Stadium
- 7 PPL Park
- 8 Football upgrade controversy
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The Wildcats football team played their first game in November 1894 coached by Mike Murphy. They continued to play as an independent team for 87 seasons participating in several Bowl Games and sending numerous players into Professional football including NFL Hall of Fame defensive end, Howie Long. On April 14, 1981 the program was officially disbanded due to weak attendance and monetary reasons cited by the University Board of Directors. Athletic Director Ted Aceto had stated they had sold only 750 season tickets for the 1980 season with 95 scholarship Players.
Under heavy pressure from alumni and students, the program was reinstated by the Board of Trustees in April 1984 and sponsored a sold out Blue-White intrasquad game for Homecoming that November. Led by current head coach Andy Talley, they began playing a couple of regulation NCAA games in September 1985. The reborn program had instant success, beginning with an undefeated 5 game schedule against Division III competition and beatingthe NAVY JV's. The program moved up to 1-AA (FCS) and joined the Yankee Conference in 1987, beginning official competition in 1988.
Led by QB Kirk Schulz and WR Robert Brady the Wildcats reached the 1-AA playoffs in 1989, bowing to eventual champions Georgia Southern in a spirited, high scoring game.
Led by All-American linebacker Curtis Eller, the 'Cats returned to the 1-AA playoffs in 1991 and 1992, bowing each time to eventual champion Youngstown State.
All-American wide receiver Brian Finneran led the Wildcats to the 1-AA playoffs in 1996 before bowing to East Tennessee State.
The 1997 season marked Villanova's first undefeated, untied regular season, as well as their first time reaching #1 in the FCS rankings. The 1997 'Cats featured two future Payton Award winners- Finneran and freshman running back Brian Westbrook. The Cat's defeated Colgate in the 1-AA playoffs before falling a 3rd time to nemesis Youngstown State.
In 2002, led by All-American QB Brett Gordon, Villanova advanced to the NCAA FCS semifinals, defeating Fordham and Furman before falling to McNeese State.
In 2008, a sophomore-laden squad led by all-purpose back Matt Szczur and QB Chris Whitney. Villanova was on the verge of becoming a national powerhouse a vast amount of talent, Ben Ijalana was the starting tackle, and started every single game in his career at Villanova eventually getting drafted in the 2nd round of the NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts. Ijalana was drafted the 2nd highest in school history, behind Hall-of-famer Howie Long and in front of pro-bowler Brian Westbrook. Linebacker Darrell Young was a very talented player, who ended up signing onto the Washington Redskins and becoming their starting fullback. Young made the improbable switch from linebacker in college, to fullback in the NFL which is unheard of in this day and age. Other players that contributed were Brandyn Harvey, Norman White, Phil Atkinson, Aaron Ball, Angelo Babbaro, Tony Canci, Ross Ventrone, Ramin Mobasseri, Fred Maldonado, and many others. Harvey ended up signing with the Atlanta Falcons, and Ventrone was on the New England Patriots in 2012. Ventrone became wildly popular in the NFL lockerroms for his off the field comedic antics, and was featured in a segment on NFL countdown in 2012 by ESPN. Tony Canci and Ramin Mobasseri were walk-ons who earned scholarships through their play. Canci was a dominant blocker at fullback, and was a key factor in Villanova becoming the championship team that dominated the 2009 season. Mobasseri was the first walk-on in school history to earn 'most improved' award. Villanova went 10-3 losing only 2 FCS games all season. Both losses were to James Madison on a "hail mary" game ending TD in the regular season and a last minute overtime quarterfinal loss in the NCAA playoffs.
In 2009, Villanova won the NCAA Division I FCS National Championship, defeating Montana 23–21 in Chattanooga, TN and finishing with a 14–1 overall record. Junior Matt Szczur was voted Championship Game MVP and was selected as a 1st team All-American at two positions- offense and special teams. Junior Chris Whitney was also voted 1st team All-American. On their way to the championship Villanova defeated FBS Temple, losing only to New Hampshire, and was CAA co-conference Champion with the Richmond Spiders, whom Villanova defeated at Richmond on a 4th down TD pass. Villanova hosted three playoff games, defeating Holy Cross, avenging their regular season loss to New Hampshire with a lopsided victory played in a driving snowstorm, and edging CAA nemesis William & Mary 14-13 under the ESPN TV lights on a frigid night.
In 2010 season, Villanova returned to the NCAA semifinals, this time going on a 9,000 mile odessey while defeating #3 Stephen F. Austin and #1 ranked Appalachian State before losing to eventual champion, Eastern Washington Eagles. Villanova ended the 2010 campaign ranked #3 in the nation in FCS and knocked off two #1 ranked teams on the road in 3 weeks late in the season including National Runner-up Delaware.
The 2012 season was in the midst of a rebuilding campaign by Coach Talley that earned a surprising CAA Conference Championship and another NCAA playoff appearance by the Wildcats who finished 8–4 with a very young squad full of talented underclassmen.
NCAA National Championships
The Wildcats won their first national championship on December 18, 2009 under Andy Talley. The team defeated the Montana Grizzlies in the national championship game in Chattanooga by a score of 23–21.
Walter Payton Award winners
The Walter Payton Award is awarded annually to the most outstanding college offensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) as chosen by a nationwide panel of media and college sports information directors.
Jerry Rice Award winners
The Jerry Rice Award is awarded annually to the most outstanding freshman player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) of college football as chosen by a nationwide panel of media and college sports information directors. Ininitiated following the 2011 season, the first two awards went to CAA players.
After playing as an independent from 1985–87, Villanova Football joined the Yankee Conference for the 1988 season before winning Conference titles in both 1989 and 1991.
In 1997, the Yankee Conference was absorbed into the Atlantic 10, following the NCAA's rule changes regarding single-sport conferences. In 9 years with the A-10, Villanova won 2 conference championships (1997, 2001).
In 2005, all A-10 football schools agreed to switch conferences for 2006 season and became charter members of the Colonial Athletic Association creating the most successful FCS League in the country. The Wildcats qualified for the playoffs in three consecutive seasons from 2008 through 2010. Villanova won the CAA Championship during their 2009 national championship season. Villanova won a share of another CAA Championship in the 2012 season with a 6–2 Conference record.
Villanova plays the University of Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens in the "Battle of the Blue." The all-time series between Villanova and Delaware dates back over 100 years to the first meeting between the teams on November 23, 1895. The Wildcats lead the series by a current margin of 24–21–1 and have won six out of seven against the Blue Hens since the inception of the Battle of the Blue Trophy. As CAA conference rivals in FCS, the teams have met each season since 1988 and Villanova head coach Andy Talley is 13-12 in his career versus Delaware. The 2011 game played at PPL Park in Chester, PA was the first American football game to be played in that venue.
Villanova also plays intra-city rival University of Pennsylvania in a match-up with "college football's most historic program." The majority of the games with the Ivy League powerhouse are played at historic Franklin Field on the campus of Penn. The teams first met on November 18, 1905 in a game won by Penn. The Quakers won the first five meetings through 1911 and then the two teams did not play again until 1980 when Villanova won their first game of the series. The teams renewed the series as FCS (I-AA) teams in 1999 and Villanova has won all 12 games since then in some very close battles. Villanova holds a 13–5 lead in the series versus Penn after their 2013 victory.
The Wildcats finished a four-year series in which they play the Division I-A FBS Temple for the Philadelphia "Mayor's Cup" on Temple's home turf at Lincoln Financial Field. Villanova won the inaugural game in September 2009 in front of a crowd of 27,759 on a last second field goal by Nick Yako. The Wildcats lost the 2010 game on late field goal by the Owls in front of a larger crowd of 32,193. Temple won the 2011 game in convincing fashion for the FBS program in front of an announced crowd of 32,638 and followed that up with another solid win in 2012. Prior to the "Mayors Cup", the two teams last met in 2003 when Villanova tallied a 23-20 upset win in double overtime over the FBS program. The Philadelphia programs first met  on November 8, 1928 in a game that ended in a 0-0 tie. They met for 16 consecutive years but suspended the series after the 1943 game won by Villanova. The series was reignited in 1970 with a Wildcat win and continued for 11 years through the 1980 game also won by Villanova. The Wildcats continue to lead the all-time series vs Temple 16-15-2, including two recent wins over the FBS Owls by the FCS Wildcats.
Andy Talley era
Villanova head coach Andy Talley has completed his 33rd season as a collegiate head coach, including his 28th at Villanova. The winningest coach in school history and the winningest coach in CAA history, Talley's Villanova record currently stands at an impressive 198-121-1. Throughout his Main Line career, Talley has guided the Wildcats to ten NCAA playoff appearances, six conference championships, three Lambert Meadowlands Cup, three ECAC Team of the Year awards. Included in the NCAA appearances is three NCAA semifinal appearances and the 2009 National Championship.
A graduate of Haverford (Pa.) High School just five minutes from the Villanova campus, Coach Talley is a native of Bryn Mawr. He can feel responsible for every facet of the Villanova program, having started it from scratch after he was hired on May 29, 1984 as the school's 29th head coach. Talley has led Villanova teams to NCAA FCS (Formerly Division I-AA) playoff appearances in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1997, 2002, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. Following his National Championship success in 2009, Talley received numerous coaching honors. Highlighting the list was the AFCA National Coach of the Year Award. Talley also earned this award in 1997 and becomes just the 17th coach to win the award twice. He also garnered the 2009 CAA Coach of the Year, the Sportsman's Award from the Marine Corp Scholarship Foundation and the Maxwell Club President's Award. In 2008, Talley was named the AFCA Regional Coach of the Year, the Field Turf/Howie Long FCS National Coach of the Year and the Maxwell Club Coach of the Year. Talley's all-time College Coaching record stands at 218-135-2 including his 5 years at the helm of St Lawrence College where he had advanced to the D-III National Semifinals in 1982.
Wildcats in professional football
Current NFL players from Villanova:
84 former Wildcat players in all have played professional football dating back to 1920 including Howard "Fungy" Lebengood who was a halfback on the uncrowned World Champion 1925 Pottsville Maroons.
11 players in the Talley era have played in the NFL. Terry Butler, Clarence Curry, Brian Finneran, Christian Gaddis, Ben Ijalana, Willie Oshodin, Raymond Ventrone, Ross Ventrone, Brian Westbrook, George Winslow, Darrel Young.
Villanova Football played in 5 bowl games through its history, compiling a record of 2–2–1. (Note that in the table below, the year references the fall season and not the actual date of the Bowl.)
1937 Bacardi Bowl
Villanova’s history in bowl games began on January 1, 1937, when the Wildcats participated in the Bacardi Bowl  for their first bowl appearance. Played in Havana, Cuba as the climactic event of Cuba’s National Sports Festival, the game almost never came to be because of a bloodless revolution led by Fulgencio Batista. The ‘Cats opponent, Auburn University, had rolled up an impressive 7-2-2 record and had closed out the 1936 regular season with six shutout wins on their schedule. Villanova, under coaching great Maurice J. "Clipper" Smith, piled up a sterling 7-2 record, and had earned victories over the likes of Penn State, Boston University, Detroit and South Carolina. Like Auburn, Villanova boasted of an outstanding defense, one that recorded four shutouts and had not allowed any opponent more than seven points. At halftime, Auburn led 7-0. Late in the fourth quarter, with time running out for the Wildcats; Auburn had possession of the ball inside its own 15-yard line. Facing second down and eight yards to go for a first down, Auburn mentor Jack Meagher called for a quick kick, a play Auburn had used successfully on a couple of occasions in the first half. Shifting into the quick kick position at the Auburn goal line, Villanova’s John Wysocki and Valentine Rizzo blocked the kick and lineman Matthew Kuber grabbed the ball at the two-yard line and went in for the touchdown. William Christopher kicked the all-important point after and the Wildcats had gained a 7-7 tie.”
1947 Great Lakes Bowl
In a match-up of Wildcats, Kentucky defeated Villanova 24-14 in the Great Lakes Bowl played at Cleveland Stadium on December 6, 1947. Villanova, coached by Jordan Olivar, brought a 6-2-1 record into the game. Kentucky of the Southeastern Conference was in its second season under coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and brought a 7-3 record into the game. the first quarter Kentucky's George Blanda kicked a 27-yard field goal. At halftime Kentucky led 3-0. In the third quarter Kentucky's Jim Howe had a 29-yard touchdown run; Blanda's point after kick gave Kentucky a 10-0 lead. In the fourth quarter, Kentucky's Bill Boller had a 15-yard touchdown run on offense and on defense returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown. Blanda hit both extra point attempts to give Kentucky a 24-0 lead. Villanova scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Andy Gordon threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to John Sheehan to make it Kentucky 24, Villanova 7. Ralph Pasquariello had a 10-yard touchdown run for the game's last score.
1949 Harbor Bowl
Villanova Wildcats played in the Harbor Bowl on January 1, 1949 in Balboa Stadium in San Diego where they defeated the University of Nevada 27-7. Nevada, the nation's leading passing team led by All-American QB Stan Heath (American football), could do no better than match Villanova's aerial yardage. The first two times the Wildcats got hold of the ball they marched for touchdowns. The Wolf Pack got nowhere after taking the opening kickoff, and had to punt. Where upon Villanova drove from midfield some 47 yards to a score. Ralph Pasquariello, the plowing 228 pound fullback, hammered off tackle, and Bill Doherty tossed long to Ed Berrang. It was climaxed with D'Alonzo plunging through from the three. Frank Sanches blocked the conversion. Nova's Andy Gordon intercepted Heath's pass and Villanova drove again. This one 43 yards. Pasquariello, going wide on pitch-outs, powered the Main Liners downfield and Polidor went around right end for the touchdown behind massed interference. Clavin kicked conversion and it was 13-0 with 10 minutes gone. The Wildcats picked up another pair of scores in the third period while Nevada's record setting QB, Stan Heath, watched glumly from the bench where he had been sidetracked with two broken ribs and Nevada's speedburning fullback Sherman Howard was being stitched up after a slashing blow to his forehead. On the first play after Nevada punted a horde of blockers got out in front of a scampering John Geppi, 180-pounder from Baltimore, who was escorted down the sidelines, all the 80 yards to a touchdown. Clavin converted, 20-7. A moment later a succession of breaks accounted for the fourth and final score. On a long pass from Nevada's reserve QB Alva Tabor, receiver Dan Orlich fell over the umpire and it went incomplete. Tabor then tossed to Harold Hayes but Nevada was penalized back to its own 18. Then another Tabor pass fell in the hands of Villanova's Steve Romanik who ran it back all the way to Nevada's 8yd line. Pete D'Alonzo, 210-pounder from Orange, N. J., smashed through for the score and Clavin kicked conversion, 27-7. The rest of the game, played in the heavy downpour of rain, was an exchange of fumbles and interceptions ans the score remained in Villanova's favor.
1961 Sun Bowl
Villanova defeated Wichita State 17 - 9 in the Sun Bowl at Kidd Field in El Paso, TX on December 30, 1961. Coach Alex Bell’s 7-1 Wildcats were selected to meet the Wichita University Shockers. His top punter and key receiver, Ron Meyers was declared ineligible for the game because he had already entered into a professional agreement with the Cleveland Browns. Wichita State was a 6-point favorite with Coach Hank Foldberg’s flashy passing offense featuring Alex Zyskowski and Bill Stangerone. The tone of the game was set early. Villanova’s defense bottled Wichita up and the offense drove 43 yards on two Billy Joe runs. Joe shook off three Shockers on a 19-yard touchdown run. In 1961, Billy Joe was a terrifying weapon. The 240-pound fullback was also a champion shot putter. While playing for less than half of the game, he would be named MVP on the strength of 63 yards on 8 carries. The Villanova defensive line, which outweighed Wichita by 17 lbs. a man up front, kept the pressure on all day. They keyed on back, Bill Stangerone and forced 4 Shocker interceptions. They knocked Alex Zyskowski out of the game with a head injury in the second half. He would not return until the last 5 minutes of the game. Villanova led 7-0 throughout most of the first half. With less than three minutes to play, with Stangerone at quarterback, the Shockers drove 47 yards to the Wildcat 18-yard line. Bill Seigle kicked a Sun Bowl record, 36-yard field goal to bring the Shockers to within four at the half. The key play in the game occurred at the opening of the second half. Wichita fumbled the second half kickoff, which was recovered by VU at the 21. Lou Rettino’s 1-yard run gave the Wildcats a 14-3 lead. Later in the 3rd quarter, Villanova’s Sam Gruneisen kicked a 26-yard field goal which made the score 17-3. In the final minutes of the game, Zyskowski returned to lead Wichita on a scoring drive. He hit Adolph Wilson with a 35-yard pass. Zyskowski then swept the end for the score on a 5-yard run with less than a minute remaining to make the final score was 17-9. The story of the game could be seen in the statistics. Villanova outgained Wichita on the ground, 225 yards to 111. Their defense was simply overpowering.
1962 Liberty Bowl
Oregon State led by Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker defeated Villanova in the Liberty Bowl by the score of 6-0 in Municipal Stadium aka JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, PA on December 15, 1962. While not as heralded as the Oregon State squad, Coach Alex Bell's Villanova had also enjoyed an outstanding season, compiling a 7-2 record. The game immediately became a defensive struggle, and to the surprise of many, Villanova dominated. The Wildcats seemingly got a big break midway through the first quarter when William Sherlock’s 52-yard punt was downed by Larry Glueck on the one-foot line. One play later, disaster struck as Oregon State’s Terry Baker got loose around end, and raced to a 99-yard touchdown with 9:24 left in the opening period. Baker tried a two-point conversion, but the Wildcats regrouped to break up his pass, leaving the score 6-0 in Oregon State’s favor. Another tough break occurred immediately for Villanova. Taking the ensuing kickoff down to the Beavers’ 12-yard line, they seemingly deadlocked the contest when Billy Joe made his way around the left end and romped 12-yards into the endzone. But a holding call nullified the play, and two plays later a Villanova pass was intercepted. The score stood at 6-0 at the half. The third quarter was scoreless, as both teams’ defenses remained unbending. In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, Villanova made one last effort. Starting on their own 30-yard line, the Wildcats drove to Oregon State’s 11-yard line before fumbling away a chance to win the game. For the day, Villanova dominated OSU’s undersized line and outgained the Beavers on the ground 246-176, and had nine more first downs, 20-11. However, Oregon State’s one big play, coupled with the ‘Cats four fumbles and two interceptions, sealed the win for OSU.
The Wildcats have appeared in the Division I-AA/FCS Playoffs nine times. Their combined record is 9–8. They were FCS National Champions in 2009.
Historic Villanova Stadium was built as part of a school expansion program in 1927 and dedicated on October 8, 1927. On May 7, 1930, the playing field at Villanova Stadium was dedicated to the memory of Leo Francis Goodreau, a Villanova football player who died due to injuries incurred in practice in 1928 season. On September 27, 1980, the running track was dedicated to Villanova's track and field coach James "Jumbo" Elliott.
In Fall 1999, the Stadium underwent a facelift with the Stadium Renovation Project. Included in this project was a state of the art press box, in addition to housing an 80-person meeting room for all Villanova Athletic Department personnel to use. The former AstroTurf playing field was replaced during the spring of 2002 with a synthetic grass surface known as AstroPlay. The stadium received a new scoreboard along with a new playing surface for the Fall 2009 sport seasons. The stadium currently seats 12,500.
Villanova football debuted at PPL Park as an alternate home stadium on November 19, 2011, in the annual Battle of the Blue rivalry game vs Delaware. Villanova is currently planning to play a select group of future football games at the venue. PPL Park is the state of the art home of the MLS Philadelphia Union and has served as one of the key catalysts of the revitalization of the Chester Waterfront located 15 miles south of Center City, Philadelphia. The stadium has a natural grass playing surface and current seating capacity of 18,500, with further expansion plans in discussion. The first expansion phase would add 1,500 additional seats, the 2nd phase would add 7000 additional seats, and a 3rd phase could bring the stadium to an eventual 30,000 total seats. However, only the first phase has a determined timeline by the Philadelphia Union. PPL Park has 29 luxury suites, an 11,000 square foot full-service club restaurant, state of the art LED signage, and innovative experiential zones. Expansive grass areas and large promenades surround the stadium for tailgating.
Football upgrade controversy
Villanova has considered moving into the Football Bowl Subdivision and joining the American Athletic Conference in football. Villanova Stadium located on-campus stadium seats only 12,500, less than the requirement for an FBS-eligible team. In September 2010, the Big East informally discussed the possibility that Villanova might become a football member. The school undertook several feasibility studies involving the costs involved with such an upgrade. An upgrade of the football program would require building expensive new football facilities and increases to its women's sports program due to Title IX issues, as well as a move to a larger game venue in the region with speculation focused on the new PPL Park soccer stadium. The study projected Villanova would lose over $7M each year at its inception based on their current Big East opponents and potential revenue. Prior to the scheduled April 12, 2011, Board of Trustees vote on the football upgrade, several Big East football schools objected to the Villanova plans to use PPL Park. That venue currently seats 18,500, but is expandable up to 30,000 seats in 3 separate increments; however, there is no specific timeline available when that expansion would begin or if it would be completed. With the ongoing uncertainty of the Big East Conference after losing founding football members Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia, the Villanova Board of Trustees has never voted regarding the topic of moving to FBS.
In December 2012, Villanova's administration announced its intentions to split away from current Big East configuration along with the other 6 "basketball centric" Big East Schools to form their own all-sports conference highlighted by their deep basketball traditions. This ended speculation that Villanova would move to the FBS for football.