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#6 Villanova advances to the FCS quarterfinals after defeating #21 Youngstown State, 45-28

Written by on December 2, 2023

Villanova defeats Youngstown State, 45-28, to advance to the FCS quarterfinals. On a fifty-five-degree day in early December at Villanova Stadium, the Wildcats played a complete game of football against a tough Penguins team. Villanova finished with 466 total yards. Connor Watkins was 12-21 for 275 yards with one passing touchdown and one interception. He also had two rushing touchdowns. The Wildcats’ defense limited Youngstown State to 369 yards of offense and they had two interceptions against Mitch Davidson.

It took Connor Watkins some time to settle into the passing game, but once he did, he looked good for Villanova. He started the day with an early interception but finished with a nice passing touchdown to Jaylan Sanchez and 275 total passing yards. Youngstown State’s run defense came into the game limiting opponents to less than 100 rushing yards per game on average. However, Villanova’s rushing attack still had a successful day. They rushed for 215 yards and five rushing touchdowns. Jalen Jackson had 11 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns. DeeWil Barlee rushed seven times for 62 yards and one touchdown. Connor Watkins finished with nine carries for 69 yards and those two rushing touchdowns.

Connor Watkins heading to the locker room at the end of the game after defeating Youngstown State.

The Wildcats trailed to the Penguins, 10-7, with 14 minutes left to play in the second quarter. But Villanova and Connor Watkins quickly responded. Watkins rushed for his first touchdown from the one-yard line to give Villanova the lead, 14-10. They continued to extend their lead. The Wildcats’ largest lead of the day was 25 points after another Connor Watkins 14-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.

For much of the game, Villanova’s defense was in complete control of the Youngstown State offense, especially the running game. Youngstown State had just 106 rushing yards. Their leading rusher, Tyshon King, had just eight carries for 17 yards. Dra Rushton had 13 carries for just 52 yards. The Penguins averaged 2.7 yards per run.

Mitch Davidson was 27-44 for 287 yards and three touchdowns. However, he was sacked three times and threw two interceptions. Max Tomczak led the Penguins with nine receptions for 105 yards. Joey Farthing had four catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Luke Hensley also had 21 yards and one touchdown reception. Youngstown State scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, but the game was well out of reach by that point.

Villanova Stadium on a mild Saturday afternoon for an FCS second round playoff game

Villanova vs. South Dakota State

The Wildcats will play #1 South Dakota State next weekend at a date and time to be determined. South Dakota State beat Mercer, 41-0, on Saturday afternoon. Steve and I will preview the South Dakota State game on Thursday’s live episode of “Villanova Sports Talk” at 12pm.