PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Senior quarterback Zach Bednarczyk scrambled to his left for a go-ahead touchdown pass on fourth down and senior wide receiver Jarrett McClenton made a leaping grab before scoring what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown in a 19-17 victory at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday afternoon. Villanova (1-0) notched its fourth win over an FBS opponent all-time and knocked off Temple (0-1) for the third time since 2003 with a balanced effort on both sides of the ball.
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Bednarczyk threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns and senior running back Aaron Forbes recorded his fourth career 100-yard rushing game on a day when the Wildcats outgained the Owls by a final count of 405-251 in yards of total offense. Senior linebacker Jeff Steeb and freshman defensive back Elijah Trent each had critical interceptions to thwart any chances of Temple regaining the lead after the go-ahead touchdown with 7:17 left in the fourth quarter.
Villanova raced out of the gates and led 13-3 by the end of the first quarter behind touchdown passes from Bednarczyk to senior tight end Ryan Bell and junior wide receiver Brandon Chadbourn. Bell caught a one-yard touchdown pass just over four minutes into the game after the Wildcats received the opening kick and went 70 yards on eight plays to take an early 7-0 lead. On its first defensive series of the game, Villanova held the Owls to a 46-yard field goal which made the score 7-3 with 5:35 to go in the opening period. Chadbourn then caught a 17-yard touchdown with 1:03 left in the period.
The only touchdown Temple scored in the first half came on a 74-yard return of a blocked field goal attempt was blocked and resulted in the long return which narrowed the Owls deficit to 13-10. That remained the score until past the midway point of the third quarter as both teams settled in for the long haul.
VILLANOVA PULLS OFF THE FCS OVER FBS UPSET! They were 15 point underdogs vs Temple! pic.twitter.com/3glG8h9B37— Prime Bam Childress (@fearthe_beard11) September 1, 2018
On its second offensive series of the third quarter, Temple drove 70 yards on 12 plays and took a 17-13 lead on Isaiah Wright's touchdown reception with 5:45 left in the period. Bednarczyk was intercepted with 41 seconds to play in the third quarter, but the ensuing Owls drive resulted in a 29-yard field goal attempt which missed wide right with 11:52 to play in the game.
Although the Wildcats had not put points on the board since late in the first quarter, Bednarczyk and the offense found their stride on the game-winning drive. Bednarczyk was 5-of-7 for 71 yards on the drive, including an early eight-yard completion to junior wide receiver Changa Hodge on a 3rd-and-2 play from Villanova's own 28. The call on the field of a completed pass was reviewed and stood for a first down at 36, and the next play was a 14-yard strike to Bell which got the Wildcats to midfield. Two plays later, a 15-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Jevon Jones moved the ball to the Owls 31.
It was 4th-and-9 at the 30-yard line three plays later and Bednarczyk was chased as far back as the 45-yard line before he unleashed a pass from the 40 which McClenton jumped up for and caught at the 13-yard line before running into the end zone for the score.
Forbes rushed for 111 yards on 16 carries and Bell had a team-high nine catches for 81 yards. Hodge tallied six catches for 40 yards and McClenton finished with five receptions for 63 yards. Bednarczyk completed passes to nine different receivers on the day.
Villanova held Temple to just 46 net rushing yards, marking the ninth time in 12 games since the beginning of last season that the Wildcats defense has given up fewer than 100 rushing yards. Sophomore cornerback Jaquan Amos had seven tackles, while freshman Christian Benford made five tackles and had a pass breakup in his collegiate debut.
The victory pushed the Wildcats back into the lead in the all-time series with the Owls, with Villanova now owning a 17-16-2 advantage. The season opener marked the start of the 121st season of Wildcats varsity football. The team's record in season opener is now an even 59-59-3 dating back to 1894.
Villanova is back in action next Saturday when it travels to Lehigh for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff.