Villanova captures first title
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Matt Szczur caught two touchdown passes, ran for 159 yards, and had another 68 yards receiving, leading Villanova to its first Football Championship Subdivision title with a 23-21 victory over Montana last night.
No. 2 Villanova (14-1) won the title in its first championship game appearance and 25 seasons after coach Andy Talley was hired to rebuild the program after the school’s four-year absence from the sport.
“Our guys played great. Montana is a super team,’’ Talley said.
Top-seeded Montana (14-1) was making a record 17th consecutive appearance in the playoffs. The Grizzlies, the 1995 and 2001 champions, lost to Richmond last year in the title game. Montana also lost in the final in 1996, 2000, and 2004.
Chris Whitney led an 81-yard drive, running for 22 yards on one play and connecting with Szczur for 26 yards on another. Whitney hit Chris Farmer with a 3-yard TD pass to give Villanova a 16-14 lead with 5:26 left in the third quarter.
Whitney completed 10 of 13 for 142 yards, an interception, and the touchdown. He also ran for 102 yards.
Montana’s Andrew Selle threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to Jabin Sambrano to pull the Grizzlies to 23-21 with 1:07 left, but the onside kick attempt went out of bounds, and Villanova made a first down before running out the clock.
The Wildcats trailed, 14-9, at halftime after allowing the Grizzlies 246 yards passing in the first two quarters. Talley made adjustments, and the Wildcats found their pass rush after taking the lead.
Selle finished 12 for 35 for 351 yards and three touchdowns. Marc Mariani had 178 yards on nine catches before halftime, but didn’t catch a pass in the second half.
“We played really well in the second half and turned the tide,’’ Talley said. “In the locker room our guys were pretty subdued, but we knew what we had to do.’’