In their 118th season opener, the Villanova Wildcats fought hard until the fourth quarter in a 28-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers. Pitt running back James Conner was able to have a solid game, scoring two of three offensive touchdowns for the Panthers. In a gritty, three-and-out type of game, there are several takeaways that explain their loss.
Villanova Wildcats – Pitt Panthers Analysis
The Villanova offense was horrendous on Saturday. The Wildcats only converted on 4-16 third down conversions after starting 0-8. This was accompanied by two turnovers, no offensive touchdowns, and only 172 total yards. Sophomore Zach Bednarczyk threw for a measly 119 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. The interception was particulalry disappointing considering comments earlier this month by Andy Talley and Sam Venuto. They claimed Bednarczyk was making smarter decisions this off-season compared to last year. It was only one mistake, but it was a very costly one.
As expected, Conner was key in Pitt’s win. He only accounted for 69 total yards, but touched the ball 20 times out of a possible 67. After spending the off-season battling Hogdkins lymphoma, Conner was more than ready to get back on the field, especially in front of a home crowd. He also allowed for quarterback Nathan Peterman to regroup after a poor performance. Without Conner, this game could have gone much worse for Pitt.
The Villanova defense was shockingly good. They faced the FBS’s most underrated offenses last season, who were able to add James Conner back to the rotation. Villanova’s defense scored their only touchdown of the game—a three-yard fumble return by Rob Rolle. Senior Tanoh Kpassagnon had a great game as well, with one blocked field goal and three tackles. Kpassagnon also disrupted several Peterman passes, forcing him to throw the ball away.
This game really shows what Villanova needs to work on this season. Only giving up three offensive touchdowns to Pitt on the road reveals that the defense will be stout. However, the offense gaining less than 200 total yards with no touchdowns is concerning. Talley will have a lot of work to do this week with the Wildcats’ offense to prepare for Lehigh next week.