Gordon threw a game-clinching 6-yard touchdown pass to Phil DiGiacomo after leading an 80-yard fourth-quarter march, and also connected with Brian White on a 45-yard scoring pass and Shaz Brown on a 50-yarder on a flea flicker.
DiGiacomo also had a go-ahead 18-yard touchdown run and Terry Butler, who rushed for 121 yards, had a 41-yard TD run for the Division I-AA Wildcats, who had lost their previous seven meetings against I-A programs.
White finished with 12 catches for 165 yards in the season-opening game as Villanova outgained Rutgers 476-269.
Rutgers' Ryan Cubit ran 2 yards for a touchdown and threw TD passes of 6 and 21 yards to tight L.J. Smith in the start to coach Greg Schiano's second season.
Villanova, which posted an 8-3 record in sharing the Atlantic 10 championship last season, had the better plays. All three of Rutgers' scores were set up by Wildcats mistakes. Gordon threw two interceptions and the Scarlet Knights' first touchdown was set up when a punt bounced off the leg of a Villanova player.
Despite being outplayed, Rutgers still was in position to win in the second half.
Trailing 24-13, an interception by linebacker Brian Hohmann set up Cubit's TD run with 1:30 left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 24-19. The Scarlet Knights missed the 2-point conversion.
Rutgers' defense held on the next possession and the Scarlet Knights got the ball back at their own 47.
They failed to get a first down, and Gordon, who hit 24 of 39 passes, drove the Wildcats 80 yards in 13 plays on a drive they overcame a second and 20 at their own 10-yard line.
Villanova dominated the first half but only led 17-13 because it committed two costly turnovers that led to two touchdown catches by Smith.
The Wildcats scored on their opening possession, going 63 yards in six plays. White went the final 45 yards on a short swing pass.
Smith tied the game with a 6-yard TD catch with 4:54 left in the quarter. It capped a three-play, 17-yard drive that was set up when Nathan Jones recovered a punt that hit off the leg of Aaron Smith.
DiGiacomo's second-quarter run capped a 69-yard drive and gave Villanova the lead for good. James' field goal stretched the margin to 17-7.
Linebacker Gary Brackett got Rutgers back in the game, intercepting a questionable pass with 37 seconds left in the half. Cubit hit Smith for the TD with 13 seconds before halftime.
Butler took a handoff on the flea flicker and tossed it back to Gordon, who found Brown all alone on the 50-yard trick play for a 24-13 lead.
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score ----------------- -- -- -- -- ----- Villanova........... 7 10 7 13 - 37 Record: (1-0) Rutgers............. 7 6 6 0 - 19 Record: (0-1)
COMPLETE GAME STATISTICS
TRUE FRESHMEN SEE ACTION
A total of eight true freshmen saw their initial collegiate action for the Scarlet Knights vs. Villanova. True freshmen seeing action for Rutgers were DB Dondre Asberry, DE Val Barnaby, WR Corey Barnes, LB Terry Bynes, K Mike Cortese, RB Markis Facyson, LB Will Gilkison, and WR Shawn Tucker.
In addition to the true freshmen listed above, seeing game action for the first time in their Rutgers careers were sophomores WR Chris Baker, RB Clarence Pittman, and WR Bryan Wilson.
The following Scarlet Knights were in the starting lineup vs. Villanova for the first times in their careers: WR Jerry Andre, RB Markis Facyson, DL Gary Gibson, DB Jarvis Johnson, and FB Ray Pilch. In addition, DL Will Burnett returned to the starting lineup for the first time since the Boston College game during the 2000 season (Oct. 28).
Starting in a new position this season were TE Bryan Boehrer, the starting center last season; C Marty Pyszyzymuka, the starting left guard last season; and RG Brian Duffy, the starter at right tackle last season.
BRACKETT, HOHMANN COME UP WITH SECOND CAREER INTERCEPTIONS
Rutgers linebackers Gary Brackett and Brian Hohmann each came up with their second career interceptions. Brackett, a senior, intercepted a Brett Gordon pass in the second quarter, while Hohmann picked off a Gordon toss in the third quarter.
With his two first-half TDs vs.Villanova, senior tight end L.J. Smith had the first two-TD game of his career.
CUBIT TD PASSES
Sophomore QB Ryan Cubit had the fourth multi-TD game of his career. Cubit had three TD passes vs. Navy last season, and two TD passes vs. UConn and Villanova. Cubit also notched the first rushing touchdown of his career when he scampered in from two yards out in the third quarter.
Villanova Head Coach Andy Talley
“I think that’s as good of an opener as we’ve had in years. Frankly, it was unexpected. We went in with some question marks, with the offensive line and we weren’t sure if Terry Butler was ready to play. Adam James, our kicker, we were also concerned about. The one thing I did know is that our defense was improved. We went into the game and we proved that. I think they played a magnificent game and really gave us a chance to win the game.”
On his team’s defensive effort. “I think the big thing was, we made it tough on them to run the ball. They obviously wanted to run the ball and pass the ball and mix it up, and I think we forced them to throw the ball more than they wanted to. When they did throw, we had a good pass rush. Rutgers has a lot of talent, their offensive line is big, and they were starting to wear us down in the middle of the third quarter, but I think every time they scored we were able to get back and have a drive and keep the ball.”
On the play of Villanova’s offensive line. “We had to pick and choose with the offensive line because a lot of times we got overpowered. If you look at the stats, we converted a lot of third downs in the first half, so we had trouble on first and second down when we were running the ball. But when we ended up throwing the ball, we were pretty good. I think our third down conversions really helped us out.”
On what this victory means for the Villanova football program. “I think winning a (Divison) I-A game against a BIG EAST team is uplifting for the players and at least serves some warning that this team is going to be heard from in the Atlantic 10. It was a very good win, one that we worked very hard to get. We played better in the second half than we did in the first half, and that’s what winning teams do. If we can maintain that kind of focus, I think we have a chance to be pretty good this year.”
Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano
“I felt like they took it to us, without question. I learned a long time ago not to be surprised by anything in this game, so did it surprise me? No. Did I expect us to take it to them better than we did? Absolutely.”
“We are working hard, but we are not ready to just walk in and just beat someone because we are a Division I-A team and they are not. We played very average tonight. They played very well and with that combination, they won.”
“I think we did some things offensively and I was encouraged at times. I think our problem is consistency right now.”
“I thought we had a tremendous camp and I thought we were playing with great emotion. I’ll have to look at the videos to see what, if any, schematic errors there were. I know we tackled very poorly and I didn’t feel like we took the fight to them on defense. I felt like they took the fight to us.”
“I don’t think there is a lack of effort. There is a fine line between playing on that edge and not playing on that edge and I don’t feel like we did that tonight.”
“I think we have special trust in our football program. I don’t candy-coat it with them and they don’t candy-coat it back with me. I am not saying everyone is going to be happy and there may be some bumps, but that’s in any season. I really trust these kids and I know they’ll stick with it.”
“This program – nothing has changed. The program is going where it’s going and it’s going to happen. If you study history, these things happen – I-AA programs upsetting Division I programs and they come back and do fine. We’ll be fine.”
“I have to give credit to Villanova. They did some nice things defensively,
they stirred it up and their kids played hard.”
SHAWN SEABROOKS, SR, DB
On the game: “They got off to a great start. We tried to comeback, but we were overmatched tonight. We didn’t make the plays tonight and they did. We just didn’t get it done. There were some positive things tonight, but we didn’t capitalize on it and we lost. This game was not about our goals for the season. This doesn’t put us off track for what we need to accomplish this year. We have to put this behind us and move on. We have Buffalo coming here next week and our focus is on that game.”
On returning punts: “That was something new for me. I haven’t returned punts in a long time. I tried to do some things to break one open.”
RAHEEM ORR, SR, DE
“The best thing for us is to take our mind off this game and get back on the field to prepare for Buffalo. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We just have to take it one game at a time. We need to look at the game film and correct our mistakes for next week. We turn our attention to Buffalo now. We need to go out and play with enthusiasm next week.”
L.J. SMITH, SR., TE
“I’m very disappointed that we lost the game tonight, but we can’t dwell on this. We made a lot of mistakes and Villanova was able to capitalize. We will be ready for Buffalo. This team will treat every game separately. We’re not going to let tonight’s loss affect our upcoming games.”
RYAN CUBIT, SO., QB
“Villanova was able to run some different defensive schemes at us and they capitalized. We were able to do some good things tonight, but Villanova showed why they are a great Division I-AA team. We felt we were ready for them and this team had to come prepared tonight. But the game had a lot of momentum swings and Villanova had some key plays to help them win.”
MARTY PYSZCZYMUKA, SR., OL
“We came out and played hard tonight, but so did Villanova. This team will tie everything together, though. Our squad will keep moving forward and stay focused. Villanova played hard and beat us, but I know we can regroup. I have all the faith in the world for my teammates and coaching staff.”
Villanova Player Quotes
Brett Gordon, Sr., QB
“It was a great win for us but as a team, coming in, we felt that we had the capabilities to win this game. I know each and every guy in that locker room expected to come in and win. We’re very excited, obviously, it’s the first time we beat a (Division) I-A team, but we really did come in here expecting to win.
“The thing that was best early in the game was when Brian (White) had that real long touchdown catch. That was something we saw in their defense. We got the look we wanted, we protected up front, Brian made a move and I got him the ball. When you see all your work in practice executed out on the field it makes you feel good.”
Jamison Young, Sr., LB
“We knew coming out that we had a better and faster defense. This was our opportunity to prove it. You never get the chance to see it until you’re out there on the field.
“As big as the win was, we can’t say it wasn’t expected. We have to have confidence going in. The coaching staff did a great job preparing us. I think these games are big, in that you get a chance to see where you are at.”
Brian White, Sr., WR
“We’ve been getting ready for this game since the end of May. We’ve been watching films, and we saw every game they had last year.
“Obviously we’re going to celebrate this game tonight, but we’ve got to remember this game means nothing. It isn’t a conference game. It’s nice to beat a D I-A school, but our goal is to get to the playoffs again and win the conference championship.”