(STATS) – Villanova just may keep extending coach Andy Talley's final season if it plays like it did Saturday in defeating visiting Saint Francis 31-21 in the first round of the FCS playoffs.
Quarterback Zach Bednarczyk passed for 254 yards and three touchdowns and the Wildcats defense was in control of a Red Flash squad making its first-ever playoff appearance.
Villanova (9-3) will play at No. 8 seed South Dakota State (8-3) in the second round next Saturday.
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The 73-year-old Talley, who led Villanova to the 2009 national title, is in his 32nd and final season with the CAA Football program. His Wildcats won their first-ever meeting with Northeast Conference co-champion Saint Francis (7-5) after rolling to a 31-7 halftime lead.
Villanova sacked Red Flash quarterback Zack Drayer six times, including 2 1/2 by defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon, the CAA Football defensive player of the year.
The quicker the Wildcats got Saint Francis' offense off the field, the more the ball was in the hands of Bednarczyk and their many running backs. They controlled the ball for 37 minutes, 35 seconds, with Matt Gudzak's 62 rushing yards leading their decisive 241-30 advantage on the ground.
After Saint Francis closed within 10-7 on Zack Drayer's 74-yard touchdown pass to Kamron Lewis with 1:18 remaining in the first quarter, Bednarczyk responded with a 59-yard scoring pass to tight end Ryan Bell before the quarter ended.
The left-handed sophomore, who completed 18 of 27 passes, added two touchdown passes in the second quarter – a 53-yarder to wide receiver Jarrett McClenton and a 2-yarder to Bell, who finished with five receptions for 110 yards.
Saint Francis scored twice in the fourth, with Jalen Wells returning a Bednarczyk interception for a TD in the first minute and Drayer on a 1-yard run in the final minute. Lewis, who entered the game as the FCS leader in receiving yards, caught six passes for 129 yards to push his season total to 1,478.