13-1, 7-1 Conf

Villanova advances to school's first FCS championship game

VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Villanova coach Andy Talley admitted the first half of Friday night's game belonged to William & Mary. The second half was the one that made the difference.

Villanova rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit, getting some help from a call that was overturned by instant replay to beat William & Mary 14-13 and advance to the title game of the Football Championship Subdivision next Friday night.

The second-ranked Wildcats will play the winner of Saturday's semifinal between Appalachian State and No. 1 Montana in Chattanooga, Tenn.

"Obviously it was one of those games that the first half belonged to William & Mary and the second half belonged to Villanova," Talley said. "That's probably as even a game as you can predict between us. That's not the team you want to spot 10 points, but we survived."

The game was slowed by five instant replay reviews, but the only one that was overturned made perhaps the biggest difference.

Trailing 13-7 late in the third quarter, Villanova embarked on a time-consuming drive that appeared to end when a third-and-7 pass play fell incomplete. The play was overturned by replay, giving Villanova first-and-goal at the 6, and quarterback Chris Whitney scored from a yard out on fourth down with 10:57 left to take the lead.

"I knew my foot was down," wide receiver Brandyn Harvey said. "I knew the safety was coming up to hit me, so I just had to get my foot down and prepare for the hit."

Villanova didn't score until there was about 9 minutes left in the third quarter, when wide receiver Matt Szczur scored on a 62-yard run out of the Wildcat formation. The touchdown made it 10 consecutive games that the junior has scored, and was his eighth touchdown run of the year.

"The cornerbacks were coming up in the box when we ran the Wildcat," said Szczur, who also converted a first down on a fake punt attempt in the drive that gave Villanova the lead.

"On that play, we decided to go backside and all I had to do was beat the safety, and he was on the other side of the field."

Sixth-ranked William & Mary rode the arm of quarterback R.J. Archer, who completed 21 of 35 passes for 239 yards -- although most of it came on one play early in the game.

Archer found junior receiver Cameron Dohse up the sideline, beating Villanova cornerback Eric Loper for a 98-yard touchdown. The play gave the Tribe a 7-0 lead with 10:45 remaining in the first half, and was Archer's first touchdown pass of the playoffs.

Brian Pate added a field goal as time ran out for a 10-0 halftime lead.

"That's part of the deal," William & Mary coach Jim Laycock said. "There's only going to be one team happy at the end of the year. I think this was one heck of a game. One or two little things go different and this is a different game."