PHILADELPHIA— Justin Covington ran for two second-quarter touchdowns and Villanova held off Holy Cross 21-16 in the second round of the FCS playoffs on Friday night.
Villanova (10-2), ranked sixth in the latest FCS coaches poll, took the lead early in the second quarter after an interception by Ethan Potter gave the Wildcats the ball at the Holy Cross 43-yard line. Jalen Jackson ran for 10 yards, then caught a pass from Daniel Smith for a 30-yard gain to the Crusaders’ 3. Covington had a 2-yard TD run on fourth down for a 7-0 lead at the 11:20 mark.
The Wildcats stretched their lead to 14-0 with a 10-play, 79-yard drive that ended with Covington’s 7-yard TD run. Smith set up Covington’s scoring run with a 24-yard completion to Qadir Ismail on third-and-14 on the previous play.
No. 24 Holy Cross (10-3) pulled within 14-10 in the third quarter. The Crusaders took the opening kickoff and marched 68 yards in 12 plays, ending with Jordan Fuller’s 7-yard TD toss to Sean Morris to make it 14-7. Frankie Monte forced a fumble by TD Ayo-Durojaiye on the ensuing kickoff, Terrence Spence recovered and Holy Cross took possession at the Wildcats’ 25. Derek Ng kicked a 22-yard field goal after the drive stalled at the 3. Ayo-Durojaiye answered with a 55-yard kick return to the Crusaders’ 37 and three plays later Jackson scored on a 14-yard run for a 21-10 Villanova lead.
Matthew Sluka’s 3-yard TD run pulled Holy Cross within five points with 6:22 remaining, but Sluka’s 2-point pass was intercepted by Jared Nelson and the Crusaders, who picked up the program’s first FCS playoff win with a 13-10 first-round victory over Sacred Heart, would get no closer.
Next up for Villanova is the winner of Saturday’s South Dakota State-Sacramento State matchup.