Instead, Harvey made a one-handed grab of Whitney's fourth-down pass for a 29-yard touchdown with 59 seconds left and Villanova stunned Richmond 21-20 on Saturday night.
"I think the best thing I did this morning was take my heart medication," Wildcats coach Any Talley said. "Whoa baby. It needed to kick in there at the end of the game."
The Wildcats (8-1, 5-1 Colonial Athletic Association) ended a 17-game winning streak by Richmond, the defending champions of the Football Championship Subdivision. They beat the Spiders for the second year in a row, this time after Richmond went ahead with 2:22 left.
"I think it's huge for this team," Whitney said after going 21 for 34 for 277 yards and three TDs. "We know we can come to a place, go against a great team and come out on top."
How it happened might be talked about for a while.
After driving the Wildcats to the Spiders 28 and being pressured in two incompletions and a 1-yard sack, Whitney faced fourth-and-11 from the 29. This time, his line held off the pressure and he saw the 6-foot-4 Harvey splitting two defenders and lofted it his way.
"All year I've been able to count on him in tough times," he said.
Harvey reached with his left hand, pulled the ball back to him and took it into the end zone, stunning the Spiders and the season-high crowd of 11,667 at Richmond Stadium.
"I should have caught it with two hands, but one worked," Harvey said.
On the other sideline, Spiders coach Mike London had a good view of the play.
"It seemed like his hand just kept going up and up and up and he just came down with it," the second-year coach said. "It was a great catch. If he misses it, then it's over."
Richmond (8-1, 6-1) missed two field goals and two extra points, including the one after the go-ahead TD. The Spiders even gained one final chance to win it when they drove to the Wildcats' 17 with 10 seconds left, but Andrew Howard's 35-yard field goal try was wide left.
"We've just got to get it fixed and move forward," London said of the kicking game.
The Wildcats led almost all game until Kendall Gaskins powered in from the 1 with 2:22 left. But when the snap on the extra point try was high, Howard's kick sailed right.
The Spiders elected to squib the kickoff, allowing Villanova to take possession at its 44, and they needed seven plays. Whitney had completions of 7 and 6 yards to Harvey and 15 yards to Dorian Wells before Richmond got them in the fourth down situation it wanted.
But Harvey foiled it, and Nick Yako's extra point left Talley feeling fortunate.
"We caught a break and now we have to seize the opportunity," he said.
The Spiders trailed 14-6 and looked like they would go two scores down when Villanova drove to the Richmond 9 late in the third quarter. But linebacker Patrick Weldon intercepted Whitney's next pass in the flat and returned it 70 yards to the Wildcats' 25 yard-line.
Five plays later, Ward fired a strike to Tre Gray in tight double coverage for the touchdown, and Ward then hit Jordan Mitchell for the 2-point conversion to tie it at 14.
The Spiders had missed the extra point because of a bad snap after their first score.
Richmond later drove to the Villanova 12, mostly thanks to Ward's 43-yard completion to Gray. But freshman Eric Loper made a diving interception at the 5, ending the drive.
But the Spiders held, and Ward put together the go-ahead drive, highlighted by a 3-yard run from Gaskins on fourth-and-1 from midfield and a 26-yard completion to Kevin Grayson.
Ward finished 23 for 35 for 297 yards with two interceptions. Whitney was 12 for 20 for 162 yards in the first half, including a 12-yard scoring pass to Dorian Wells at the back of the end zone, and a 23-yarder to a wide open Matt Szczur.
Wells appeared to be out of the end zone on the catch, but the play stood.
Ward struggled early, but hit Grayson for 28 yards on a third-and-7 play from the Villanova 48, and found Kevin Finney for 19 yards to the Wildcats' 1 on the next play.
His sneak made it 7-6, but a botched snap scuttled the extra point attempt.