VILLANOVA, Pa.--Sophomore running back Austin Medley (Franklinville, N.J.) ran for a career high 125 yards and Villanova (1-1) scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to down Fordham (1-1) in its home opener at Villanova Stadium on Saturday night. On a rainy, hot and uncomfortable night the Wildcats erased a 13-7 deficit and wore down the Rams to pick up the win.
Three rushing touchdowns in the second half made the difference for Villanova, which surpassed 200 yards on the ground for the second straight game. The sophomore duo of Medley and classmate Kevin Monangai (Roseland, N.J.) accounted for the majority of the Wildcats ground game; Medley earned his 125 yards on 16 carries and Monangai rushed 13 times for 99 yards and a touchdown.
It was a one-yard scamper by Monangai with 9:12 remaining in the third quarter which gave Villanova its first lead of the game and an advantage that it would never relinquish. The touchdown put the Wildcats in front by a 14-13 margin and late in the same period sophomore wide receiver Clay Horne (St. Paul, Minn.) alertly recovered a Villanova fumble and ran 27 yards to the end zone to stretch the lead to 21-13.
There was little that could stop the Wildcats attack on the ground in the second half and Villanova accumulated nearly all of its offense following halftime. Of the 287 total rushing yards for the team, all but 42 came in the decisive second half and a three-play sequence late in the third quarter was the turning point in the game that Villanova needed.
Fordham began a drive at its own 21-yard line with 3:22 left in the third period and on the second play of the drive quarterback Ryan Higgins threw a pass down the field that senior defensive back Ronnie Akins (Lansdale, Pa.) intercepted at the Wildcats 38-yard line.
Then, on the second play of the ensuing Villanova drive redshirt freshman John Robertson (Paramus, N.J.) broke away on second-and-10 at the 38 for a 35-yard run that crossed midfield and reached the Rams 27-yard line. Robertson fumbled near the sideline at that point by Horne reached the ball immediately and never stopped running as he picked up the ball and raced away for his first career touchdown.
In the fourth quarter Robertson scored on an eight-yard run to cap a 10-play drive and close the scoring with 10:51 left in the contest. Robertson made his first career start and ran for 46 net yards on 14 carries while going 8-of-17 for 78 yards and a touchdown through the air.
Fordham received the opening kickoff of the game and then languished through an 18-play, 91-yard drive that took just over seven minutes before Michael Nebrich ran in for a six-yard score that spotted the Rams a 7-0 lead.
After having the defense on the field for the first seven-plus minutes of the game the Wildcats were more than ready to have the ball for the first time and sophomore defensive back Joe Sarnese (Ventnor, N.J.) ran the Fordham kickoff back 85 yards from the goal line to the Rams 15-yard line. One play later Robertson hit senior wide receiver Norman White (Hammonton, N.J.) for a 15-yard touchdown which tied the score at 7-7.
There was little else in the way of offense for Villanova in the first two periods, as the team ran only 23 offensive plays for 93 yards in the opening half while the Rams won the battle for time of possession and also racked up 242 yards of offense.
Fordham took a 10-7 lead on a 50-yard field goal by Patrick Murray with 4:41 to play in the first quarter and Murray later drilled a 37-yard attempt with 4:53 to go before intermission to give the Rams a 13-7 lead.
Akins led the Wildcats on the defensive end with nine tackles (seven solo) to go along with the interception and one pass breakup. Sarnese also intercepted a pass while tallying seven tackles and Villanova as a team had 11.0 tackles for loss and three sacks. Junior defensive lineman Antoine Lewis (Somers Point, N.J.) had six tackles, including three for a loss.
Villanova is back at home next Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. when it hosts Rhode Island in its CAA Football opener.
NOTES: In two games this season the Wildcats have had exactly 365 yards of offense in each outing ... Villanova ran for 287 yards against Fordham, the team's highest total since a 330-yard rushing effort at Lehigh on September 11, 2010 ... Medley previously ran for 100 yards against Maine last season on October 29, 2011 ... The Wildcats have surpassed 200 rushing yards in each of their first two games for the first time since at least the 1998 season, based on records immediately available after the game ...Fordham was held to only 70 yards of total offense in the second half ... Villanova leads the all-time series by a 20-4-3 count with the Rams and Wildcats head coach Andy Talley is now 10-0 in the series ... The teams met for the first time since Villanova posted a 24-10 win at Villanova Stadium on December 7, 2002 in the FCS quarterfinals ... The game kicked off a few minutes after 8 p.m. and was delayed two hours due to earlier inclement weather in the area ... The original start time of 6 p.m. was pushed back early in the afternoon ... Talley is 21-7 (.750) in home openers as Wildcats head coach ... Villanova had lost five straight games at Villanova Stadium since a 28-7 win over Richmond on October 30, 2010 ... Prior to the start of the five-game home losing streak the Wildcats had been 23-1 in their past 24 on-campus home games, including a 15-game winning streak.