Sept. 29, 2012
ORONO, Maine - Leaving the Philadelphia area for the first time this season turned out to be nothing of a challenge for Villanova (4-1, 2-0 CAA), which picked up its fourth consecutive victory with a 35-14 win over Maine (1-3, 0-1 CAA) at Alfond Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Sophomore running back Kevin Monangai (Roseland, N.J.) registered the eighth highest single-game rushing total in school history with 192 yards and paced a Wildcats offense that generated 314 total yards on the ground.
Villanova has been running for the record books early on in the 2012 season and the Wildcats have surpassed 200 rushing yards in every one of their first five games. Based on available archived records the team has not accomplished such a feat at the beginning of a season in at least half a century. Villanova did run for over 200 yards in six straight games during the middle of the 2008 season.
Monangai was unstoppable in carrying the ball 30 times for 192 yards and two touchdowns. His effort marked the most yards in a game for a Wildcats running back since Brian Westbrook ran for 233 yards against William & Mary on November 24, 2001. Monangai is also the first Villanova player to run the ball 30 times in a game since Matt Dicken had that same total against Towson on November 10, 2007.
It was Monangai who led the charge but the Wildcats had a three-headed rushing attack which led to the team total of 314 yards, the most yards on the ground for Villanova since it ran for 330 yards at Lehigh on September 11, 2010. Redshirt freshman quarterback John Robertson (Paramus, N.J.) carried the ball 14 times for 79 yards and a touchdown, while true freshman running back Aaron Wells (Ellicott City, Md.) picked up 51 yards on just three rushes. He went at least 16 yards on each of his three carries.
All of the superlatives for the Wildcats offense should not overshadow the team's defensive effort. Villanova put constant pressure on the Black Bears and sacked Maine quarterback Marcus Wasilewski seven times for a total of 53 lost yards. The sacks helped limit the Black Bears to a net rushing total of only 11 yards in the game, with Wasilewski's ledger showing 14 carries for minus-24 yards (he gained 35 yards on the ground and lost 59, but did score on a seven-yard run for the first Maine points of the game).
The seven sacks for the Wildcats is the most since the defense also recorded seven sacks against Rhode Island on October 18, 2008. In today's game senior linebacker Devon Bridges (Upper Marlboro, Md.) recorded two sacks for 15 yards, finished with six tackles overall and also broke up a pass. Senior cornerback Eric Loper (Sicklerville, N.J.) broke up three passes and also had an interception. Villanova had two interceptions in the game and broke up seven passes, the team's highest total since disrupting eight passes at Appalachian State on December 11, 2010.
All of the running in the game for the Wildcats was noteworthy but the first two scores of the game for Villanova came on passes from Robertson to senior wide receiver Norman White (Hammonton, N.J.) and junior wide receiver Joe Price (Havertown, Pa.) in the first quarter. White caught a 27-yard pass from Robertson on the first drive of the game to open the scoring and give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest. Later in the first quarter Robertson threw a 26-yard strike to Price which made the score 14-7 and put Villanova ahead to stay. Robertson finished 11-of-16 through the air for 128 yards with the two touchdowns and one interception.
The first four minutes of the game did not suggest that the Wildcats would run out to a lead of as many as 28 points (35-7) by the time there was 10:40 to play in the fourth quarter. Villanova received the ball to start the game and needed just five plays before getting the opening score. Back-to-back rushes by Monangai for 19 yards and Wells for 16 yards helped the Wildcats move down the field before the touchdown pass to White capped the 74-yard drive.
It took less than two minutes for the Black Bears to answer and tie the score at 7-7 with 11:23 left in the first period. Wasilewski completed back-to-back passes to Derrick Johnson for 20 yards and Rickey Stevens for 45 yards before running seven yards into the end zone on a keeper.
Villanova punted on its next possession but then intercepted Maine on the next drive when sophomore cornerback Shane Harris (Montclair, N.J.) picked off Wasilewski at the Wildcats 46-yard line. Six offensive plays later Price caught his first touchdown pass of the season and Villanova was off to the races.
After scoring on their first drive of the game the Black Bears were held off the scoreboard on their next 10 possessions until Wasilewski threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to Arthur Williams with 10:07 left in the game. In between scores Maine saw their drives end with six punts, two interceptions and a missed 41-yard field goal which junior defensive end Rakim Cox (San Diego, Calif.) blocked and recovered at the Wildcats 24-yard line. Senior linebacker Pat Haggerty (Shillington, Pa.) also blocked a punt in the game.
Villanova extended its 14-7 lead with three unanswered rushing touchdowns in the second, third and fourth quarters. Monangai scored on a 13-yard run with 9:51 left before halftime, Robertson scored from 10 yards out at the 9:14 mark of the third period and Monangai ran in again from four yards with 10:40 to go in the game.
Special teams play for the Wildcats rounded out a dominant overall performance. Junior punter Mark Hamilton (Gaithersburg, Md.) drilled seven punts for a total of 303 yards (43.3 average) with two of his attempts landing inside the Black Bears 20-yard line. Hamilton had a season-long 63-yard punt in the third quarter and three of his seven punts in the game went for 51 yards or more. He surpassed 300 total punting yards in a game for the first time in his career.
Maine played from behind for nearly the entire game and threw the ball 53 times compared with only 23 running plays. Wasilewski completed 31-of-53 passes for 409 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. He is the first quarterback to throw for over 400 yards against Villanova since Pat Devlin of Delaware threw for 407 yards on November 21, 2009.
Prior to today's game the Wildcats first four games of the season had come close to home. Villanova played road games against Temple and Penn in Philadelphia and also hosted Fordham and Rhode Island in home games at Villanova Stadium.
Next weekend the Wildcats return home to host Richmond for a 6 p.m. kickoff on Saturday evening. Villanova did not meet the Spiders last season and will face Richmond for the first time since tallying a 28-7 win at Villanova Stadium on October 30, 2010.
NOTES: Villanova is averaging 256.4 rushing yards per game through the first five games of the season ... Monangai has 690 career rushing yards in 13 games played for the Wildcats ... Nearly half of his career total (301 total yards, or 43.6%) has come in the past two games ... He ran for a previous career high of 109 yards at Penn last week ... Villanova had six consecutive games with 200 or more rushing yards from September 27-November 8, 2008, averaging 233.8 yards per game in that span ... Based on play-by-play records from every season dating back to 1962 the only time the Wildcats had even three straight 200-yard rushing games to begin a season was in 1992 ... There have been nine games in Villanova history in which an individual has run for at least 190 yards ... Former Wildcat great Brian Westbrook accounted for four of the nine games during the 2000 and 2001 seasons ... The Wildcats evened the all-time series against Maine at 8-8 ... Villanova has won the last two games at Alfond Stadium by an average margin of 25.5 points after not previously winning in Orono since 1991 ... The 11 net rushing yards allowed to the Black Bears is the fewest for the Wildcats since the defense set a school record by holding New Hampshire to minus-66 yards in an FCS playoff game on December 5, 2009 ... Prior to Maine's 409-yard passing game today Villanova had not allowed even 200 yards passing to an opponent in its first four games this season.