Wildcats Make Big Statement Early, Top No. 3 Towson 45-35 on National TV
Oct. 12, 2013
TOWSON, Md. - Sophomore quarterback John Robertson (Paramus, N.J.) completed 17 consecutive passes to begin the game and No. 15 Villanova (4-2, 3-0 CAA) cruised to a 21-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of a 45-35 win over No. 3 Towson (6-1, 2-1 CAA) in front of an announced crowd of 10,234 at Johnny Unitas Stadium on Saturday night. In a nationally-televised contest, the Wildcats forced three Tigers turnovers in the first quarter and turned each of those miscues into touchdowns for a big early lead.
Robertson did not throw an incomplete pass until the fourth quarter and he finished the night 17-of-18 for 182 yards and two touchdowns, while also running the ball a career-high 32 times for 150 yards and a career-high tying three scores. His 332 yards of total offense and an opportunistic defensive effort helped Villanova improve to 14-7 (.667) against top-10 opponents since the start of the 2007 season, including 3-1 over the past two years.
Towson fumbled the opening kickoff and the Wildcats got the ball at the 20-yard line. On the second play from scrimmage Robertson threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to sophomore running back Gary Underwood (Cincinnati, Ohio) just 57 seconds into the contest. Villanova then forced turnovers on each of the first two offensive possessions by the Tigers, who wound up running a mere six offensive plays in the opening 24-plus minutes of the game.
Robertson scored on a two-yard touchdown run with 9:39 left in the first quarter and junior running back Kevin Monangai (Roseland, N.J.) scampered in from one yard with 4:59 remaining in the period. By halftime the Wildcats had opened up their largest lead of the game at 38-14, and Robertson rushed for his third touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter to account for the final Villanova points.
Towson trailed 45-22 with 14:02 to play before attempting to mount a late comeback bid. A nine-yard touchdown pass from Athens to James Oboh with 7:49 left made the score 45-28 and the Tigers then recovered an onside kick. Terrance West scored from one yard out with 6:31 remaining to trim the Wildcats lead to 45-35.
Villanova then went three-and-out for the third straight possession and Towson drove 92 yards down the field in the closing minutes, but a 21-yard field goal attempt by Drew Evangelista with 57 seconds to play was blocked by senior cornerback Craig James (Mays Landing, N.J.) and the Wildcats took a knee on the final two snaps to run out the clock.
Saturday night's game came exactly one year after Villanova went on the road and defeated No. 3 Old Dominion in convincing fashion last season. Robertson's three touchdown runs against the Tigers matched his effort from last season's big win, while he also moved into eighth place in school history with 22 career rushing touchdowns. Robertson's 32 carries were the most by a Wildcats player in six years.
"John Robertson is amazing - not just good," Towson head coach Rob Ambrose said. "He is Michael Vick-esque. He elusive, strong and knows his offense well. In order for a team to be a championship contender it needs to have a player like John."
Robertson headlined another big night on the ground for the Villanova offense, which ran for 269 yards and had 451 yards of total offense. Monangai ran for 62 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and sophomore slot receiver Jamal Abdur-Rahman (Philadelphia, Pa.) carried the ball six times for 36 yards. Abdur-Rahman was also the top receiving target for Robertson and finished with six receptions for 89 yards.
Sophomore safety Cameron McCurry (Orange Park, Fla.) played a starring role for the Wildcats defense, which forced a season-high five turnovers. McCurry achieved the rare trifecta of making an interception, recovering a fumble and blocking a kick to go along with his five tackles in the game. In the first quarter he recovered a fumble at the Tigers 44-yard line to set up the Villanova possession which ended on Monangai's touchdown run. After Towson scored its first points of the game with 4:47 left in the opening quarter McCurry blocked the point-after attempt.
James also had a big game defensively, finishing with a career-high three pass breakups to go along with an interception and the game-sealing blocked field goal. Sophomore linebacker Don Cherry (Trumbull, Conn.) led the Wildcats defense with eight tackles.
Thanks to the early forced turnovers and two big plays by the Tigers it seemed as if Villanova had possession of the ball for the entire first half. In addition to the 80-yard touchdown pass for Towson in the first quarter the Tigers also scored on a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Derrick Joseph early in the second period. When the teams headed to the locker rooms at halftime the Wildcats had held possession for 25:17, compared with just 4:43 for Towson. The lopsided time of possession also led to a 54-11 margin in total offensive plays in the opening half.
The desperation-time rally attempt by Towson in the second half turned the tables on the final offensive yardage numbers. Villanova finished the game with a time of possession of 40:10 and an edge in total plays of 83-62, but the Tigers actually wound up with more yards (466-451). Athens threw for 355 yards on 24-of-41 passing, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. West had six receptions for 101 yards and also ran 15 times for 61 yards and two touchdowns. Spencer Wilkins made five catches for 125 yards.
Next up for the Wildcats is another road game next Saturday, when the team travels to New Hampshire for a Noon kickoff. Villanova began a stretch of four road games in the next five contests with Saturday night's win.