Oct. 20, 2012
ATLANTA, Ga.--Sophomore wide receiver Poppy Livers (Seaside, Calif.) broke a 32-year old drought with a punt return for a touchdown and No. 24 Villanova (6-2, 4-1 CAA) dominated all facets of the game in a 49-24 victory at Georgia State (1-7, 1-4 CAA) inside the Georgia Dome on Saturday afternoon. Livers became the Wildcats first player to run back a punt for a touchdown since 1980 and Villanova built a lead of 30+ points by the middle of the second quarter en route to its highest point total of the season.
During a stretch that began less than five minutes into the game and continued through the middle of the second quarter the Wildcats scored five touchdowns in a span of less than 19 minutes to take a 35-3 lead with 6:48 left before halftime. Redshirt freshman quarterback John Robertson (Paramus, N.J.) ran for one touchdown and threw for another during that span, sophomore running back Kevin Monangai (Roseland, N.J.) scored on a 12-yard run, Livers ran back the punt and senior cornerback Eric Loper (Sicklerville, N.J.) returned an interception for 32 yards for a score.
Villanova ran for over 300 yards for the second straight week and Monangai tallied his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season, including his second in as many weeks. When all was said and done the Wildcats amassed 470 yards of total offense while also accounting for 14 points off turnovers.
Monangai finished with 130 yards rushing on 18 carries and Robertson ran 11 times for 87 yards. They each averaged better than seven yards per carry and both players registered their ninth rushing touchdowns of the season. Last season Villanova as a team had only nine rushing touchdowns for the whole year. In addition to the efforts by Monangai and Robertson the Wildcats counted four other players who picked up 25 yards or more on the ground.
Villanova was as efficient as it was unstoppable with the ball in its possession. The five scoring drives put together by the Wildcats offense averaged 63 yards per drive and lasted an average of just over three minutes (3:11). Villanova scored touchdowns on all five of its trips inside the red zone.
On the other side of the ball the Wildcats defense was just as solid. Villanova registered seven tackles for loss, broke up five passes and forced two interceptions. One of those picks was returned for a touchdown and the other eventually led to a score by the offense less than a minute later. Senior safety Ronnie Akins (Lansdale, Pa.) led the team with eight tackles, including a career-high three tackles for loss.
Robertson opened the scoring with a six-yard touchdown run on the Wildcats first possession of the game. Villanova went 86 yards on just seven plays in 2:59 and Robertson scored with 10:43 left in the opening period to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.
Villanova forced the Panthers to punt on all four of their possessions in the opening quarter and rolled up a margin of 173-34 in yards of total offense by the end of the period. The third Georgia State punt in the quarter was fielded by Livers at the Wildcats own 34-yard line and he ran it all the way back for a 66-yard score. It was the first punt return for a touchdown by Villanova since David Martin accomplished the feat with a 75-yard return against VMI on October 25, 1980.
The news didn't get any better for the Panthers in the second quarter. Less than a minute into the period senior wide receiver Norman White (Hammonton, N.J.) caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Robertson to make the score 21-0 and the rout was on.
Georgia State got on the board via a 34-yard field goal by Wil Lutz with 9:32 to play before halftime. On its next possession Villanova went 66 yards in just 2:22 and Monangai found the end zone from 12 yards out with 7:06 left in the period for a 28-3 lead. The next Wildcats touchdown came just 18 seconds later, after Loper picked off Panthers quarterback Ben McLane at the 32-yard line and brought it back for his first career score.
Villanova led 35-10 at halftime and at one point pushed its lead to as many as 39 points after touchdowns early in the third and fourth periods. Sophomore tight end Earnest Pettway (Long Beach, Calif.) caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Robertson four minutes into the second half and senior wide receiver Nick Hurley (Wheeling, W.Va.) hauled in a 15-yard reception for a touchdown from sophomore quarterback Chris Polony (Whitehall, Pa.) just over a minute into the fourth quarter.
Robertson finished 8-of-11 through the air for 96 yards with two touchdowns and one interception before turning the game over to Polony, who went 3-for-4 for 31 yards and a touchdown as a passer and also carried three times for 30 yards. White led a group of seven different players that caught at least one pass with three receptions for 32 yards and his fifth touchdown of the season and the 18th of his career.
While the trio of Robertson, Monangai and White has put up big numbers all season long the Wildcats really showed their depth in today's game. Hurley, Livers, Loper and Pettway all registered their first career touchdowns and Villanova had 55 different players get into the game.
In addition to the big games defensively by Akins and Loper the Wildcats also got particularly strong performances from sophomore linebacker Joey Harmon (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) and redshirt freshman strong safety Matt McCann (Pittsburgh, Pa.). Harmon tied a career high with seven tackles and McCann set a new season high with six tackles while also recording his first career interception.
Villanova entered the game with a national ranking for the first time this season (No. 24) and the victory, coupled with other results from around the CAA, moves the Wildcats into a tie for first place in the league standings. Villanova and New Hampshire are each 4-1 in league play this season.
Following consecutive games on the road which resulted in victories by an average margin of 24.5 points the Wildcats return to Villanova Stadium next week for a Homecoming Weekend game against Towson. That contest kicks off next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised live by the Comcast Network.