’Nova takes over in fourth quarter, downs Tigers

Frank Scicchitano

Last Saturday, the football team hosted Towson under the lights at Villanova Stadium as the No. 7 Wildcats looked to get back on track following their first conference loss of the season two weeks ago at Richmond.

The game remained close for the first three quarters, but Villanova (8-2, 5-1 CAA) scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Tigers (4-6, 2-4 CAA) and secure a 42-14 win.

For the first time since the Wildcats’ season opener, junior quarterback John Robertson eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground, finishing the day with 107 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries. He was also efficient through the air, completing 16-of-21 pass attempts for 182 yards and three touchdowns. 

Senior running back Austin Medley also made a significant contribution to the Wildcats’ rushing attack, totaling 78 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries. Senior running back Kevin Monangai had 35 rushing yards and scored a 14-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. Villanova finished the night with 214 yards on the ground, the fifth time this season it has compiled more than 200 yards rushing as a unit.

Villanova’s running back committee took a major hit a few weeks ago with the loss of versatile junior Gary Underwood. Medley noted that he and Monangai have had to take on increased roles in the offensive game plan, particularly on third down and in passing situations.

“[We] have had to put a little more focus on pass protection, run blocking and catching the ball out of the backfield,” Medley said. The two seniors have been consistent throughout their Villanova careers and certainly have the ability to handle an increased workload until Underwood can return to the field. 

Towson’s Darius Victor was also productive carrying the football, gaining 165 yards on 26 carries against a Wildcat defense that entered the night ranked second in the CAA against the run. The sophomore running back opened the scoring in the first quarter, punching it in from two yards out to give the Tigers an early 7-0 lead.

The teams traded possession for the better part of the first period before Villanova answered with a two-yard touchdown run of its own. After an eight-play, 82-yard drive down the field, Medley powered his way across the goal line for his second rushing touchdown of the season.

Early in the second quarter, with the game tied, the Wildcats put together another lengthy possession that ended with Robertson finding junior wide receiver Anthony DeCamillo in the corner of the end zone to pull ahead 14-7 after the extra point. The 17-yard touchdown reception was DiCamillo’s first of the season and he finished the game with three receptions for 47 yards.

Following the score, Towson was piecing together a promising drive before a false start penalty and a sack by junior defensive lineman Noble Ajakaiye forced the Tigers to punt. Villanova took advantage of the defensive stop when Robertson connected with junior wide receiver Kevin Gulyas for his second 17-yard touchdown pass of the quarter. 

Sophomore defensive back Jason Ceneus halted the ensuing Towson possession with an interception, and the Wildcats’ took a 21-7 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, Towson received the kickoff and marched down the field with an impressive drive that lasted more than eight minutes. After 16 plays, quarterback Connor Frazier found his tight end for a five-yard touchdown pass that brought the Tigers back within a touchdown.

The 21-14 score would stand for the remainder of the quarter before Robertson ignited the Wildcats’ blowout on the first play of the final period. After two unsuccessful run plays by Villanova running backs, Robertson took matters into his own hands and took the ball around the right end for a one-yard touchdown run to put his team back, 28-14.

On Towson’s next drive, Frazier threw his second interception of the night. His pass over the middle was intercepted by senior safety Joe Sarnese, who returned it 48 yards for a touchdown. 

The extra point gave the Wildcats a 35-14 lead and momentum had shifted completely in favor of the home team.Sarnese was credited with 11 tackles on the night, leading a Villanova defense that would shut down the Tigers’ for the rest of the game.

Behind some tough running from Medley, the Wildcats went on another long drive that chewed up over eight minutes and ended when Monangai hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Robertson, his third of the evening.

“As a running back, there is no greater situation than being ahead in the fourth quarter and needing to run out the clock,” Medley said. “It is important for us to get first downs and to stay in bounds [when] running the ball on the perimeter.”

Altogether, the Wildcats amassed nearly 400 yards of offense and took advantage of two Towson turnovers on their way to the victory. 

Despite allowing 182 yards on the ground, Villanova’s defense was able to keep the Tigers in check by pressuring the quarterback and coming up with stops in key situations.

The Wildcats improved their home record to 5-0 on the year and will host conference foe Albany this Saturday at Villanova Stadium. 

The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and will be the final regular season game at Villanova Stadium this year.