Explosive third quarter propels ’Cats to victory

Pat Ralph

In front of a big Homecoming crowd this past Saturday afternoon at Villanova Stadium, the No. 5 Wildcats’ football team cruised to a 48-28 win over Morgan State for its seventh straight win of the season. The win improved the ’Cats to 7-1 on the season, while the Bears fell to 4-4.

The running game was the heart and soul of Villanova’s win, as senior running back Kevin Monangai ran for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Both of Monangai’s scores came in the third quarter, when ’Nova scored 27 unanswered points to pull away for the win.

Junior quarterback John Robertson also did damage on the ground, as he ran for 99 yards and two touchdowns. One of his touchdowns was a 56-yard sprint on the ’Cats first play of the game. Villanova finished the day with 364 rushing yards, the best rushing performance for the Wildcats in over two years. 

While the attention and glory will go primarily to Monangai and Robertson, the senior tailback was quick to point out after the game that it was a team effort.

“Our offensive line is a bunch of talented guys,” Monangai said in his postgame press conference. “Once they get it going, it allows me and the other running backs to do what we need to do. I was just glad to be able to take advantage of their hard work.”

Robertson continued his success through the air on Saturday as well, throwing three touchdown passes and compiling 143 passing yards. The recipients of Robertson’s touchdown passes were senior wide receiver Poppy Livers, junior wideout Kevin Gulyas, and senior tight end Doug Turrell, who has filled in nicely for injured fellow senior tight end Earnest Pettway. Robertson has now thrown 25 touchdowns this season and only one interception.

Once again for the Wildcats, the defense was an unsung hero on the day as the ’Cats picked off Morgan State’ quarterback Moses Skillon three times. Skillon had yet to throw an interception this season heading into this past Saturday’s contest, but their luck changed quickly as the Wildcats’ defense intercepted the Bears’ junior quarterback midway through the first quarter. 

’Cats sophomore cornerback Jason Ceneus led the way for Villanova’s secondary with two of the three interceptions. Junior linebacker Don Cherry continued his strong season leading the Wildcats’ defense, as he finished with a team-high eight tackles. 

While Skillon threw three interceptions in Saturday’s contest, the Bears were the better team through the first half. Skillon was 23-for-38 for 204 yards and a touchdown pass and ran 77 yards and two touchdowns. Leading the way for the Bears offensively along with Skillon was sophomore wide receiver Thomas Martin, who caught the Bears’ lone touchdown pass and finished with 57 yards. The only Bears’ touchdown not connected with Skillon was a three-yard run by sophomore wide out Ricky Fisk. 

While the Wildcats came away with the win, they once again played a game in which they struggled in the first half yet put together a terrific second half. In the first half, ’Nova had two fumbles and committed several penalties. If the ’Cats plan on winning the CAA and making a deep run in the playoffs, it will be vital for this team to play a full, clean 60 minutes, rather than just half the game. 

Head Coach Andy Talley noted the ’Cats’ first half struggles after the game. 

“In the first half, I don’t think our players believed how good a team Morgan State could be,” said Talley in his postgame press conference. “We preached at halftime to have poise. We have been down twice at half and it’s not a big deal. Put the penalties away and manage this game a little better in the third quarter. Just keep on tapping the rock.” 

Next up for the ’Cats is a CAA road showdown against Richmond this Saturday at noon. The game can be seen on Comcast SportsNet and heard on CBS Sports Radio 610 AM.