by Nick Fattori
Two weeks ago, the football team began a gauntlet of four games, which ultimately will make or break the season for the Wildcats. Of those four games, three are on the road, all four foes are ranked and most importantly, all are CAA opponents fighting with the ’Cats for first place.
Villanova passed their first test with flying colors. They went down to Maryland and beat the then undefeated and No. 3 ranked Towson Tigers by a score of 45-35. However, last Saturday while at the University of New Hampshire the Wildcats were stunned at the last second and dropped a heartbreaker 29-28.
At the beginning of the season, Villanova and Towson were thought of as the two powers of the CAA, and everyone circled this game on the calendar as the decider on who would win the conference title.
The Wildcats went into the game as underdogs, but within 10 minutes of game time, it looked like it might be a blowout for the ’Cats. Towson fumbled the opening kickoff, threw an interception on the second play from scrimmage and fumbled again on their fifth play.
’Nova was able to capitalize on all of these miscues and get out in front early. Redshirt sophomore quarterback John Robertson threw and ran for a touchdown and junior running back Kevin Monangai added another. In the blink of an eye, the tables were quickly turned and Villanova was up 21-0.
Towson just could not hold onto the ball early on, which was the deciding factor of the game. Both teams traded scores the rest of the half, and ’Nova had a comfortable 38-14 lead going to the locker room.
Villanova took their foot off the gas a bit, but after three quarters they still held a huge lead of 45-22. The Tigers tried hard to scratch and claw their way back into the game late, but it was too little too late. The Wildcats held on to upend Towson 45-35 and let the nation know that they were still a force to reckon with this season.
The offense was led by Robertson who had a monster game of 17-18 passing for 182 and two touchdowns. He also added a phenomenal 150 yards on the ground and another three scores.
“This is CAA football,” Head Coach Andy Talley said. “You have to survive and advance…[Robertson] was amazing tonight…He was Michael Vick-esque.”
Flying high off the win at Towson, the Wildcats looked to continue their now four game winning streak when they visited the No. 25 New Hampshire Wildcats. Both teams were able to move the ball to start the game, but both had early drives stall and were forced to punt.
Then, ’Nova went on an 88-yard march down the field, which was highlighted by a five-yard scamper into the endzone by Monangai to put them up 7-0.
But New Hampshire refused to let Villanova jump all over them, like ’Nova did to Towson. UNH responded with an 84-yard drive of their own and scored on redshirt freshman Dalton Crossan’s 17-yard run. However, the extra point was blocked.
New Hampshire’s momentum didn’t last for long, because ’Nova went right back down the field with ease, and scored on a 14-yard QB-keeper by Robertson to go up 14-6, a lead they would hold going into the break.
UNH went on a long and methodical drive of 13 plays and 78 yards on their first drive of the second half. Sophomore quarterback Sean Goldrich ran home from six yards and made it 14-12. New Hampshire attempted to go for two—and the tie—but misfired on a pass. But, on their next drive were able to convert on a 23-yard field goal and take a 15-14 lead at the end of third quarter.
They were then pinned on their own one yard line New Hampshire proceeded to go 99 yards for another touchdown. The kicking game though once again failed them and senior kicker Mike MacArthur missed another extra point. However, they held a 21-14 lead with only five minutes remaining.
Robertson and the ’Cats did not back down though and single handedly ran for all 70 yards on the next drive and tied the game at 21 with only two minutes left. They then forced a quick three and out and got the ball back.
The Jerry Rice Award winner then once again showed the crowd why he is one of the best QBs at his level. He ran home from 42 yards out and put ’Nova ahead by a touchdown with only a minute left.
“It was a one-man show almost for John,” Talley said. “He got us back into the game…”
UNH wasn’t done though. They started their drive on the 50, and got down all the way to the Villanova three yard line with 18 seconds left. Goldrich then scrambled home for the touchdown.
Because of the kicking woes, New Hampshire decided to go for two and the win. Senior running back Chris Setian took a direct snap and went right into the endzone for the conversion and the game winner.
“It was a tremendous football game on both sides,” said New Hampshire Head Coach Sean McDonnell. “The best was saved for last…our team found a way and I haven’t had a win like that in a long time.”
Although UNH went on to win the game 29-28, Robertson’s excellent performance cannot be overlooked. On the day, he rushed for 256 yards and three scores. He also was 15-17 for 122 yards through the air.
“We didn’t get the job done on defense,” Talley said. “It’s as simple as that. If we had won the game at the end, we would have been lucky.”
On Saturday, the ’Cats will look to get back to their winning ways and face the only undefeated team in conference, the Maine Black Bears. The game is scheduled for 1 p.m. and is also the Homecoming game for the Wildcats.