The Wildcats lost their first home game of the year to the current CAA leader Maine. (Kelly Ryan/The Villanovan)
by Mike Dobranski
The football team fell 37-35 to University of Maine last weekend in a tightly contested matchup.
The No. 11 Maine Blackbears rolled into campus on a three-game win streak looking to improve on an already impressive season.
Coming into the game, Maine boasted an impressive 6-1 record, placing Villanova in the role of the underdog on their home field.
The Wildcats have grown accustomed to the mindset this season, finding success against No. 3 Towson and No. 16 Stony Brook earlier in the year.
Interestingly enough, the Wildcats are commonly known to play ranked opponents particularly hard.
Since the beginning of the 2007 season, the team has 24 total wins against ranked opponents, with 14 of those wins coming against opponents ranked in the top 10.
Unfortunately, their previous victories could not be replicated despite a late rally.
The hype surrounding the game was palpable in the stadium, as Villanova alumni flooded the campus for the annual homecoming weekend game.
The crowd was treated to a highly entertaining matchup, and did their best to urge the Wildcats to victory.
Sophomore quarterback John Robertson also did his best to spur the Wildcats on, rushing for 214 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries.
He continued his inconceivable streak, rushing for 620 yards and 10 touchdowns over his past three games.
His effort on Saturday afternoon pushed him over the 1000 yard mark for the season.
In addition to his rushing performance, he threw for 121 yards and a touchdown on 13-22 passing.
Junior receiver Poppy Livers was the top target for Robertson, catching four balls for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Star running back Kevin Monongai was quiet on the day, tallying 31 yards on just five total carries.
The Wildcats finished the game strong, but could not overcome their early deficit.
They jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, but gave up 20 unanswered points to a determined Maine offense. The Blackbears took a 23-14 lead going into the half.
Maine extended its lead with an early second-half touchdown before the Wildcats came roaring back.
The offense put up 14 unanswered points to close out the 3rd quarter, narrowing the score to 30-28. Maine responded with a 4th-quarter touchdown, and the 37-28 lead proved to be insurmountable.
Villanova scored once more in the final quarter, but was unable to complete the furious comeback.
While the offense put up a good fight, it was Villanova’s defense that was unable to stop the formidable Maine offensive attack.
Marcus Wasilewski, Maine’s starting quarterback, countered Robertson’s stellar ground attack with a strong game through the air.
Wasilewski was 28-34 on the day for 337 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 90 yards on 20 rushing attempts.
On the day, the Wildcat defense surrendered 536 total yards. While they performed better in the second half, they were unable to keep Maine out of the endzone when it mattered most.
Saturday’s game was the only home game for the Wildcats in a current five game stretch.
After defeating a highly ranked Towson team in Maryland, the Wildcats lost a heartbreaker in New Hampshire to UNH.
That game came down to the closing play, as University of New Hampshire converted a two-point play for the victory.
Going forward, the Wildcats will travel down to Harrisonburg, Virginia to take on James Madison. The following week they will head on up to Rhode Island to take on URI, before closing out the season against rival UDel at PPL Park.
Each of the final three games is winnable for this talented team looking to improve upon their 4-4 record.
Although they stand at .500 currently, their record does not accurately display their talent. Robertson is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and is currently on a significant hot streak.
Running back Kevin Monangai was one of the most highly touted rushers coming into the season.
The team has shown its great potential in strong wins, especially over ranked teams such as Towson and Stony Brook.
If this team plays up to its true potential, there is no reason why the ’Cats can’t win out the rest of the season and place themselves in prime position heading into the playoffs.
If Robertson continues to play the way he has been playing, the Wildcat offense will be near impossible to contain.
If the defense can shore up its holes and pick up its play, the Wildcats will be a tough matchup come playoff time.
They will certainly be the team that no one will want to face.
The Wildcats play again in Virginia Saturday, Nov. 2 at 2:30 p.m. against James Madison University.