VILLANOVA, October 29, 2011 – The surprise Noreaster dumped snow and wind on Villanova Stadium. When weather and field conditions are bad, the offense needs to execute consistently and the defense cannot give up big plays. Maine got big play yardage on offense. Meanwhile, Villanova had some bright spots, but also showed inconsistency and lack of execution early. The result was a close game for 30 minutes, but Maine behind three long touchdowns pulled away to earn a 41 – 25 win to remain atop the CAA. It is something that has haunted Villanova this season.
“It’s some of the same things we’ve done on the defensive side,” said Villanova Coach Any Talley. “We give up big plays, and we’re still trying to stop that.”
Maine took advantage of the first Villanova turnover when Freshman Quarterback Chris Polony was intercepted by Defensive Back Trevor Coston who returned the ball to the Villanova 36 yard line. Maine scored on their initial big play 2 plays later on a 33 yard touchdown pass from Quarterback Warren Smith to Wide Receiver Maurice McDonald with 9:24 to play in the 1st quarter.
Villanova tried to respond driving to the Maine 5 yard line. The big play in the drive was a 42 yard pass play from Polony to Sophomore Wide Receiver Joe Price giving the Wildcats a 1st and Goal from the 5 yard line. The Blue and White could not properly execute and would go no further. Junior Kicker Mark Hamilton attempted a 22 yard field goal, but missed wide left. It ended a streak of 14 consecutive field goals for Hamilton.
The Wildcats pinned Maine close to their goal line, then took over on a punt at the Maine 48 yard line with 10:08 remaining in the second quarter. The drive ended 11 plays later as Freshman Running Back Austin Medley crossed the goal line from 5 yards away with 4:08 to play. Villanova could not keep the momentum as the point after was blocked. Maine answered with a 7 play 60 yard drive in 1:49 as Running Back Pushaun Brown scored on a 10 yard rushing touchdown. The PAT was blocked, and Maine went into the locker room leading 13 – 6. Villanova was in the game, but the recent past would come back to haunt Villanova again.
In the third quarter Villanova punted. The Maine return team fumbled the ball recovered by Villanova Junior Linebacker Patrick Haggerty giving his team the ball at the Maine 37 yard line. It looked like the break the Blue and White needed to swing the game in their direction. The drive mostly on the ground went to the Maine 9 yard line, but stalled. Hamilton attempted a 27 yard field goal that hit the left upright and bounced away. Villanova could not fully execute and capitalize. Maine did in just one play as Smith threw an 80 yard touchdown pass to Wide Receiver Arthur Williams to take a 20 – 6 lead at the 9:38 mark. Villanova tried to respond moving the ball to the Main 5 yard line. On a 4th and Goal from the 7 yard line Polony was sacked for an 8 yard loss back to the 16 yard line. Maine took over on downs. In the ensuing drive Smith completed a pass to Running Back Derek Session for 51 yards to the Villanova 29. Smith completed the 3 play drive by going the final 29 yards for the touchdown with 4:31 to play in the quarter to give the Black Bears a 28 – 6 lead, and control of the game.
“I try not to blame any outside forces like the weather,” said Villanova Junior Linebacker Devon Bridges, “We can’t control that. We killed ourselves with big plays. We can stop that. The big plays could have been eliminated. That’s on us.”
The Wildcats got a big play of their own as Polony found Senior Wide Receiver Dorian Wells for a 60 yard touchdown. The 2-Point conversion was no good, and Maine led 28 – 12 after 3 quarters of play. The teams traded touchdowns in the 4th quarter. Both Villanova scores were touchdown catches by Senior Running Back Mikey Reynolds from Polony.
“I think had we done a better job on defense in not giving up the big play, making them drive 60 or 70 yards, we may have been in the game at the end,” said Talley.
Although the Wildcats did come on later in the game, it was hard for them to overcome the gap as they were just 3 of 14 Third Down Conversions.
The bright spot for Villanova was despite the elements they did post 405 yards of total offense, 197 yards rushing. And Austin Medley showed something for the future as he had 100 yards rushing, the first of his career and the first by a Villanova running back this season. He was able to accomplish that on a slippery track.
“I was taking my time to read the blocks, and a couple of times I slipped downfield.”
“We’ve been looking for a guy to hang our hat on in the backfield,” Talley said. “With his opportunities, he’s (Medley) surfaced.”
Polony gained 34 yards on the ground, and was 10 – 20 for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns with 1 pass intercepted. Wells had 2 catches for 73 yards.
For Maine Smith was 17 – 22 for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns, and he threw no interceptions. He ran for 74 yards and a touchdown. Brown gained 75 rushing yards while scoring twice, and Mc Donald caught 8 ball for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Maine is 7 – 1 on the season, 5 – 0 in the CAA. Villanova falls to 1 – 8, and remains winless in 6 conference games. The Wildcats travel to Massachusetts for their next game. Talley feels that the team is getting better, but does not have the wins to show for it.
“We’re trying to reach a competitive level with very young football players,” said Talley. “We’re improving but it is difficult to see. With this team you take one step forward, one step back. You have a neutral. When you play neutral football in the CAA you can get beat by 20 points, and that’s what’s been happening over the past few weeks.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian