VILLANOVA, PA. 10/25/2014 – The #5 Villanova Wildcats went into halftime tied at 21 against an inspired Morgan State Bears team. The Wildcats responded with 27 unanswered points in the third quarter en route on a 48 – 28 victory in the Homecoming game at Villanova Stadium. Villanova, who have trailed at halftime most recently last week at William & Mary, focused on what they needed to do in the second half, rally around the leaders John Robertson and Kevin Monangai, and get a big play. Nova did, and with the third quarter turn around, it put the game in the win column for the Blue and White.
“It is important because at halftime we were looking down the barrel of an upset,” said Villanova Coach Andy Talley. “We are a better team and should have played a lot better. I could see a little hang over from the William & Mary game. When you see a team that you have not played before, you don’t have that itch, and that can lead to upsetville if they continued to play the way they did in the first half. Because of who we are, you are going to get the other team’s best games especially in the first half. If you can meet that, keep your poise and not get rattled, which is what we did.”
The third quarter opened with Villanova (7 – 1) scoring on a 12 play, 75 yard drive in 3:53 to take a 28 – 21 lead. Senior running back Kevin Monangai scored on a one yard plunge. The drive featured Monangai who ran six times for 35 yards in that span.
“Our offensive line is a bunch of talented guys,” said Monangai. “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.
The momentum turned solidly towards the Wildcats in the ensuing possession. Morgan State was forced into a three and out, then had the punt blocked by Villanova senior defensive lineman Pat Williams who came up the middle to get to the ball. The offense was set up at the 7 yard line with 8:22 on the clock. Monangai got the ball to the four, then junior quarterback John Robertson went the remaining distance to give the home team a 34 – 21 lead.
“That changed the momentum,” said Morgan State Coach Lee Hull about the blocked punt. “We talk that special teams should not hurt you, they should enhance you, give you momentum and spark the team. That did for them. We put our heads down just for a moment. That hurt, that changed the game.”
“I promised my team in the beginning of the season that if I had an opportunity, I was going to go get it,” said Williams. “I was watching film of them all week and I knew where to go. When I got the opportunity, I seized it.”
The Wildcats defense made a contribution as sophomore defensive back Jason Ceneus intercepted the Moses Skillon pass off a deflection. returning the ball to the Bears 25 yard line. Robertson capped the 4 play drive throwing a four yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Poppy Livers to put Villanova in front by a 41 – 21 score with 5:41 to play in the quarter.
On the next offensive possession the Wildcats struck quickly as Monangai ran 81 yards for a touchdown and a 48 – 21 lead.
“It was a trap play and the blocking by the wide receivers down field was a big help,” Monangai said about the run. “I cut behind a block by (Kevin) Gulyas. Good point of attack blocking and the wide receivers doing what they needed to do down field.”
In the third quarter the offense, defense, and special teams contributed to the team success against a tough opponent who occupy the top spot in the MEAC Conference.
“We knew coming into this game that they were a very good football team,” Hull said. “I thought they were the best team in the country. I’m very proud of our guys, how they played going toe to toe with them for a half. We came out in the second half a little flat.”
For the game the Blue and White rushed for 364 yards of the 514 total yards gained. Monangai led the way with 170 yards and 2 scores. It was the tenth time in his career that Monangai ran for over 100 yards. Robertson gained 99 yards on 11 carries. He now occupies second place in Villanova rushing history with 2,948 yards surpassing Aaron Ball. Brian Westbrook owns the school record with 4,499 yards rushing. Robertson completed 13 of 18 passes for 143 yards and 3 touchdowns to go along with 2 rushing touchdowns. He opened the scoring with a 56 yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Three different Villanova receivers caught scoring passes; Livers, junior wide receiver Kevin Gulyas, and senior Doug Turrell who posted his first touchdown.
The defense intercepted 3 passes, all resulted in scores. Skillon completed 23 of 38 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown while adding a team-high 77 rushing yards scoring twice. Receiver Amonta Poteat caught 8 passes for 75 yards. Thomas Martin caught 33 yard touchdown pass.
The Wildcats go back to conference play next week at Richmond. It was not easy, but Villanova overcame the early struggle by being a team.
“We have a lot of heart,” Robertson said. “That showed when we were down in the second half we said we had to play for each other.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian