The number-three ranked Old Dominion Monarchs loomed large on Villanova football's schedule this season. Epecially after losing big to the upstart program and star quarterback Taylor Heinicke last season and watching him go off for over 700 passing yards in a win over New Hampshire earlier in the season. Nobody saw the 'Cats going into Norfolk, Virginia and beating a team with such a potent aerial attack, but they not only won, they won huge.
Twenty-four points separated the Wildcats from the Monarchs, who were celebrating homecoming this weekend. ODU scored twice early on big passing plays to take a quick 14-0 lead, but the Villanova defense settled down and John Robertson lead the 'Cats to gashing the Monarchs defense, scoring 38 unanswered points the rest of the way.
The Monarchs had ten first downs in the first half, but were held to just five after the intermission.
"That was absolutely the best game we've played this season," Villanova coach Andy Talley told reporters. "We had to run the ball well, we had the control the clock, and from that point on, we did."
It might have been Robertson's most impressive performance yet. He completed 10 of 18 passes for 151 yards in the air and ran 24 times for 189 yards (the ninth-best rushing game in Villanova history). He passed for one touchdown, caught by Norman White and rushed for three more. The redshirt freshman quarterback is quickly becoming one of the CAA's most productive offensive players.
Villanova had no turnovers, but Old Dominion turned the ball over twice to the Wildcats, both to senior cornerback Eric Loper who intercepted Heinicke and later picked up a fumble as well. The defense held ODU to 5-of-13 on third down conversions and got into the backfield for three sacks.
Heineke didn't have a terrible game. The Monarchs' quarterback threw for 239 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also picked up 32 yards on the ground. They had 350 yards of total offense and held the ball for just over 20 minutes in the game.
Using their rushing attack to make headway, holding the ball for almost 40 minutes of game time. The Wildcats produced 527 yards of offense, including 376 yards on the ground. It was a season-high for rushing yards and the 6th time that the 'Cats have been over 200 yards rushing this season.
It seemed like it might have been a long afternoon for the 'Cats after Villanova's first two trips to the redzone fell short. Both leaving the 'Cats to try a field goal and making just one of the two. The 'Cats were down 14-3 after just one quarter.
Then, things started to break Villanova's way, with Robertson finding White in space for a 44-yard pickup in the second quarter for his lone passing touchdown. White finished the game with 3 catches and 85 yards receiving.
"For the last three quarters, we got outcoached and outplayed," ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. "In the second half, it was as one-sided a football game as I've been involved with. They completely dominated us."
Kevin Monangai was also a huge factor for the Wildcats, collecting 118 rushing yards and the final touchdown of the game. When Monangai ran into the endzone to make it a 24 point game with 2:11 on the clock in the fourth quarter, fans were already leaving their seats, hoping that the other homecoming festivities would make do.
Villanova's other runningback, Austin Medley continued his return from a hamstring injury, carrying the ball 12 times for 58 yards and catching two more balls to add another 21.
It was a tremendous result for the Wildcats, who move to 5-2 on the season and keep their hopes of seven wins and a playoff berth very much alive. The 'Cats are now 3-1 in CAA conference play and are tied with New Hampshire for second in the league, behind 3-0 James Madison.
Up next is a trip to Atlanta next weekend, where the Wildcats will face the Georgia State Panthers, and look for a third straight win against a CAA member that is departing the conference to move to FBS. The Panthers are 1-6 on the season, picking up their first win of the year this weekend at Rhode Island in a blowout.