August 31, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Villanova Wildcats head coach Andy Talley applauds his team in the first quarter against the Temple Owls at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
John Robertson was the starter, and despite head coach Andy Talley's pre-game assertions that both of his quarterbacks would play against Fordham, Robertson was the quarterback all game. He will remain the starter going forward after running for 93 yards and passing for 78 — he scored a touchdown as a passer and a runner as well and did not turn the ball over in the game; a 28-13 Wildcats victory.
"We really felt like John [Robertson] gives us the extra weapon with his feet, and gives us another runner in the backfield," Villanova head coach Andy Talley said. "Obviously where he needs to continue to improve is how he reads coverage and where he throws the football. He struggled with that a little today, but he made up for it with his feet — much like Chris Whitney, really."
Fordham was coming off of a 55-0 blowout of Lock Haven University, one of Division-II's most down-on-their-luck programs.
"We expected a difficult game for sure," Talley explained. "I hadn't seen Fordham in a long time in terms of playing them and I could not gauge how good they were from the Lock Haven game."
The Wildcats were a little slow at the start, adjusting to Fordham's fast-paced offense. Fordham scored quickly to start the game, driving downfield to score early in the first quarter to open the scoring. Villanova knotted it up on the next possession with a 25-yard touchdown strike from Robertson to Norman White. Fordham never saw the endzone again after the first quarter.
"Their a high speed offense in the first half really put us on our heels, we only had the ball for 10 minutes and they had it for 20. We were close enough at half-time to call on the players to come out in the second half and try to run the ball a bit more, get our defense on the sidelines, get them some rest and see if we can get back in the game a little bit offensively.
The Rams did score twice more in the first half, putting the ball through the uprights near the end of the first quarter and again in the second. The first half ended with Villanova sophomore safety Joe Sarnese grabbing an interception in the endzone to put the kibosh on a late Rams challenge. It was the first career interception for Sarnese.
Safety Ronnie Akins also recorded an interception in the game.
The 'Cats went into halftime with a 7-13 deficit against the Rams, but came back dominant after halftime. They eventually got back in the swing of things, taking the lead on an early-Third-Quarter rushing touchdown by Kevin Monangai.
Perhaps the most impressive scoring play of the game came on a mistake by John Robertson. The quarterback broke off a huge run into Fordham territory, but was stripped of the ball as the defenders tackled him. The stripped ball, ruled a fumble, flew toward Villanova 6-6 wide receiver Clay Horne (who Talley calls "Starburst" because he thinks Horne will become a star in the program), who grabbed it and ran it into the endzone for the touchdown. That heads-up play made the score 21-13, and gave Villanova some breathing room.
John Robertson would also run one in for a score himself early in the fourth quarter to make it 21-13 in favor of the Wildcats.
Starting tailback Austin Medley didn't score in the game, but picked up 125 yards on the ground and made some key plays for the 'Cats. At the end of the fourth quarter, he broke off a 38-yard run that put the ball on the Fordham 4-yard line with just seconds left to play. Villanova opted to take a knee and end the game with a 28-13 victory.
The 'Cats used the running game to take control of time of possession. They picked up 287 yards rushing and just 78 yards passing. While Robertson is clearly the starter going forward, the Wildcats will need him to be more effective with his arm as the season progresses.
"We like both those guys, they had good games against Temple last week, they are two of the most talented running backs that we've had here in a long time. It's a great one-two punch"
The 'Cats made solid half-time adjustments and were in control on defense and special teams after an early threat from the Bronx-based Rams. They got stops and broke off big plays, keeping the game close through the first half until they were able to wear down a Fordham team that wanted to play fast and make big plays.
Though Robertson did well with his feet and didn't account for any turnovers (thanks to a save from Clay Horne), he was also sacked three times in the contest. That was a fact that was not lost on Coach Talley, who felt that a weakness in his offensive line had been exposed.
"We had some trouble with their blitz package. We need to go back and revisit the way we blocked the blitz because we didn't do a good job of it tonight."
Villanova is still a young team, as Talley pointed out.
"We have a quarterback who doesn't even shave," he said, before asking Robertson if he did.
There remains room for the Wildcats to grow and get better. Talley did not think that Fordham saw the finished product on Saturday night.
"I wouldn't want to rush right into the heart of the CAA right now. I think we're still a work in progress, you know, we came off Temple getting banged around a little bit, had a team like Fordham; I think we're a little better than them, talent-wise. They gave us everything they had for a half and then we took control of the game.
"Now we go against a league team in URI and I'm not sure yet how strong they are because we haven't seen them, but they got beat pretty good by a Monmouth team that beat us last year."
Andy Talley hopes that his team will continue to grow and get better as the season progresses and be ready to play the upper-echelon of the CAA when those games appear on the schedule. He was pleased with the way that his schedule was designed, allowing the Wildcats to work their way up to tougher competition.
"I like our schedule though, I like the way it sets right now. So if we can grow and build off of this next week, we'll see where we can go. I'm not sure that we're ready for the heart of the CAA right now."
- Devon Bridges headed to the Emergency Room after the game to get stitches on his finger and will hopefully be available next weekend.
- Keelan Malone was also hurt during the game, but doctors seemed to think he was fine after taking him out of the game in the second half.
- Andy Talley insists that though Robertson is his starter, that Polony will continue to be on the quarterback radar. "[W]e're continuing to work with Chris [Polony] and his package because we're going to need him...we really need two good quarterbacks."
- Villanova has procured a large video board to show game action and live replays in the open endzone of the stadium. It will be a fixture at home games this season according to athletics department staff (now they need one in the Pavilion too).
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