At the start of the night, there was a bit of uncertainty for the Villanova Wildats football team. Last season, they were gashed by Terrance West and the Towson Tigers on home turf, and now they headed into hostile territory against the #3 team in the country.
Early on, there was no doubt who would come out on top.
Editor's Note: As per usual with Villanova sports, the heart attack would come later on.
Villanova utilized three early Towson turnovers to stake itself to a 21-0 lead before half of the first quarter was gone. First, Derrick Joseph fumbled the opening kickoff after a big hit from Jason Ceneus, and Shane Harris jumped on the loose ball. Two plays later, John Robertson hit Gary Underwood on a wheel route for an early 7-0 lead.
Towson's second and third possessions was over as quickly as their first, with Pat Williams tipping Peter Athens' pass high into the air, allowing Joey Harmon to make a diving interception. The Wildcats would strike quickly again, this time with John Robertson running it in from 2 yards out. Then, Joe Sarnese would make a big hit to force a fumble, with Cameron McCurry recovering. Kevin Monangai punched it in from short range to make it 21-0 Villanova.
The running game was especially big for Villanova on this night, with the team totaling 269 yards on the ground. Monangai, Jamal Abdur-Rahman, Austin Medley and Poppy Livers all contributed behind Robertson's leading effort.
Towson finally woke up, with Athens' hitting Spencer Wilkins for an 80-yard touchdown that gave a brief glimmer of hope to the Tiger faithful. Villanova would respond with a long drive, culminating with Robertson's Tim Tebow-style jump pass to Earnest Pettway for a 7-yard touchdown. Robertson would finish the night 17-18 for 182 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing 32 times for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
Rushing Robertson 32 times may not been the pregame plan, but once he got going, even Talley couldn't help but admit it was the key to success.
Well, I knew they were going to come after us about 45% of the time. That's their M.O. But once Robertson gets through the line of scrimmage, he's a force downfield.
Because nothing is easy in the Villanova sports world, Derrick Joseph redeemed himself by returning the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to bring Towson back within two scores. That would be the last major threat from the Tigers, however, as Villanova would finish the half with two more scores - a Robertson 4-yard run and a Mark Hamilton 38-yard field goal to take a 38-14 lea.d.
The second half featured fewer offensive fireworks from both sides, with Andy Talley reverting back to a ball-control offense that originally figured into the game plan. Villanova marched straight down the field, but a Kevin Monangai fumble left the 'Cats without any points.
Towson then began a long drive that ate up most of the third quarter, much to the Wildcats' benefit. Terrance West finally broke free after being held in check all night, recording a 14-yard touchdown run to make it 38-22, Villanova.
Having a career night but not yet satisfied, John Robertson led Villanova back down the field again, and picked up his fifth touchdown of the night on a 10-yard run to put Villanova back up, 45-22.
From there, the Villanova defense would begin to assert itself. First, Cameron McCurry intercepted Athens' after his receiver let him down, and then Craig James got himself an INT on the next Towson possession as they drove deep into 'Nova territory again.
With the Villanova offense stalling, Towson took advantage of the opening that was provided. First, Terrance West ran it in from short range as the Wildcat D wilted. A failed two-point conversion would make it 45-28. Towson would attempt an audacious onside kick, and a Gary Underwood muff would give Towson the ball back. A quick drive culminated in a short Terrance West touchdown run to make it 45-35 with just about six minutes left.
Another onside kick attempt saw Austin Medley make a huge play, stepping up to grab the ball while taking a massive hit. Villanova was in good position to put the game to bed, but Kevin Monangai was stuffed on 3rd and short, and a miscommunication on 4th down led to a penalty which left Villanova with no choice but to punt.
Towson, with all the momentum, would march down the field with ease on the Villanova defense through the arm of Athens and through the legs of Terrance West. Craig James had a chance to seal the game with an INT in the end zone, but couldn't hold on.
James would atone for the drop shortly after, however, as Towson lined up for a 21-yard field goal with a minute remaining. The senior cornerback burst around the corner to block the kick and seal the win for the Wildcats.
There's no time to rest for Villanova, however, as they travel north to Durham next weekend to take on a hungry New Hampshire Wildcats team.