Villanova wasn't itself in the fourth quarter on Saturday -- that much was apparent to anyone still left in the stands after watching the 'Cats get 44-points ahead of the Rhode Island Rams over the first three quarters. John Robertson only played in the first half, in an effort to protect the new Walter Payton Award-favorite for tighter games down the stretch.
"We pulled John [Robertson], you know, we're trying to keep him healthy," head coach Andy Talley explained. "He's been banged up, his hand is still in a cast, and you know all-in-all the rain had subsided, but it was still a little damp and wet and rainy toward the second half."
Robertson's health is of vital importance to the Wildcats this season. They scored 35 points in the first half on offense with him in the game, and just seven in the second half when he was on the sidelines.
"The thing with Johnny is that he continues to be very, very accurate. His passing accuracy is the part that continues to be very solid, so I'm pleased with that," the coach stated.
#NovaNation HC Andy Talley captures the recent play of Robertson perfectly. "He continues to be a model of consistency. ... He's a baller."— CAA Football (@CAAFootball) October 13, 2014
"We still have the injury bug at this point in time, we just can't get some of our guys back on the field, and John has really taken the load on his shoulders."
When Robertson takes a seat for Villanova, they hand the reins over to back-up quarterback Chris Polony, who has seen action in five of the six games that the team has played this season. He has gone 8-for-12 on throws for a completion percentage of 66.7 -- just 4 percentage points behind Robertson. He hasn't approached Robertson's cumulative statistics, however, but Polony is about as seasoned a back-up as you can have in the CAA, and Talley was grateful for that.
"Chris [Polony], as you recall, was our starter in his freshman year here, and he has a lot of reps under his belt and he knows the offense extremely well," Talley said. "He's not the runner John is, but he can run enough to keep you honest, and he has a really good arm. So, I'm confident if John went down, we could continue to win with Chris."
Part of that confidence is the fact that Talley knows his quarterback -- whoever that is -- has weapons like Poppy Livers. Livers grabbed his 100th catch as a Wildcat on Saturday and generally lit up the gridiron up for 113 yards receiving, two touchdowns and one massive 43-yard run. If the CAA hadn't named Robertson the Offensive Player of the Week, that honor might have gone to Livers.
"[Poppy Livers] is really a guy that deserves a lot of credit, he had his 100th catch at Villanova; and Poppy is the incredible walk-on who worked his way up, became a player and now he's a go-to guy," commended Talley. "He finds ways to get open and he's very, very quick. He's really just been a godsend for us this year.
"The rise from his junior year to his senior year has just been amazing."
If the injury bug gets too much worse, however, the 'Cats could have some trouble reaching into the basement of the depth chart. With the bench emptied in the fourth quarter, Villanova committed turnovers and penalties that helped Rhode Island score three quick touchdowns in a miniature rally.
"I think we, we had a lot of young kids on the field and you know they don't get a lot of reps in practice. You're up 37-0 at halftime, you've sort of taken the wind out of your sails a little bit.
"Their second quarterback came in and did a really nice job, he came in and played great. I think Jim has a chance to maybe get a good look at that kid."