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Wildcats pull away from Lehigh in second half to win home opener, 38-10

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Another strong all-around game for the ‘Cats.

NCAA Football: Villanova at Temple Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of nailing a field goal to take an early 3-0 lead, Lehigh trailed for a majority of the game. There was a moment in which the Mountain Hawks were seemingly back in it, when they came out of the halftime break with a quick touchdown-scoring drive.

Lehigh quarterback Tyler Monaco connected with Jorge Portorreal for a 42-yard touchdown pass. Portorreal beat his man one-on-one, and broke loose for a long score, making it just a seven-point game early in the third quarter.

That would be the closest the Mountain Hawks would get to catching the ‘Cats. With the score 17-10 in the Wildcats’ favor, ‘Nova rattled off three-straight touchdown drives to pull away. The Wildcats’ lead grew in a flash, as they downed Lehigh, 38-10, in their home opener on Saturday.

Villanova quarterback Daniel Smith completed 14-of-24 pass attempts for 172 yards and three touchdowns. On the ground, it was another strong one-two punch from Wildcat running backs Jalen Jackson and Justin Covington. Covington ran the ball eight times for 109 yards and a touchdown. Jackson finished with 95 yards on 10 carries.

Although the ‘Cats barely outgained Lehigh, 399-358, they stood tall defensively when it mattered most. ‘Nova was able to stuff Lehigh on crucial fourth down attempts, denying the Mountain Hawks on four separate occasions.

Villanova’s second half explosion began with a big 52-yard run by Jackson, a drive finished off by a 16-yard touchdown run by Covington. After forcing a fumble and stopping Lehigh on downs, the ‘Cats struck again, Smith found tight end Todd Summers for another touchdown.

The Wildcat defense stood firm once again on the following drive, stopping the Mountain Hawks in the red zone. A long 64-yard run by Covington after the defensive stand allowed the ‘Cats to be within striking distance from the end zone. A couple of plays later, Dez Boykin reeled in a pass from Smith for another touchdown. It was the final score in the Wildcats’ streak of 21 unanswered points. It was the deathknell for Lehigh, who continued to struggle in making key conversions.

It was another quiet first quarter start for the ‘Cats, who was scoreless in the first frame, but got on the board in the second quarter. Freshman wide receiver Jaaron Hayek had a 31-yard touchdown reception from Smith for Villanova’s first score of the game.

Later in the first half, Drew Kresge made a 33-yard field goal to make it 10-3 with 5:03 remaining in the second quarter. On the ensuing Lehigh drive, Villanova’s Elijah Trent was able to add a pick-six to give Villanova a 17-3 boost going into the half.

With the win, Villanova is now 2-0 overall. The Wildcats return to action next Saturday, as they head on the road to play Bucknell.

The Bison are currently 0-2 after a loss to Sacred Heart. Last season, Villanova beat Bucknell in blowout fashion, winning 49-7 at Villanova Stadium. The ‘Cats will hope for a repeat performance next Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. ET.