An overcast and misty day plus a solid Maine Black Bears defense threatened to derail John Robertson and the prolific Villanova Wildcats offense, but the 'Cats were able to weather the storm and run away from Maine 41-20. Robertson led the offensive effort again going 16-25 for 285 yards, 4 TDs and 1 INT. He carried the ball 17 times for 58 yards.
The early game time and slippery conditions likely contributed to a slow start for both teams as they traded 3 and outs to open the game. Maine's gameplan of spreading the Villanova defense out started to pay dividends on their second drive as quarterback Dan Collins went to star wide receiver Damarr Aultman several times before hitting Artie Williams on a 25-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring.
Villanova's offensive gameplan wasn't much different as it turned out. Aaron Wells, used mostly as a decoy so far this year, featured prominently on the ensuing drive as he used his speed effectively on the edges to move the chains. Gary Underwood continued his fine play by taking a direct snap from the Wildcat formation down to the goalline which allowed Kevin Monangai to punch it in from a yard out to even the score at 7.
The Wildcat defense was buoyed by the return of outside linebacker Joey Harmon who was immense in the opening half. A Harmon sack stopped a promising Maine drive and gave Robertson another chance to go to work.
Robertson, still nursing hand and hip injuries, took to the air for the next touchdown drive. Long passes to Clay Horne and Poppy Livers set up the 'Cats in the red zone. After Robertson was sacked, he hit Poppy Livers on a quick throw and Livers broke a tackle on the way in for a 23-yard touchdown to put 'Nova on top 14-7.
The defenses began trading stops as neither team could get much going in 2nd quarter. 'Nova finally was able to move back in to the Maine redzone, but the drive stalled and Chris Gough came on for a 37-yd attempt. In what wasn't much of a surprise, Talley called for the fake with confidence in Gough still low. Cody Pittman took the snap and flipped the ball over his head to Gough who was on the move. Pittman then ran out in to the flat for the pass from Gough, but it was broken up by Maine.
Maine took that momentum and began to march down the field. Collins hit Aultman on a long pass down to the 'Nova 2-yard line, and then hit Jordan Dunn for the TD on the very next play. A botched snap on PAT let 'Nova retain a 14-13 lead.
Late in the first half, Robertson began to use his legs to generate some offense. After a couple of nice scrambles, he found Anthony DeCamillo on 3rd down for 14-yardd completion that kept the drive alive. With just 37 seconds left in the half Robertson executed a beautiful throw to Lincoln Collins who caught his first career TD from 25 yards out to give Villanova a 21-13 lead at the half.
The Wildcats had the ball to start the second half and executed a long drive for a touchdown. A crucial 4th and 3 from the Maine 30-yard line allowed Robertson to show why he's so difficult to defend. He eluded 3 Maine defenders before scrambling for a first down and taking a late hit. A few plays later, he found Earnest Pettway for a 10-yard touchdown to stretch the 'Nova lead to 28-13.
Villanova began to impose their will to put the game out of reach. A quick 3 and out by Maine and a nice punt return by Livers set the 'Cats up in Maine territory, and Robertson didn't waste much time on a 43-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Gulyas. Chris Gough would miss the ensuing PAT to make the score 34-13.
The Villanova defense was the main story in the second half. Morgan Craig, recently converted to defensive end, registered his first career sack on one drive before both Harmon and Don Cherry finished off sacks of their own on another. Matt McCann and Reggie Paris also got in on the sack party. Cherry paced the defense with 12 tackles, 3 sacks and a forced fumble.
Collins finally hit Williams for a 30-yard TD pass late in the game for a consolation score against freshman defensive back Rob Rolle. Gary Underwood wouldn't let Maine have the final word though, taking a draw play 18 yards for a score as Villanova was trying to run out the clock.
Perhaps the biggest downside of the second half was John Robertson throwing his first INT of the season on a miscommunication with Monangai. Monangai also later fumbled right after the Don Cherry had forced a Maine turnover.
The win improved Villanova's record to 4-1 and 2-0 in the CAA, while Maine dropped to 2-3 and 1-1 in the CAA. Villanova will return home next Saturday to take on Rhode Island. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm ET at Villanova Stadium.