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Caught in the Web, Nova football couldn't hang after mistakes

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Villanova dropped their first home football game of the season on a chilly October night. A littany of mistakes stalled the Wildcats' offense and helped the Richmond Spiders have their way on the gridiron.

Brian Ewart | VUhoops

"I'm not sure we're ready for prime-time yet, but we almost were," claimed Villanova's head coach Andy Talley after suffering his team's first home loss of the season.

Tied at halftime, Villanova made its share of mistakes in the first three quarters against Richmond. Penalties and turnovers plagued a Villanova team that looked a little too much like last year's 2-9 edition at times. The defense seemed to struggle getting a read on Richmond quarterback John Laub, allowing him to move the bal easily for much of the game, whether by foot or through the air, the Spiders always seemed to have one more big play up their sleeves.

After a few threats from the 'Cats in the fourth quarter fizzled out, the Spiders won the game, 28-14. Villanova dropped to 4-2 on the season and 2-1 in the CAA conference.

"Obviously, I knew that Richmond was a good team," head coach Andy Talley said. "I knew it would be a good test for us, we knew the game would be exactly the way it was, a gut-buster, a game that could go either way. The blocked punt for an easy, short-field score for them [on Villanova's first drive of the game] was critical. You really couldn't give up something like that in a game this tight.

"When you end up with the turnovers in the game like that, and a blocked punt, that's the difference."

After battling in a back-and-fourth first half, Richmond scored the only points of the third quarter, to go ahead 21-14. Villanova wouldn't have an answer until the early part of the fourth quarter with a drive down to the Richmond 1-yard line, that was stalled after multiple attempts to punch it in. Villanova would settle for a field goal from 24 yards out, making the score 17-21 in favor of the Spiders.

The Wildcats also struggled in an earlier goal line stand, needing all four downs before Kevin Monangai finally punched the ball in for their first score of the game. The second touchdown came on an easy pass to a wide open Joe Price for 72 yards.

Fans began to stream out of the stands with 3:14 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, after John Robertson threw an interception from deep inside Villanova territory, putting the Spiders offense back on the field well inside the redzone.

"That's why Richmond was a critical game for us to play, because we would have to eliminate stuff like that [turnovers and penalties at critical times] to win."

Richmond scored a touchdown on the early blocked punt as well as late in the game on the critical interception. If neither of those plays were to happen, it might have changed the result — which was ultimately only an 11 point difference.

The defense was forced to work hard because of the mistakes and it showed, with the unit looking tired in the second half, allowing the Spiders to make some big plays and keep things moving along.

Despite the turnovers, John Robertson recorded the first 300+ yard passing game in his career, completing 24 of 38 passes for 308 yards and a touchdown to go with three interceptions. Joe Price was the beneficiary of 153 of those passing yards as he continues to break out in his junior season.

The 'Cats weren't able to get much going in the running game, however, falling short of 200 yards for the first time this season. They picked up just 152 yards on the ground on 34 attempts and Robertson accounted for 117 of them himself.

Kevin Monangai, who lead the league in rushing going into this week, was held to just 29 yards on the ground.

"We threw for 308 yards and rushed for 152," Talley noted. "That's not really our game. It's a little too much pressure for [Robertson] early in his career to have to do that, since that's not really the way we play in practice. I think, had we been able to run the ball a little more we would have taken a little more pressure off of John."

Robertson accounted for 425 of the Wildcats 460 yards of total offense. For a team that has made it's name running the ball with a multi-headed attack early on, that isn't a comforting stat line. The 'Cats will look to get more production out of their tailbacks going forward.

Part of the problem is Austin Medley, who has still been limited since suffering a hamstring injury earlier in the season. He had just 4 carries on the night. Injury-wise, however, the receiving corps was boosted with Dorian Wells returning from his summer injury, and Kenny Miles will return next week.

If the offense can cut out the mistakes, they will have plenty of depth and talent going forward, but they are still growing. This remains a young offensive team, but their 460 yards of offense show that they have the talent to succeed at the CAA level — eventually.