John Robertson had another big game on the ground, but he needed to go to the air in the second half to get back on track against a Maine team who seemingly got whatever they needed on offense. Maine got out to a 20-7 lead early on in the first half, as the Wildcats' defense looked ill-prepared for the Black Bears' attack. The 'Cats gave up over 530 yards to their opponent, but slowed things enough to stay in the game.
Down by nine, halfway through the fourth quarter, the Wildcats went on a long drive to pull within two of Maine at 35-37. The score kept things tight, but a flag for a facemask penalty on the kickoff gave Maine great field position with time left on the clock. The Black Bears threatened to drive the field again, but were stopped short around midfield and forced to punt. A flag on the punt play gave the 'Cats better position, but cost them precious time.
Needing to get to the other side of the 50-yardline to have a chance at a game-winning field goal, Villanova took to the air, but Robertson's aim was off, and he threw his first pass from scrimmage into the arms of Bears' defender Kendall James, to allow the Black Bears a chance to kneel down and seal a 37-35 victory over the Wildcats on homecoming.
"We've got to play better defense, if we put thirty, thirty-five points on the board, we should be able to win that game," Andy Talley said of the Wildcat's second-consecutive close loss.
"We're just not good right now, in our present condition, to get two tough games like that."
Robertson scored a career-high four rushing touchdowns in the loss, while gaining 214 yards on the ground. Through the air, Robertson completed 13 of his 22 attempts and threw one touchdown to Poppy Livers, in addition to the late interception, caught on a diving play by James.
Black Bears quarterback Marcus Wasilewski looked to be the best player on the field for much of the day. He completed 28-of-34 passes and had two touchdown passes. He also ran for one score and added another 86 yards in the running game to lead a Maine offense that scored on their first six possessions before finally punting for the first time in the third quarter.
Villanova scored touchdowns on four straight possessions, starting in the second quarter, to pull back within two, but the Wildcats were too low on time in the fourth quarter.
"I thought we played probably as hard as we could," Talley said, noting the injuries his team has suffered. "Maine is an impressive team, I thought coming into the game that they were really good. I'm really proud of our players, I thought we played really hard, stayed in the game and had a chance to come back and maybe pull it off at the end."
The Wildcats' injuries include starting outside receiver Joe Price's back, and a nagging knee injury for Jamal Abdur-Rahman that will keep him questionable from week-to-week. The 'Cats other big receiver, Mike Burke, was added to the list of casualties today, and stud defensive end Rakim Cox has also been limited.
They could have gone for the on-side kick after their fourth-quarter score made it 35-37 — just a two-point deficit for Nova. There was too much time on the clock for the coaches to take that risk, and the 'Cats felt like they had to rely on their defense.
"I think it was about 4 minutes and 18 seconds, or 15 seconds left," Talley explained. "You know, if you onside kick and you don't get it, now you're giving a team that's put 37 points on the board a half a field. You know, I was thinking, maybe if we can pin them deep, put them on the 20-25 yard line and get a tipped ball, or you know they're going to slow it down and run the ball — maybe we could force a punt and get more than we got.
"I think with that much time on the clock, every coach on the field wanted to kick it deep and I did as well. We're not very good with the onside kick, we're not really good at it, we practice it every day… I guess I wanted to put my faith in the defense, and you know we had a 15 yard penalty —grabbed a face mask. We're being very consistent, we did that last week too."
Even in the loss, Villanova's offense gained 386 yards, including 265 on the ground. Maine was just a little bit better, a little more multifaceted, and a little more prepared to deal with the Villanova defense that had too many seams in its coverage this afternoon.
"We're facing a lot of really good offensive teams right now," claimed the head coach. "Spread offense and a running quarterback has made coaching defense not-fun. You know, if you've got to defend John Robertson, that's not fun.
"We're not coming up with plays defensively. If you listen to our coordinator, Billy Crocker, he keeps saying, 'nobody is making plays, somebody make a play.'"
Robertson acted like Superman to try and keep the Wildcats in the game, and they were able to keep things close at the end, but a few more stops in the early going and things might have worked out differently.
"John [Robertson] played fabulous, he's really a one-man wrecking crew," Talley gushed."I feel bad that the guy's got to run for 200 yards every game just to keep us in the game. I mean, there was no question, he kept us in the last two games, if we would've won those last two games it would've been because of him.
"I just call him Superman; that's pretty much what he is."
Even with Robertson putting the offense on his back, the offense generated plenty of power, gaining 386 yards and 19 first downs in the contest. They matched Maine at 7.1 yards per play on offense. The defense, however, was a sieve, it seemed, allowing the Black Bears to gain yards at will.
After picking up their fourth loss of the season, Villanova's head coach looked at their injury situation when looking back on their decision to schedule only 11 games this Fall. FCS programs were permitted to play 12 regular-season games in 2013 and will have that opportunity again next season.
"I think, the injuries we have right now, we're kind of holding on with our fingernails," noted Talley. "We've got some guys that are ailing, Danny Shirey is playing with an achilles that's weakened, we have some other guys that are banged-up. So to go to a 12th game, for a private school like Villanova that doesn't get walk-on players — you know a lot of the state schools get a lot of kids who are great players and it doesn't cost eighteen-thousand to go to school there — they have depth, we don't.
"We need to do it with the sixty-three we have, and fifteen of them are freshmen, now you're down to forty-five, then you have six or seven that are hurt, you're playing with thirty-three, thirty-two football players. So, a twelfth game for us, I don't know if we could get it. I don't know if we could get to it.
"I'm happy with what we have. You know, in 2009 we started with the same 22 guys and finished [vs] Montana with the same 22 guys, and thats what a school like us has to do. You know we practice, we're very limited in practice, we don't hit, we're not in pads. You practice very differently than most teams because that's key for us, to stay healthy."