Wildcats hand Tigers first loss of season on Homecoming
Homecoming week came to a halt, as Towson dropped its first game of the year to the Villanova Wildcats Saturday night at rain-soaked Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Towson (6-1, 2-1 Colonial Athletic Association) now stands in a tie for third place in the CAA, while Villanova (4-2, 3-0 CAA) has sole possession of first.
Over 10,000 fans filled the stands and brought the noise, but a 21-6 first quarter deficit silenced the Tiger faithful. The Tigers turned the ball over three times in the first frame, resulting in 21 unanswered points for the Wildcats.
Towson put together a second half comeback, but a 38-14 halftime score was too much for Towson to overcome.
The Tigers cut the deficit to 10 points, but graduate kicker D.J. Evangelista’s field goal attempt was blocked with less than one minute remaining, sealing the 45-35 victory for Villanova.
“This [was] one of the most amazing crowds that we’ve ever had in this stadium,” Head Coach Rob Ambrose said. “The support that we had, especially when it was raining and we were coming back was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.”
The game marked a battle between the two reigning Jerry Rice Award winners for FCS Freshman of the Year, junior running back Terrance West and quarterback John Robertson.
However, it was Robertson who shined in the game. He ran for 150 yards and three touchdowns, adding 182 yards and two touchdowns in the air. His 17-for-18 completion rate is the best in Johnny Unitas Stadium history.
“We had a great game plan going into the game,” Robertson said. “[Towson] is a great defense and didn’t let much over the top so we had to spread the ball around to everyone. I felt like when we spread it out, it opened up holes for me.”
Towson continued its trend of slow starts. Senior wide receiver Derrick Joseph fumbled the ball over to Villanova on the opening kickoff.
On their second play from scrimmage after the fumble, quarterback John Robertson completed a touchdown pass to an open running back Gary Underwood to give the Wildcats the early lead.
The Tigers attempted to find a response on their second drive, but senior quarterback Peter Athens’s pass was intercepted by linebacker Joey Harmon on the second play of the drive.
Villanova took over at the Towson 32-yard line, and Robertson led another Villanova drive with 22 yards on the ground. Running back Kevin Monangai punched the ball in to put Towson down 14-0.
The Tigers saw a ray of hope in the form of Athens’s pass to senior wide receiver Spencer Wilkins, but Wilkins fumbled after the reception. The Wildcats took possession and drove 44 yards to take the 21-0 lead on a Monangai touchdown run.
“They are an exceptionally good football team,” Ambrose said. “We’re always going to fight back, but you can’t continually turn the ball over and give them points.”
Towson had 20 yards on offense after the Villanova touchdown, but got 80 on one play on the next drive. Athens connected with Wilkins for the touchdown, but a blocked extra point made it 21-6 with 4:47 remaining in the first quarter.
The first quarter ended with the same score, giving the Tigers a 55-3 first quarter score line in the last three games combined. At the end of the quarter, the Wildcats held the ball for 12:33 compared to the Tigers 2:27.
Robertson led Villanova to another touchdown at the beginning of the second quarter with a seven-yard pass to tight end Earnest Pettway. However, Towson answered with a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown from Joseph, his second of the year.
The Tigers had clawed back into the game, but Robertson and the Wildcat rushing attack proved too much for the Tigers defense.
He took the Wildcats on a 16-play, 75-yard drive that lasted over eight minutes and ended with his second rushing touchdown of the night.
“[Robertson]’s amazing. He extended plays and we couldn’t tackle him,” Ambrose said. “We did a very bad job containing him. Our containment leans were poor and very undisciplined and it showed.”
Villanova tacked on a field goal before the half ended, and Evangelista missed the 41-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
At the half, Towson had possession of the ball for less than five minutes, while Villanova had it for over 25 minutes.
The Wildcats seemed like they were about to take full control of the game when they drove to the Tigers 10-yard to begin the half. However, the Tigers forced a fumble and drove 90 yards on 20 plays, leading to an Athens touchdown pass to Victor.
Towson had made it a two-possession game at 38-22, but Villanova gave itself more breathing room at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Robertson rushed for a 10-yard touchdown to give
Villanova a commanding 23-point advantage with 13:57 remaining in the game.
Despite blocking a Wildcat punt and recovering an onside kick with 7:49 remaining, the Tigers could not make up the 23-point hole. Two Athens interceptions halted Tiger momentum in the fourth quarter, but the blocked Evangelista field goal attempt proved to be the game-clincher.
With the loss, Towson will likely lose its top-three FCS ranking, but Ambrose said that his team remains hungry for a playoff spot.
“They pushed us around and that was a wakeup call. It was a little bit of physicality and it got to them,” Ambrose said. “It’s a tough one and it hurt, but we’ll survive and the goal is still in sight.”