The 0-2 Villanova Wildcats entertained the 0-1 Monmouth Hawks in their home opener at Villanova stadium on Saturday. Beset by injuries, the Wildcats started Chris Polony, a true freshman, at quarterback.
Villanova, an extemely young and inexperienced team, struggled mightily before succumbing to the Hawks 20-9. The Wildcats did not pick up a first down until Polony was replaced by senior Christian Culicerto midway through the second quarter.
Monmouth, which was playing Villanova for the first time ever on the gridiron, seized the lead 3-0 on a 32 yard field goal by Eric Spillane with 9:16 left in the 2nd quarter. The Wildcats, who were already playing without the injured Norman White and Joe Price, also played without Mikey Reynolds, who was suspended for violating team rules. The shorthanded squad lost a golden opportunity to take the lead when Dorian Wells, after catching a pass from Culicerto, rumbled 49 yards to the Monmouth two yard line (where Jose Gumbs knocked the ball out of Wells hands and into the end zone). Wells nearly recovered the ball in the end zone before it went out of the end zone for a touchback. Consequently, the half ended with the Hawks clinging to a 3-0 lead.
Villanova finally scored on its first possession of the second half marching 83 yards in 10 plays. Austin Medley culminated the drive with a 36 yard dash for the touchdown. The key play on the drive was 13 yard run by Culicerto, who was facing a 3rd and 12 situation. Hamilton converted the extra point to give the Cats a 7-3 lead.
Monmouth went back on top for good after driving 76 yards in 11 plays. The score came with 2:23 left in the 3rd quarter, on a 7 yard toss from Kyle Frazier to Tristan Roberts. Frazier completed 17 of 30 passes on the day for 220 yards.
Villanova threatened to regain the lead following a nifty kickoff return by Jamal Abdur Rahman that gave the Wildcats good field position. Nova marched to the Hawks 1 yard line but failed to score. The Wildcats chose to go for the lead on 4th down from the 1, but Medley was stopped. After the game, Coach Andy Talley said, “We were so close and I wanted to put some pressure on Monmouth.”
Monmouth then drove from its own 2 yard line to the Nova 19, before Spillane kicked a 36 yard field goal. Villanova again mounted a drive, but could not capitalize as Nick Yako missed on a 44 yard field goal try.
With 3:02 left, Monmouth, after taking over on its own 1 yard line following a Villanova punt, took a safety when its punter ran out of the end zone to make the score 13-9. Then, with 1:12 left in the game, Baliel Sloan El ran 45 yards for a touchdown to ice the game for the Hawks.
For the Wildcats, Culicerto hit 11-24 passes for 183 yards. Medley, who scored the lone Villanova touchdown, ran for 53 yards on 7 carries. Dorian Wells caught 6 passes for 98 yards. Defensively, the Cats, who played the second half without James Pitts, who suffered ” an upper body” injury (Coach Talley indicated it was thought Pitts sustained a concussion), were led by true freshman Dillon Lucas with 8 tackles including a sack, and true freshman Joe Sarnese with 10 total tackles.
For the prevailing Hawks, Balial Sloan El was their leading rusher, picking up 76 yards on 13 carries and 1 touchdown. Mitchell Pollard caught 7 passes for 118 yards. Neal Sterling also snatched 5 passes for 69 yards.
Although Coach Talley said he had not yet made his final decision about next week, he did indicate that Culicerto had earned the right to be considered for the starting role based on his play against Monmouth.
Next up for the 0-3 Wildcats is a game against the Penn Quakers at Franklin Field next Saturday night. The paid attendance for Saturday’s game was 11,817.
[photo credits: Christian Hafer]
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