Villanova vs. Rhode Island: Wildcats batter Rams in CAA opener 31-10
Villanova wasted no time in getting on the score board at the outset of the game. Joe Sarnese picked off a Rhode Island pass on the Rams second play from scrimmage. In two plays, the Wildcats banged the ball into the end zone, with Kevin Monangai taking it in from the one yard line. This followed a nifty 27 yard run by Poppy Livers on a reverse to the Rams one yard line.
The Rams struck right back on their next possession taking the ball 49 yards in 8 plays, scoring on a 25 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bob Bentsen to wide receiver Billy Morgan, of Chester, PA, to tie the game.
Rhode Island took the lead with 4:18 left in the second quarter on a 25 yard field goal by Dylan Smith, culminating a 10 play, 63 yard drive. Villanova had a golden opportunity to tie or go ahead when nose guard Antoine Lewis recovered a Bentsen fumble at the Rams 31 yard line. The Wildcats, however, failed to take advantage of the turnover and turned the ball over on downs.
Villanova regained the lead, and found its mojo, on its first possession of the second half, taking the ball 57 yards in 8 plays with quarterback John Robertson, who struggled in the opening half, scooting in from the one yard line. The Wildcats scored again on their next possession going 73 yards in 9 plays with Austin Medley carrying it in from 4 yards out. Mark Hamilton converted the extra point to give Villanova a 21-10 lead with 5:21 left in the third quarter.
Villanova scored at the start of the fourth quarter with Hamilton booting a 24 yard field goal to boost the lead to 24-10. On the play before the field goal, the Wildcats missed what looked like a sure touchdown when Norman White could not hang on to a pass in the end zone. Villanova then took advantage of a poor punt by the Rams, to put more points on the board. Kevin Monangai raced 23 yards to score his second touchdown of the game, finishing a 45 yard, 3 play drive.
Villanova, for the first time since 1992, rushed for over 200 yards in three consecutive games. The M&M running duo of Monangai and Medley ran for a combined total of 96 yards and three touchdowns. Poppy Livers contributed 60 yards on just 2 carries. Robertson gained 63 yards rushing, with one touchdown. Norman White, Villanova’s outstanding senior wide receiver, caught 7 passes for 88 yards. Joe Price, Earnest Pettway, and Livers each had two receptions. Robertson completed 14 passes in 27 attempts for 171 yards. On defense, Rakim Cox paced the way for Villanova with 6 tackles and a sack. Linebackers Patrick Haggerty and Dillon Lucas each had 5 total tackles, with Haggerty also contributing a sack. Sarnese, in addition to his interception, added 5 tackles.
For the Rams, QB Bentsen completed 14 of 23 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. Clement Ani was the Rams leading tackler with nine on the day.
Villanova travels to Franklin Field next week to play the Penn Quakers in a 330pm game. Rhode Island will be at home against conference foe James Madison next Saturday.