VILLANOVA, PA. 12/13/2014 – The day began for Villanova with the knowledge that quarterback John Robertson, a finalist for the coveted Walter Payton Award, would not be able to play due to a concussion. The day ended with kicker Chris Gough sending a potential game-tying 51 yard field goal attempt wide left. In between the Bearkats of Sam Houston State won a FCS Quarterfinal game at Villanova 34 – 31.
Robertson suffered the injury in last week’s win against Liberty. He passed the medical tests, and on Friday thought he was ready to go. Early in the morning of the game Robertson went to the coaches and stated he was not able to play. Talley turned to his senior backup quarterback, and one time starter, Chris Polony to lead the team.
“He was in practice yesterday and looked really good,” Villanova Coach Andy Talley said about Robertson and his availability for the game. “This morning, he did not feel well, he did not sleep, and had headaches. He came to us and said he couldn’t go. We moved on with Chris (Polony) and were confident he would play the way he did, and had a chance to win it.”
“We found out prior to the game that they weren’t going to have their star,” said Sam Houston State and former Delaware Coach K.C. Keeler.
“I saw Polony (on the depth chart), and that’s no bargain. He stepped up and played the way you would want him to play.”
Polony did play well. He ran for 87 yards and scored 2 touchdowns. Through the air Polony completed 13 of 24 passes for 228 yards and threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Poppy Livers, a career longest, and had no interceptions. With just over seven minutes to play Polony ran for a 1-yard touchdown to give the Wildcats a 31 – 27 lead. Sam Houston State answered with a 10 play, 75 yard drive to take the lead back when running back Jalen Overstreet crossed the goal line at the 4:03 mark.
Villanova took the ensuing kickoff and started at their 25 yard line. The third play in the drive Polony found Livers up the sideline for a 32 yard gain setting Villanova up at the Sam Houston State 39 yard line. The Wildcats advanced to the Bearkats 26. On a second and ten Polony was sacked by linebacker Myke Chatman pushing Villanova back another 3 yards.
“We took it upon ourselves to focus in and stop them, and that’s what we did,” Chatman said.
Following an incomplete pass Talley sent Gough out to try a 46 yard field goal to tie the game. Gough made a 46 yarder just before halftime. But the Wildcats were flagged for a five yard delay of game penalty forcing Gough to try from 51 yards away. The first kick went wide left, but the Bearkats called timeout negating the kick. The second attempt was also no good.
“If I had Robertson I would have gone for it,” Talley said about deciding to try the field goal by his inconsistent kicking game. “I couldn’t do what I normally do and go for it. Now, I had to try and kick a field goal. It’s a deficiency we must overcome.”
The Villanova defense had a difficult time containing the Sam Houston State offense especially TCU transfer wide receiver LaDarius Brown who had 8 catches for 174 yards and two scores. Quarterback Jared Johnson completed 22 of 27 passes for 303 yards and had 3 scoring tosses.
“Some of our coverages were a little tough for our corners,” said Villanova linebacker Don Cherry about giving up yards in the air.
Without Robertson Villanova used their running attack led by Kevin Monangai who rushed for 166 yards on 27 carries. As a team the Blue and White ran for 286 yards.
The Wildcats had an uncharacteristic 12 penalties for 88 yards.
Villanova completes its season with an 11 – 3 record. Their three losses were by one point at Syracuse, one point at Richmond, and this three-point differential.
Sam Houston State advances to the semifinal round where they will meet second seeded North Dakota State in Fargo next week. It has been a one game at a time mindset for the Bearkats, and that continues for another few days.
For Villanova it is what might have been.
“After our final touchdown, that’s when a championship team steps up,” said Talley. “If we got a stop we would have been in better shape. I am proud of our team, They are as an over achieving team and as good a group as we have had at Villanova.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian