VILLANOVA, PA. 9/7/2019 – After starting the season with a Week Zero win at Colgate the #24 Villanova Wildcats returned to action hosting the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in the home opener.
With the offense responding and the defense coming up with key plays the Wildcats earned a 38 – 10 win over the Mountain Hawks and are 2 – 0 on the year.
“We were a little sluggish, I don;t know if the week off had anything to do with it, but I was pleased that we didn’t have any false starts or any mental mistakes,” said Villanova Coach Mark Ferrante. “We got the victory, I’m really pleased with our running game, Dan got the ball to multiple receivers, and the defense came up big again.”
The first quarter was even as the defenses were in control early. Lehigh put a scoring drive together in the second quarter getting a 32-yard field goal by Austin Henning that capped a 12-play, 48-yard drive taking over 5 minutes. The Villanova offense got it going responding immediately with a 31-yard touchdown pass by Daniel Smith to Jaaron Hayek at the 12:12 mark. The Wildcats scored again when kicker Drew Kresge was good with a 33-yarder. On the ensuing possession the Villanova defense scored when corner back Elijah Trent intercepted a Tyler Monaco pass and returned it 37-yards up the left sideline for a touchdown and a 17 – 3 lead that the Wildcats took into the locker room.
“That brings a lot of energy to the sidelines and that helps us out,” Trent said about the ability to get stops and scores.
Lehigh, again, got the scoring started in the second half on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Monaco to Jorge Portorreal to cut the deficit to 17 – 10. And much like the first half the Villanova offense answered on a 16-yard touchdown run by Justin Covington that was set up by a 52-yard rush by Jalen Jackson, his career-longest run.
“That’s always huge,” Ferrante said about the offense’s ability to respond. “To answer like that takes the wind out of their sails.”
The Wildcat defense took control. With a 4th and 1 at the Lehigh 48 the Mountain Hawks went for a first down, but Rashawn Allen fumbled the hand off. Maik Fischer recovered for Nova. Four plays later Smith found Todd Summers with a 13-yard scoring strike and a 31 – 10 lead for Villanova with 6:46 left in the third quarter.
Late in the quarter Lehigh drove to the Villanova 12. On a 4th down pass attempt by Monaco was batted down by Jaquan Amos. Covington posted a 64-yard run to the opponent 24 yardline. The defense finished the game turning the Mountain Hawks away from the goal line on a 4th and inches.
Smith finished his day with a 12-yard scoring toss to Dez Boykin. The junior quarterback completed 14 of 24 his attempts for 172 yards, 3 touchdowns, and again, no interceptions. Seven different players caught passes. He has 6 touchdown passes for the year and no tosses have been picked off.
“He’s done a good job,” Ferrante said about the performance of Smith. “You can tell he’s been on the field. He is spreading the ball around to multiple receivers. He is picking up the offense and sees it well.”
Covington rushed for 108 yards on 8 carries while Jackson had 95 yards on the ground. The one-two punch at running back has been a big part of the Nova offense this season.
“That is a great one-two punch,” said Covington. “Give a lot of credit to our offensive line.”
This was one of two home games for the Cats scheduled over the first eight weeks of the season. A trip to Bucknell is next for Nova.
Written By: Glenn Papazian