'Cats Pounce on Mountain Hawks

The #24 Villanova Wildcats defeated the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, 38-10, in their home opener to move to 2-0 on the 2019 season. 

The Wildcats got a week off following their big victory over then #13 Colgate, and the rest might have led to a slow first quarter for the offense, but the team turned it on after the first 15 minutes. The Mountain Hawks lost their opener to Saint Francis and came into the game with much lower expectations than a ranked Colgate squad.

Head Coach Mark Ferrante was satisfied with the overall showing Saturday night, “Obviously real excited about the home opener with a victory,” Ferrante said. “Guys played hard. [We] started out a little sluggish. I don’t know if the week off had anything to do with it… but the defense stepped up, scored on defense…got the victory.” 

Both defenses came to play in the first quarter as neither team was able to move the ball much on offense. The Wildcats were pinned inside their own 20-yard line for each of their first three drives and were only able to muster one first down and 30 total yards.   

As the first quarter wound down, Lehigh began to move the ball. An incomplete pass on third down set up a 32-yard field goal by senior Austin Henning to give the Mountain Hawks a 3-0 lead. 

The Wildcat offense woke up after that, and went 72 yards in six plays, capped by a touchdown pass from quarterback Daniel Smith to freshman Jaaron Hayek. The extra point was good and gave Villanova a 7-3 advantage. 

 The Villanova offense ended with 399 total yards, overcoming the slow start entirely and showing last week offensive outburst was no fluke. 

Smith was solid for a second consecutive week, this time out throwing for 172 yards on 14-24 passing and three touchdown passes, good for a 159.8 Quarterback Rating.

Lehigh was able to work their way down to the Villanova 30-yard line on the ensuing drive, but a big fourth down sack by junior Malik Fisher gave the Wildcat offense the ball back on their own 37-yard line. 

Smith lead the Wildcats down the field, including a big 22-yard pass to Jevin Jones on third down. Villanova couldn’t find the end zone, however and Drew Kresge hit a 33-yard field goal to push the Wildcat lead to 10-3.

The Wildcat defense continued its solid play when sophomore Elijah Trent read a route from Lehigh quarterback Tyler Monaco and stepped in front of the pass. He ran it back 37 yards to the endzone to grow the Wildcats’ lead to 17-3 after the extra point.

The interception was the first of Trent’s college career and was notable because of who was in attendance. 

“It was special because I had my whole family there,” Trent said. “It was just a special feeling.”  

Monaco was 23-43 through the air for 253 yards, including one touchdown and one interception. 

Both defenses stepped up the next three drives and 17-3 was the halftime score. Smith had a solid first half, going 11-18 for 136 yards in the air and one touchdown. The Wildcat defense was able to hold Monaco to 11-25 passing for 99 yards and the interception. 

Lehigh received the ball to start the 2ndhalf and Monaco was much more in synch this drive. He completed four passes, the last one a 42-yard touchdown pass to junior Jorge Portorreal to shrink the Villanova lead to 17-10. 

The rushing attack did the job when Villanova got the ball back, especially sophomore Jalen Jackson. He followed up a first down rush by breaking off for 52 yards, a career long for the Richmond, Va. native. Justin Covington finished the drive off with a 16-yard touchdown rush, giving Villanova a two possession lead again at 24-10. 

Jackson finished with 95 yards on the ground, while Covington led the way with 109 yards and one touchdown.

The Villanova defense came up big on fourth down and one the ensuing drive, forcing a turnover on downs and giving the offense the ball on its own 46-yard line. Jackson continued his strong play, moving the offense to the Lehigh 37-yard line after a series of runs. A facemask penalty on Lehigh moved the Wildcats to the 13-yard line, and Smith completed a touchdown pass to junior Todd Summers to extend the lead to 31-10. 

The Lehigh offense raked up 358 yards, but only 89 rushing yards. The Wildcats defense was able to prevent the big plays, even though Lehigh picked up some yards. That strategy is just fine with Ferrante. 

“They [defense] gave up some yards,” Ferrante said. “I guess the old ‘bend but didn’t break’ adage applies to that one.” 

Juniors Amin Black and Forrest Rhyne led the way on defense, each totaling ten tackles on the day. 

The offense wasn’t quite done, however. Sophomore Dez Boykin won a jump ball from Smith at the start of the fourth quarter to push the game out of reach as Villanova’s advantage grew to 38-10. 

Boykin’s four receptions for 46 yards led the way for Villanova, and Hayek added three receptions for 44 yards.

Villanova returns to action Saturday, Sept. 14 at Bucknell.