No. 3 Towson has enjoyed a six-game winning streak to open the season, which includes a 2-0 record in the Colonial Athletic Association. Getting win No. 7 could depend on how the defense fares against Villanova’s John Robertson.
The sophomore quarterback gives the No. 15 Wildcats (3-2, 2-0) a dual threat. Not only has he completed 67.5 percent (77-of-114) of his passes for 882 yards and five touchdowns, but Robertson also leads the offense in rushing with 76 carries for 443 yards and five scores.
That kind of diversity at the quarterback position has made life a little easier for Villanova coach Andy Talley.
“I think we all want a dual-threat quarterback, which John is – somebody who can run and somebody who can throw,” he said Monday during a conference call organized by the league. “Where he is especially helpful is he’s one of our top ground gainers – he along with [junior running back] Kevin Monangai. He’s a guy that we go into a game expecting that he’s going to have 100 yards rushing and hope that he’s somewhere up in the 65 percent passing category, which he has been. So he’s definitely one of the better quarterbacks in the country, and he proved that as a freshman last year. He had a slow start against Boston College and Fordham turning the ball over, but he’s been real good the last two or three games. So if we can keep him healthy, he’s certainly a guy you want to hang your hat on.”
The Tigers would be wise to study Robertson. In a 49-35 decision won by Towson on Oct. 27, Robertson connected on 17-of-23 throws for 216 yards and a season-high four touchdowns and rushed 21 times for 27 yards and one score. The then-freshman was also sacked seven times.
In Saturday’s 44-28 win against then-No. 19 New Hampshire, junior quarterback Andy Vailas completed 18-of-29 throws for 194 yards and rushed three times for 51 yards and one touchdown. Vailas might have had more if he hadn’t injured his left knee in the second quarter – an ailment that plagued him in the second half.
Robertson’s average of 88.6 rushing yards ranks fifth in the CAA, and Monangai ranks 10th at 64.4 yards per game (322 yards and one touchdown). As productive as Robertson has been, however, Talley conceded that relying on Robertson to key the ground game may leave him at risk to absorb a big hit by an opponent.
“We actually went into the season with that thought process, that we would back him off, and he turned the ball over five times in the first two games,” Talley said. “Sat him down and said, ‘What’s going on here?’ He said, ‘I want to run the ball more. I feel more comfortable when I’m running, and I get into the passing game a little better.’ So we threw caution into the wind. But I get it. I hear what you’re saying, and it does concern me. But he’s a real strong kid. He’s 215 pounds, and he’s a big kid. He’s got 4.6 speed. So we just said, ‘You know what, if we’re going to win, we’ve got to get this guy in the dance throwing the ball and running the ball and hopefully, the turnover margin will improve, and lately, that’s what’s happened.”