BY ROCK HOFFMAN
COLLEGE FOOTBALL EDITOR
Villanova - After a tentative start, No. 24 Villanova got three touchdown passes from Danny Smith and 227 yards from their ground game while their defense scored on an interception return for the second game in a row and held Lehigh to just 89 yards rushing in a 38-10 win on Saturday evening at Villanova Stadium.
Smith connected with three different receivers for the scores while Justin Covington (109 yards and a touchdown) and Jalen Jackson (95 yards) gave the Wildcats (2-0) a potent one-two punch at running back.
In the first quarter, the busiest player for each team was the punter (there were five combined punts). However late in the quarter, the Mountain Hawks decided to leave the kicker on the bench and go for a first down on fourth-and-nine at the Wildcats 31-yard line. It worked and ultimately led to a field goal anyway when Austin Henning booted a 32-yarder with 10 seconds expired in the second quarter. The Wildcats would quickly answer, Smith completed a 31-yard pass down the right sideline to a streaking Jaaron Hayek. The play covered one more yard than the Wildcats had gained in entire first quarter.
On the ensuing drive, the Mountain Hawks matriculated the ball down the field and went for it again on fourth-and-12 at the ‘Nova 32. This time, the Wildcats had the answer, it was Malik Fisher who sacked Lehigh’s Tyler Monaco. It led to a Drew Kresge 33-yard field goal.
On the next series, Elijah Trent picked off Monaco and bolted 37 yards to make it 17-3 which was the halftime score.
“It was my first college interception with a touchdown,” said Trent, a native of Rockville, MD, who had two picks last season. “It was a special feeling because I had my whole family here.”
The second half started with Lehigh (0-2) scoring quickly on a 42-yard pass from Monaco to Jorge Portorreal on just the fourth play after the kickoff.
The ‘Cats response was just as quick with Covington scoring on a 16-yard run after Jackson ran twice for 62 yards.
“To answer right after that,” said Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante, “takes a little wind out of their sails and, obviously, adds a little emotion to our sideline. That’s always big when you can respond right after someone does a good job on their side.”
Lehigh, trying to regain some momentum, was aggressive again on fourth down but a fumble on fourth-and-one ended the play before it had a chance to get started and gave Villanova the ball at the Mountain Hawk 46. It didn’t take long for Smith to connect with Todd Summers for a 13-yard score and it was 31-10.
Dez Boykin caught Smith’s last touchdown on a 12-yard play. It was set up when Covington dashed 64 yards from the Villanova 12-yard line after yet another turnover on downs by Lehigh.
The Wildcats are at Bucknell next Saturday night while Lehigh travels to California to take on UC Davis.
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