VILLANOVA, Pa. - Remember the overpowering Stony Brook running game that put the Seawolves in the FCS playoffs the past two seasons? Well, forget it.
Graduation took away Miguel Maysonet, and coach Chuck Priore announced Saturday that workhorse running back Marcus Coker has been lost for the season with an abdominal injury.
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Unfortunately for the Seawolves, they also have lost outstanding cornerback Reuben Johnson for the season with a knee injury, and a heel injury limited backup Ivan May to just a few snaps against Colonial Athletic Association preseason favorite Villanova Saturday afternoon.
That was not a favorable combination for the Seawolves. They pounded Villanova in a Football Championship Subdivision first-round playoff game in November with the 1-2 punch of Maysonet and Coker, but the Wildcats returned the favor in a 35-6 rout Saturday that delighted a Villanova Stadium crowd of 11,617.
Wildcats quarterback John Robertson, who was bottled up in the playoff game by Stony Brook's defense, could not be contained. He rushed 20 times for 119 yards and a touchdown and completed 9 of 12 passes for 140 yards and a TD.
For the first time in forever under Priore, the Seawolves (1-2, 1-1 CAA) failed to reach the 100-yard mark in rushing, totaling 87 yards. Priore went with a running back-by-committee approach, rotating Jameel Poteat, Jamie Williams, freshman Tyler Fredericks and James Kenner. Those four totaled 60 yards on 19 carries.
Wide receiver Malcolm Eugene was productive with 12 catches for 184 yards and a fourth-quarter score, the Seawolves' lone TD, and quarterback Lyle Negron completed 23 of 33 passes for 279 yards with 30 yards rushing.
Asked if he could remember the last time one of his teams was held below 100 yards rushing, Priore said, "I don't look at the stats. But the climate of the game changed that."
Villanova (1-2, 1-0) took a 21-0 halftime lead with the aid of a couple of trick plays. On the Wildcats' first TD, Robertson pitched to backup quarterback Cody Pittman running right in the backfield, and he threw back to his left to wide-open running back Gary Underwood for a 4-yard score. Villanova next went 80 yards in three plays, scoring on a 43-yard flea-flicker from Robertson to wide-open receiver Clay Horne for a 14-0 lead.
Robertson added a 3-yard run for a touchdown before halftime for a 21-0 margin.
Early in the third quarter, Eugene fumbled after catching a 12-yard pass and Villanova safety Joe Sarnese returned it 36 yards for a 28-0 lead.
The loss of Coker seemed to contribute to the climate change at Villanova, but Negron downplayed the impact. "Not much," Negron said. "When Coker was here last week, we did the same things. When you're playing from behind, you've got to start throwing the ball a little bit.
"There was no emotional letdown. The next guy's got to step up, which I thought they did pretty good today."
The Seawolves avoided the shutout with a 15-play drive covering 72 yards, scoring on a 4-yard pass from Negron to Eugene with 5:45 left in the game. But Villanova recovered the onside kick and went 44 yards to score on a 5-yard run by Kevin Monangai.
The Seawolves must regroup for Saturday's home opener against Towson, a team ranked No. 4 in the FCS poll before play this weekend. "It stinks to lose," Priore said. "I'll evaluate the film, and we better prepare as if this didn't happen."