By the fourth quarter, it became too easy for quarterback Daniel Smith.
The graduate transfer making his second start for Villanova eyed up sophomore wide receiver Dez Boykin in single coverage before a first-and-10 in the red zone early in the final quarter. He dropped back and tossed a perfect lob to the back of the end zone. Boykin leaped up and made the impressive touchdown grab.
Smith high-fived his center, sprinted to jump on Boykin and his teammates in the end zone, and then glided back to the sideline, his fist pumping at the crowd all the way. The score gave Villanova a four-touchdown lead en route to a 38-10 victory over Lehigh on Saturday night at Villanova Stadium.
“It’s fun,” said Smith, who finished the night 14-of-24 passing for 172 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. “It’s fun when you’re winning. Especially when everyone is playing well. … It felt like a well-rounded win for the whole team.”
Villanova started out sluggish, something head coach Mark Ferrante was reluctant to attribute to the team’s week off after defeating Colgate 34-14 on Aug. 31. The Wildcats’ three first-quarter drives lasted five plays or less and were riddled with penalties.
But the Boykin touchdown capped off a fifth score in a run of six offensive possessions from the second quarter into the fourth. The dominant win was Villanova’s eighth in a row over Lehigh and fourth in the last four seasons.
“(Lehigh’s defense) moves a lot,” Ferrante said. “They slant, they angle, they bring linebackers, they bring safeties and it takes a little while to get used to that.
“Once our linemen are able to see all the movement that’s happening at the speed that they’re doing it at and our running backs have an opportunity to get a couple carries under their belt and they can see what’s happening as well, they can attack it a little better,” he added.
Lehigh led 3-0 on the second play of the second quarter with a 32-yard field goal. Villanova responded as Smith found freshman wide receiver Jaaron Hayek in a pocket of Lehigh’s zone defense for a 31-yard touchdown.
After tacking on a field goal, Villanova’s defense got on the scoreboard for the second straight game when sophomore cornerback Elijah Trent intercepted Lehigh quarterback Tyler Monaco and went 37 yards untouched for a touchdown.
“It was my first college interception with a touchdown,” Trent said. “I had my whole family here. It was just a special feeling.”
Villanova’s defense allowed just 89 yards on the ground, 2.9 yards per rush, and forced four turnovers on downs, including a fourth-quarter stop at their own 1-yard line.
The Wildcats’ running-back tandem of junior Justin Covington and sophomore Jalen Jackson took over in the second half. Jackson broke off for a career-best 52-yard run to set up a 16-yard Covington score early in the third quarter. It was an efficient response to Lehigh’s only touchdown of the evening, a 42-yard Monaco pass to junior wide receiver Jorge Portorreal.
After a 13-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Todd Summers gave the Wildcats a 24-10 lead late in the third, Covington burst through the defense for 64 yards. The longest rush of his career set up the Boykin touchdown and soon after sent the Villanova offensive starters to the bench.
Covington finished with 109 yards on eight rushes, his second straight 100-yard game, and Jackson added 96 yards and a touchdown. Villanova’s 399 total yards of offense included 227 on the ground.