Villanova became grounded when it counted. During a turnover-filled performance, the Wildcats avoided miscues and marched 84 yards on 18 plays late in the game, all on the ground.
Quarterback John Robertson's 1-yard touchdown run with 1 minute, 12 seconds left capped the drive, giving the Wildcats a 29-22 win over visiting Liberty in a second-round Football Championship Subdivision playoff game.
Villanova (11-2) will host Sam Houston State, guided by former Rowan and Delaware coach K.C. Keeler, in a quarterfinal at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"This is a team that has carried us through the rough spots, especially when you come up against a team like Liberty who are as good a team as we played this year," Villanova coach Andy Talley said.
Before that 7-minute, 11-second drive, Villanova committed four turnovers.
With Villanova's kicking woes this season, Talley said he wasn't going for a field goal on that drive. The Wildcats' Kevin Monangai gained 3 yards on a fourth and 1 on the Liberty 8-yard line to extend the drive.
"It was awesome watching our offensive line push those guys around. They really stepped up for us," Robertson said about the final drive.
The offensive line on that drive consisted of tackles Vince Kowalski and Brad Seaton, center Ross Hall, and guards Kyle Wallace and Peter Sotiriou.
"Their guys beat us up front," said Liberty coach Turner Gill, the former star Nebraska quarterback.
The defense, led by linebacker Don Cherry, twice held the Flames (9-5) to field goals when they had first and goal from the 5 and 8, respectively.
Robertson completed 8 of 19 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 100 yards and two scores on 18 carries. Kevin Gulyas had two receptions for 157 yards and one score. Monangai rushed for 102 yards on 20 carries.
Villanova cut Liberty's lead to 13-7 on Robertson's 3-yard run with 7:29 left in the first half. That touchdown was set up two plays earlier by an 87-yard completion to Gulyas, the longest reception in school history.
On the ensuing kickoff, Villanova's Raasan Stewart forced a fumble that was recovered by teammate T.J. White at the Liberty 16.
Austin Medley, who gained 15 yards on first down, scored three plays later on a 1-yard option pitch, giving the Wildcats a 14-13 lead with 5:24 left in the half.
The Wildcats eventually trailed, 22-14, but they tied it on Robertson's 70-yard pass to Gulyas and Robertson's second-effort two-point conversion run early in the fourth quarter.