When the Wildcats fell behind 21-3, Robertson replaced sophomore Chris Polony and immediately took the team on a touchdown drive (with him scoring from 4 yards out). It would be their final points, in a lopsided loss. But Robertson did rush for a team-best 78 yards on 15 carries.
According to coach Andy Talley, Robertson told one of his teammates when he went on the field that he was never coming out.
"I don't know if that's exactly what I said," Robertson hedged. "I just wanted to play, try and help the team. That's what I came here for, to win games and to be a leader. I'm a competitor. I'm definitely talking to my teammates on the sidelines. I wanted Chris to do well, because I want what's best for the team. We all do. But when you get your chance, you want to make the most of it. That's all I was trying to do . . .
"But I could definitely see myself saying something like that. I like playing with a lot of emotion. I do remember telling my roommate from last year, Kevin Monangai, 'Listen, if you get the ball, hold on and run.' And coach Talley looked at me and laughed, 'That's a good thing to say.' "
Four games later, a young Villanova squad coming off a perfect storm 2-9 season - and that was supposedly still another year away - has yet to lose again. And the new quarterback has obviously been one of the reasons why.
But, not the only one. The defense, which was considered a strength, has been. And the offensive line, allegedly a question mark after center Dan Shirey was injured, hasn't been. Still, it has largely revolved around Robertson's emergence.
He has carried 62 times for 321 yards and five TDs, while completing 55 of 97 passes for 725 yards and four scores. He was just named one of the 16 candidates for the Jerry Rice Award, which goes to the top freshman in FCS. Even though he threw for nearly 2,000 yards as a senior at Paramus, his passing skills were never viewed as his best attribute. Maybe that had something to do with the fact that he also ran for a little over 2,000. But he has only been intercepted once. And he's starting to remind people of quarterback Chris Whitney, who along with wide receiver Matt Szczur took the Wildcats on an all-time 3-year run from 2008-10. Whitney also took over as a freshman because of an injury and never looked back.
"He's really not a polished passer," said Talley, whose team (2-0 in CAA) hosts Richmond (3-2, 1-1) Saturday. "He's still developing. But he makes things happen. He's getting better with his decision-making. What you worry about is he'll make the first read, and if it's not there he'll just pull the ball down and take off. Now, he's making those progressions. He's picking his spots.
"And he's a chemistry guy. He's got charisma. You can tell how he messes around with everyone. They know he's keeping it real. I think he's just having fun out there. It's like he doesn't know any better. If he was a couple inches bigger [than 6-1], he'd probably be in I-A. He's got Matt's legs. But the biggest thing for us is, he's not focused on himself."
Still, it wasn't easy for him to sit last season, when redshirt freshman Dustin Thomas was slated to be Whitney's successor. But Thomas got injured early, was later switched to another position and has since transferred. Then, senior Christian Culicerto, a one-time walk-on, took over. Eventually it became Polony's job, and he actually got better late. And it remained his job, through spring practice and the preseason. Now, he's definitely the backup.
"I mean, the scheme during the spring was we threw a lot," Robertson said. "Then a couple of receivers went down, and we had to go back to running the ball. But it's worked out well. I definitely want to make every pass count. We do a lot off play-action, so guys have been open. I feel like I can definitely put it in there.
"Every game, I feel like I'm getting more comfortable. The speed of the game is getting slower, and I'm able to read better. Sometimes, I will have to run it. But the coaches tell me to not think I have to. I definitely enjoy that part of it, but I enjoy throwing touchdowns just as much. As long as we're putting points on the board, that's the main goal."
The Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the CAA. Getting back to the playoffs would be a big step for a group that looks to have an even better future. They're putting themselves in position to at least make a run. But the schedule will get tougher. As much as anyone, Robertson understands nothing's ever a given.
"When you're not playing, it makes you realize how much you love the sport," he said. "I think the whole team just believes in each other. It's kind of a different mind-set than we're this or we're that. We know we have the ability, if we stay together. Everyone needs to be ready, at all times. You never know when it's going to be your turn.
"I definitely try to let my teammates know that I have confidence in them. They should be confident in me."
Contact Mike Kern at phillynews.com