Kevin Monangai leads Villanova's run to playoffs

Sophomore Kevin Monangai was the CAA's regular-season rushing leader, averaging 108.2 yards per game for 1,190 yards this season.
Sophomore Kevin Monangai was the CAA's regular-season rushing leader, averaging 108.2 yards per game for 1,190 yards this season. (CHERYL SENTER / Associated Press)
Posted: November 22, 2012

Villanova running back Kevin Monangai entered his second season intent on making it more satisfying than his first.

Monangai's freshman year was below expectations from a team and personal standpoint. Villanova, which had advanced to the national semifinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs the year before his arrival, fell to 2-9 last year. Monangai, a star at North Jersey's Seton Hall Prep, averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on 54 attempts after rushing for 2,266 yards and 35 touchdowns as a high school senior.

"After last year, I came into this season with the mind-set that I was going to push as hard as I can and let the chips fall," Monangai said.

What ended up falling were a number of defenders, trying to bring down the 5-foot-8, 200-pound Monangai. He originally was slated to split time with Austin Medley, but when the fellow sophomore suffered a hamstring injury early this season, Monangai's load continued to grow along with Villanova's win total.

The two obviously were related.

Villanova bounced back to go 8-3 overall and earn the Colonial Athletic Association automatic playoff bid via tiebreaker, after four teams went 6-2 in the conference. The Wildcats are making their fourth trip to the FCS playoffs in the last five years.

Round one is Saturday, when they visit Stony Brook (9-2) at 3 p.m. No doubt, Monangai will be a key.

This season, he was the CAA regular-season rushing leader, averaging 108.2 yards per game. Monangai has carried the ball 203 times for 1,190 yards (5.9 average) and 11 touchdowns.

"He has great vision and acceleration, and they feature him correctly," Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore said during a conference call this week. "The coaches really understand what his talent level is and put him in good positions."

Monangai has stayed humble. He said that none of this would have been possible without the blocking by his offensive line, tight ends, and receivers.

He noted how helpful it has been playing with redshirt freshman quarterback John Robertson, a serious running threat who opens things up for everybody. Robertson finished fourth in the CAA with 85.1 rushing yards per game. He has run for 936 yards (5.4 average) and 13 touchdowns.

"John is just as good a runner if not better than I am," Monangai said. "He is a little faster, and it doesn't allow defenses to key on me."

Villanova coach Andy Talley said a major strength is Monangai's durability.

"You can give him 30 carries, and he plays as well on the 30th as the first," Talley said. "He has been durable and has great balance."

Monangai isn't flashy; he is a workmanlike back, more powerful and faster than he appears.

"Kevin is a real physical runner, and his best asset is he reads very well and makes cuts," Talley said. "He is not blazing fast, but fast enough."

Stony Brook At a Glance

Here is a look at Stony Brook, Villanova's first-round FCS playoff opponent:

Record: 9-2.

Road to the playoffs: Stony Brook earned an at-large bid. The Seawolves tied Coastal Carolina for the Big South title, but Coastal Carolina received the conference's automatic bid based on conference road wins.

Best win: 23-3 at FBS team Army on Sept. 29.

Toughest loss: 28-17 at FBS team Syracuse on Sept. 15.

Worst loss: 28-14 at Liberty on Nov. 10.

Watch out for: Senior running back Miguel Maysonet was the Big South offensive player of the year after rushing for 1,721 yards (7.7 per carry) and 19 touchdowns. He also has a receiving touchdown and one by a kickoff return. . . . Quarterback Kyle Essington has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,910 yards and 22 touchdowns. . . . Wide receiver Kevin Norrell had 60 receptions for 1,291 yards and 14 TDs. . . . Senior free safety Dominick Reyes has made at least 60 tackles in each of the last three seasons.  

Last year: The Seawolves earned a playoff berth and lost to Sam Houston State, 34-27, in the second round.

Did you know? Head coach Chuck Priore was an offensive coordinator and strength coach at Penn from 1992 through the 1999 season.

- Marc Narducci

Contact Marc Narducci at or follow on Twitter @sjnard.

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