By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It was another big day on offense on Saturday for the Villanova Wildcats as they rolled up a 44-21 win over Rhode Island to improve to 5-1 on the season.READ MORE: Shooting In Southwest Philadelphia Leaves 4 Men Injured, Police Say
Junior quarterback John Robertson threw four touchdown passes for the fourth straight game in the win, two of them went to senior wide receiver Poppy Livers, who is wrapping up a fine, and kind of improbable career, for the Wildcats.
Improbable because Livers actually came to the Main Line as a walk-on. He gradually worked his way up the depth chart, earned a scholarship and now he is a dangerous all-purpose threat for the Wildcats and also serves as a team captain. In Saturday’s victory, Livers caught 7 passes for 113 yards and the two touchdowns, he rushed once for 43 yards, returned two kickoffs for 25 yards and also returned a punt for a yard. His first reception against the Rams, a 44-yard touchdown, was the 100th catch of his Villanova career. He’s the 24th Wildcat to hit the 100 career receptions mark.
“It’s truly a blessing,” Livers told KYW Newsradio after the game. “I mean my coaches trust me, my teammates trust me and I thank them every day for giving me the opportunity. It’s crazy, because I didn’t know, they just let me know that it was my 100th career catch, and for a touchdown, it was amazing.”
Livers leads Villanova this season with 32 catches for 485 yards and six touchdowns. He’s averaging 10.8 yards on 11 punt returns, including one he took back 67 yards for a score in the season opener against Syracuse.
He hails from California and spent time at Valley Forge Military Academy before eventually making the decision to walk on at Villanova.
“My family and I both thought it would be best for me to play at the highest level that I could,” Livers said. “And I felt that I could play at this level, so I came here. The coaches, they gave me their shot. (Wide receivers) Coach (Brian) Flinn stuck with me since day one. He said if I worked my butt off then there is no way he can not have me on the field and I thank him for that a lot. Ever since, I just kept working hard and trying to help lead this team to where we need to be.”
Villanova head coach Andy Talley says Livers has really come along way in his time on the Main Line.
“He’s really quite an inspirational leader for us,” Talley said. “He’s the little engine that could and is always a great responder in difficult segments during the game. He’s really raised the level of his play from last year to this year.
“Being elected captain,” Talley added, “it’s such a long shot because he’s a walk-on, worked his way through, earned a scholarship, a captain and now he’s got 100 catches. That’s great.”
Livers also has a fan in his quarterback, Robertson.READ MORE: Temple University Student Samuel Sean Collington Killed In Off-Campus Shooting In North Philadelphia
“He’s awesome, off the field and on the field,” Robertson said. “One of the great things about him is you throw a ball to him and it’s like five yards down the field, he’ll turn up and he’s trying to go as far as he can. He’s trying to take it all the way every time. He’s really smart, just plays with his heart out there. He’s an awesome player.”
Livers talks about where he has grown the most as a Wildcat.
“Probably just understanding the game,” Livers said. “Understanding whether it’s man coverage, zone coverage and getting in and out of my breaks faster and just knowing that John’s going to trust me, and my teammates.”
The Wildcats are firmly entrenched as one of the elite teams in the country in FCS and Livers likes their chances going forward.
“We’ve just got to take it a game at a time and hopefully make a good playoff run and try and get a national championship under our belts,” Livers said.
Livers and the Wildcats return to the field Saturday when they visit William and Mary.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.
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