‘Cats set for ‘tribal’ tango



Mark O'Neil

The Wildcats (3-1) are coming off of three straight wins and look to keep that streak alive this Saturday against division rivals William & Mary (3-1).

Aside from the opening game against Temple, this will be the toughest test the ‘Cats have faced in the last four weeks. W&M is currently ranked No. 7 in the FCS, while Villanova held steady at No. 1 after an unimpressive win against city rival UPenn on Saturday.

The teams met twice last year, with Villanova winning both meetings.

During last season’s regular season meeting, Villanova scored on the first play of the game and went on to a 28-17 win.

The second matchup came in the FCS playoff semifinals, and the ‘Cats needed a quarterback sneak from Chris Whitney in the fourth quarter to squeeze out a 14-13 win over the Tribe.

William & Mary on offense

On the season, the W&M offensive unit has been what can only be described as solid but not overpowering, only putting up seriously big numbers against a completely overmatched squad from Virginia Military Institute. Outside of that 45-0 win, the Tribe has scored between 21 and 24 points in their other three games.

The Tribe offense is led by senior quarterback Mike Callahan, who has thrown for five touchdowns and over 800 yards this season.

However, W&M coach Jimmye Laycock announced during Monday’s CAA coaches media teleconference that Callahan will be out this week.

The quarterbacking duties will fall on the shoulders of junior Michael Paulus, who took over for the Tribe halfway through the fourth quarter last week against Maine and led the team on two scoring drives for a comeback victory.

Paulus was 9-16 for 104 yards and a touchdown, capping off the Tribe’s game-winning drive with a 21-yard pass to senior wide receiver Chase Hill, who has caught a touchdown pass in each of the Tribe’s last three games.

William & Mary on defense

The Tribe defense, while formidable, may not be suited to stopping Villanova’s aggressive ground game. The strength of the Tribe’s defense is the secondary, while the front line has been less than stellar against the rush this year.

The W&M defensive unit has given up at least 100 yards rushing in all four of their games, including a whopping 215 yards on the ground in their season-opening loss to UMass.

Opponents are averaging over 141 yards per game on the ground, and W&M has given up six rushing touchdowns.

While the Tribe may have trouble against the rush, their pass defense has been above average, having given up only three touchdowns through the air all season long.

On top of that, the team has combined for seven interceptions and has caused nine fumbles, although they have only recovered two of those lost fumbles.

The Tribe also boasts one of the more disciplined defenses in football, having only been penalized 15 times for 122 yards throughout the entire season.

Villanova on offense

While Villanova’s offense may have looked somewhat lackluster against a tough Penn team, expect the team to get back on track this weekend against the Tribe. The team was without senior star Matt Szczur for almost the entire game, as he left with an injury on the second play of the game.

If Szczur is healthy for Saturday’s game, the ‘Cats can be expected to do some damage against the Tribe’s weak rush defense. Aaron Ball picked up the slack in Szczur’s absence against Penn, racking up 91 yards on the ground with 16 carries. The passing game was also in good form against Penn, as Chris Whitney went 10-12 for 155 yards and a touchdown.

Villanova on defense

Aside from the opening game against Temple, the ‘Cats defense has yet to give up more than 10 points this year, including a shutout of Lehigh three weeks ago.

The strength of the defense is against the rush, as the Wildcats are giving up an average of only 67 yards per game on the ground. While their rush defense has been the better half, that is not to say that their secondary has not also been stellar. The team has only conceded two touchdowns through the air all season, and junior James Pitts’ interception and touchdown return iced the game against Penn.


While W&M is a very good team and a traditionally tough test for the ‘Cats, this matchup does not look good for the Tribe.

The Villanova rushing offense has been all but unstoppable this year, while the W&M rush defense has looked thoroughly mediocre.

The Tribe defense has given up more yards per game on the ground than their respective opponents have averaged, so it won’t be a surprise if the Wildcats rack up big numbers.

The Tribe is certainly a better team than opponents such as Lehigh or Towson, but its defense has still been spotty against teams that have not been nearly as good as the ‘Cats.

While the offense has been good this year, the real standout is the ‘Nova defense.

The team is only giving up 12 points per game, and this is a Tribe offense that will be without their starting quarterback.

The Tribe’s leading rusher, Jonathon Grimes, is only averaging 68 yards per game and will be going up against an outstanding Villanova rush defense.