Szczur lives up to honors in first round win


Less than a week after being named the Offensive Player of the Year by the Colonial Athletic Association, it was only fitting for Matt Szczur to carry his team to a postseason victory the same way he has helped carry the Wildcats all season – under the radar. The junior wide receiver has brought a versatile combination of receiving, rushing, kick returns and even passing together to turn himself into one of the most lethal scoring threats in the conference this year.

“We have probably the most valuable player in the league in Matt Szczur,” Head Coach Andy Talley said.

Despite not being among the CAA’s top 10 in rushing or receiving yards, nor even leading his own Wildcats in either of those two categories, Szczur has quietly put together an outstanding offensive season.

He is second in the league in all purpose yards, averaging 141 per contest, and he is also tied for best in the CAA with 11 touchdowns on the year. His six rushing touchdowns and four receiving scores are complemented by a kick return for a touchdown and three passing attempts on the season – all of which he completed and two of which found the end zone.

Szczur’s 27.3 yard kick return average is second best in the league as well. It contributed to his earning of the CAA’s Special Teams Player of the Year award on top of his offensive honor, making him just the second player in CAA history to win two of the league’s major athletic awards in the same season (William & Mary’s Lang Campbell won both Offensive Player of the Year and Student-Athlete of the Year in 2004).

Last Saturday provided a perfect example of the versatile offensive attack Szczur has displayed all season, as he led Villanova to a 38-28 win over Holy Cross in the first round of the postseason. In addition to scoring a crucial late touchdown for the Wildcats, Szczur averaged five yards per carry for a total of 55 yards rushing, and caught seven passes for a game-high and a career-high 130 yards receiving.

Of those receptions, none was more important than one he caught late in the third quarter. With Villanova ahead by just one score and facing a second down and eight at their own 36-yard line, quarterback Chris Whitney was immediately faced with pressure. Scrambling to avoid the sack, Whitney found Szczur on the right sideline.

“I wasn’t even supposed to go out for the pass,” Szczur admitted afterward. “I was supposed to just take a play fake and block. I saw Whitney was scrambling, and I just had to go because he can do anything with his legs.”

Whitney chose to go with his arm, however, letting fly a pass that came up well short of his target. Szczur was able to adjust, jumping and extending his arms over the Holy Cross defender in front of him to make the catch – a 45-yard gain that led to a Villanova touchdown.

Just as he came to the aid of his quarterback on that play last Saturday, Szczur has been the utility player that has made the Villanova offense, which leads the CAA in total yardage, click all season.

His variety of scoring threats will be an integral part of the Wildcats’ run through the postseason as they look to secure their first national championship.