Battle of the Blue Preview


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Sophomore Rayjoun Pringle is the team’s leading receiver this season.

Anders Pryor, Staff Writer

While it has been a strange football season for the Wildcats, it wouldn’t be complete without the Battle of the Blue. Villanova will face Delaware on Saturday, April 17 in what will be the first of the short list of games this season to host a limited number of fans. 

The Wildcats hold a 2-1 record after a dominant rushing-centric win over the Maine Black Bears. This attack was spearheaded by senior back Justin Covington, who had four rushing touchdowns on 82 total rushing yards in the contest. Seven different players on the team had at least one running carry for positive yardage during the game. One of these players was Daniel Smith, who during the game continued with his not-so-stellar passing performance of the season, throwing for 176 yards on 16/28 completion. 

The Delaware Blue Hens are a perfect 4-0 this season, with their average margin of victory being nearly 25 points. They have led every game with a balanced attack from multiple contributors. Junior quarterback Nolan Henderson has led the way having multiple touchdown passes and more than 200 passing yards in two of the team’s four victories this season (Stony Brook and  Rhode Island). Their rushing attack has been led by senior running back Dejoun Lee, who has recorded a rushing touchdown in three of the four victories and multiple scores in two of them (Rhode Island and Delaware State). 

Offensively, Delaware likes to send out all five receivers to stretch out the secondary as much as possible in wideout formations. It has had many instances of utilizing a trio formation (three receivers on one side, one on the other) and holding a tight end close to the line of scrimmage. The team creates the illusion of a strong side running play by having the running back in the I Form and then sending the tight end out on a shallow cross. If they go for twins or doubles close, they’ll use the same I formation in the backfield to toss to the strong side of the field and use the open receivers to create a bubble screen for the back to get yardage. This is a strategy that the team likes to use in the red zone, as running is generally its preferred way to score deep in opponents’ territory. 

Defensively, the Hens like to play their corners close to create early pressure that disrupts any sort of potential early momentum. This forces teams to throw down the center of the field more, making it easier for them to adjust their linebackers accordingly. Often, they’ll play their linebacker core close to the line of scrimmage, tending to blitz heavily on shorter downs. 

In order to win this game, Villanova has to trust that Smith can turn this into a shootout, as Covington and company cannot overwhelm the scoreboard with rushing numbers with a Delaware defense that plays physical early. Taking advantage of the closer linebacker core with intermediate throws down the middle of the field will create a steady pace that can be capitalized on early on. It will still be smart for the Wildcats to utilize the tandem backfield they’re used to in order to spread out the linebackers as much as possible to get as much running room in the center of the field while the wide outs are occupied by the Hens’ aggressive corner press strategy. 

Defensively, Villanova should blitz often and with overwhelming speed, taking advantage of the wideout formations used by Delaware. Since the Blue Hens often have the tight ends sprint off of the line of scrimmage once the ball is snapped, it will create more available gaps for the defense to take advantage of.