FBALL Preview: Wildcats look to bounce back as they travel to Northeastern


Following a heartbreaking loss to No. 1 James Madison, the Wildcats will attempt to return to winning form on Saturday when they travel to Boston to face the Northeastern Huskies. Villanova’s 5-2 record currently is tied with William & Mary for third in the CAA, behind only James Madison and New Hampshire. At 2-6, the Huskies will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak that includes last weekend’s 20-0 loss to Maine. Saturday’s meeting will be the first since 2005, when the Wildcats won 38-20 at Villanova Stadium.


Despite scoring only 19 points against James Madison, Villanova’s offense reinforced one fact that it has made clear all season: It can rush the football. The Wildcats are second in the CAA with 203.4 rushing yards per game. Sophomore running back Aaron Ball has been the leader of Villanova’s ground attack, and he continued to shine in that role last week by amassing 108 yards against the JMU defense, his third 100-yard performance of the season. Look for Ball to improve on his 89.9 yard per game average when he gets his touches against Northeastern, who ranks ninth in the CAA in rush defense. While the Wildcats’ play calling is fairly run-oriented, sophomore quarterback Chris Whitney has been effective since taking over the starting job. His 73.1 completion percentage and avoidance of turnovers keeps the offense rolling, and he should be able to find open receivers on Saturday when he faces the Huskies, who are third-worst in the CAA at defending the pass.


In contrast to Villanova’s run-dominated game plans, the Northeastern squad is much more likely to turn to the passing game. The Huskies will be especially likely to do so on Saturday, as they will try to exploit the Wildcats’ pass defense, which is ranked eighth in the CAA. Therefore, the Villanova secondary will need to step up and contain the Northeastern receivers. Look for big games from defensive backs junior Ross Ventrone and sophomore Frederick Maldonado, who lead the team in interceptions with two apiece. It will also be important for the defensive line, led by players such as senior Greg Miller (5.5 sacks) and junior Tim Kukucka (three sacks), to continue to pressure the passer as it has done all season.


The best word to describe the Northeastern offense is versatile, and that concept is perfectly exemplified by star running back Alex Broomfield. Broomfield, a senior from Florida, leads the team both in rushing (798 yards) and receptions (28 catches for 186 yards). Broomfield is also the punt returner on special teams and has even thrown the ball six times this year. He has scored rushing, passing and receiving touchdowns this season and will certainly need to have an outstanding game for the Huskies to break down the Villanova defense. The Northeastern senior quarterback Anthony Orio is the other major contributor to the Huskies’ offense. However, he has had his problems with accuracy, completing only 57.9 percent of his passes and throwing six interceptions. Look for Orio to face strong pressure from the Villanova defense.


Despite its low rankings in the CAA, the Northeastern defense has several playmakers who can force turnovers and keep opponents out of the end zone. Sophomore defensive back Nate Thellen leads the Huskies with five interceptions, including one against UC Davis in September that he returned 92 yards for a touchdown. Meanwhile, sophomore linebacker David Akinniyi and senior defensive lineman Wil Colon lead the team in sacks with four apiece. These two players will be integral in stopping the Villanova rushing attack, a necessity if the Huskies are to win the contest. Northeastern must also hope to come out on top of the turnover margin, something it has not done well this season.


While the Huskies will be playing hard to defend their home field and snap their losing streak, the Wildcats will have the motivation to redeem themselves after their last-second loss to JMU. Look for the CAA-best Wildcat rush defense to take Broomfield’s running threat out of the equation early, forcing Northeastern to turn to Orio and the passing game. Meanwhile, Ball and any other Wildcat who get carries should find room to run, giving them the upper hand when it comes to time of possession. Look for Whitney to manage the game by not turning the ball over, keeping the Northeastern defensive playmakers from scoring quick points.

Villanova 27, Northeastern 10