Football Preview: ‘Cats head to Towson for season’s final road contest

David Cassilo

Villanova Wildcats atTowson Tigers Saturday, 12 p.m.Unitas Stadium

Following a crucial victory at home against the Hofstra Pride, Villanova had done enough in the voters’ minds to grab the No. 23 ranking in the country. With three games remaining, it was imperative that it finish strong in order to have a chance to qualify for the national tournament. However, it was faced with the tall task of going into Richmond and beating the No. 11-ranked team in the nation. Villanova found itself in a shootout where both teams totaled over 400 yards of offense on the day. While Villanova did a decent job against the pass, the Wildcats were unable to slow down Spider running back Tim Hightower who finished with 187 yards and a TD on the day. In the end, Richmond prevailed at home 35-27. Villanova must rebound quickly against fellow division member Towson to end the ’07 season on a positive note.

Where the teams stand

The Wildcats return from Richmond with a 5-4 overall record and 3-3 within the CAA. They are in fourth place within the CAA South. Towson has struggled so far this season, managing only a 1-5 conference record and standing at 3-6 overall. They are coming off a three-point loss to Maine and have not won since Oct. 6.

When Villanova has the ball

The Wildcats have been able to move the ball well on offense this season and are sporting an impressive average of 28.7 points per game this season. Even with starting quarterback Antwon Young lost for the season, Villanova seems not to have missed a beat with freshman Chris Whitney under center. In the last game, Whitney posted the best stats of his career, going 13-24 with 186 yards and two TDs. Whitney was also effective on the ground where he totaled 64 yards on 16 carries. Much of the credit for his success last week has to go to his two WRs Phil Atkinson and Brandyn Harvey. The senior Atkinson was responsible for three total touchdowns including one via the pass. Harvey had a career-high with 135 yards and was able to haul in one touchdown. The passing game should once again be effective as Villanova faces a Towson team that has a lot of trouble getting pressure on the quarterback.On the ground, Villanova should rely heavily on Matt Dicken who is ninth in the CAA with 655 rushing yards this season. The Towson Tigers are just ninth in the CAA against the run and have been prone to give up big rushing performances on the ground. However, for Villanova to be successful they must avoid middle linebacker Brian Bradford. The senior Tiger leads the conference with 115 tackles this season, 12 of which were for a loss. Bradford is coming off an impressive 18-tackle performance against Maine in which he forced his fourth fumble of the season. Fellow linebacker Maurice Wilkins ranks fourth in the CAA with 90 tackles.Two key statistics may prove to be important by the time the game is decided on Saturday. Villanova has done a remarkable job both holding on to the football and forcing turnovers, as shown by its league-high +11 turnover margin. Another area where Villanova should have the edge is on fourth down. The Tigers have allowed a staggering 15 of 17 successful fourth-down conversions this season.

When Towson has the ball

Towson has had a lot of trouble this season on the offensive side of the ball. They rank 11th in the CAA in scoring average with just 16.2 points per game. The offense, which tends to rely more heavily on the pass, is led by junior quarterback Sean Schaefer. He is completing close to 60 percent of his throws and has thrown for almost 2,000 yards, but his 10:18 TD-to-INT ratio has been an issue. As a result, the Tigers rank dead last in the CAA in turnover margin and have turned the ball over 24 times already. This should bode well for a Villanova defense that has forced a league-leading 23 turnovers including 15 interceptions. Defensive back Martel Moody could add to his three interceptions this season which rank him second in that category within the CAA. Defensive ends Greg Miller and Tim Kukucka could also add to their strong defensive stats as they go up against a Tiger team that has given up 27 sacks in nine games.The running game for the Tigers has been a weak spot all year. They rank last in total rushing and their 727 yards is nearly 400 yards less than the team ahead of them. The Tigers’ running game is led by tailback Nick Williams, but the senior has only accumulated 121 carries this season. In the game last week against Maine, the Tigers finished with a total of 72 yards on the ground which was the fifth time they were held under 100 yards this season.


Last year Towson dealt the Wildcats a tough 21-13 loss on homecoming weekend. The teams split their previous two meetings, putting the all-time series at 2-1.