Clutch performances charge ‘Cats offense

Kyle Scudilla

Richmond Spiders


Villanova Wildcats

Saturday, 6 p.m.

Villanova Stadium

The headline of last week’s football preview read, “Offense hopes to return to form against Tribe.” The Wildcats were able to do just that in a last-minute, come-from-behind 35-31 win on the road against William & Mary. After seeing season-best performances from some of its most important players, the football squad has hope as it heads into its final three games of the season.

Where the teams stand

Villanova’s win against the Tribe last Saturday kept the ‘Cats from experiencing their second three-game slide of the season. Instead, they upped their record to 2-3 in the Atlantic 10, tied for third in the conference’s six-team South Division. The Wildcats’ overall record now stands at 3-5. This week’s game at home against Richmond precedes the team’s home finale against James Madison and the final game of the season at archrival Delaware. Richmond, another South Division team, is tied with Villanova at 2-3 in the A-10, while sporting a superior overall record of 5-3. The Spiders are coming off a bad month in which they lost 3-of-4 contests.Before the recent tailspin, the team had started the season 4-0 with three non-conference victories to its credit.

When Villanova has the ball

Breakout performances by running back Matt Dicken and the Villanova receiving corps transformed what had been a stagnant offensive unit. Dicken, in his second week of compiling 15 or more carries, rewarded Coach Andy Talley’s confidence in him by running for a career-high 96 yards. Usually utilized as a red zone and short yardage specialist, Dicken has garnered 174 yards in his last two games after totaling just 86 yards in his first six games of the season.

The brightest star in a galaxy of solid offensive performers for the Wildcats was quarterback Marvin Burroughs, who played efficiently as he steered his team to victory. Burroughs completed 15 of 19 attempted passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns. His most valuable contribution, however, was made using his legs. Burroughs, on a quarterback sneak, got past the William & Mary defense for the winning touchdown with just 35 ticks left on the clock. The touchdown run punctuated a drive in which the Wildcats drove 67 yards with less than two minutes remaining and no timeouts left after the Tribe had taken the lead on a 27-yard field goal.

Burroughs’ accurate passes found the hands of seven ‘Nova receivers, including touchdowns caught by fullback DeQuese May and wide receiver Phil Atkinson. May led Villanova with 127 total yards and scored the first touchdown of the game on a 31-yard reception. Atkinson’s 28-yard touchdown answered a William & Mary touchdown drive that put the Tribe up 21-7. The sophomore wide receiver had 59 receiving yards for the day and is now second on the team in receptions trailing only May.

Villanova offense will face a tougher challenge on Saturday against Richmond’s defensive unit. The Spiders have yielded the third-lowest number of yards and the fourth-lowest total points in the Atlantic 10. In a bit of good news for ‘Nova, Richmond has been allowing more points of late, giving up an average of 22 points per game during the last four weeks as opposed to a minuscule 8.8 points each contest before October.

Linebacker Adam Goloboski has been a main contributor to Richmond’s overall success. The senior has recorded 79 tackles (including nine for a loss of yards), the third-highest total in the A-10.

When Richmond has the ball

Despite ranking in the middle of the pack offensively in the A-10 this season, the Spiders have been all about making the most of their precious scoring opportunities during the course of a game. Richmond leads the conference in red zone offense, having scored on 91.7 percent of its visits inside the opponents’ 20-yard line this season.

The Spiders’ offensive standout has been junior Tim Hightower. The running back has rushed for 725 yards this season (an average of 90.6 yards per game) and four touchdowns. His longest run of the season was a 54-yard touchdown dash against the Virginia Military Institute. Hightower needs just 103 additional total yards this season to reach the 1,000-yard mark.

Hightower’s play has been able to make up for a below-average passing game. Freshman quarterback Eric Ward has nine touchdowns and only six interceptions this year. He has cracked the 200-yard passing mark once this season and averaged only 166 yards during the Spiders’ last two losses.

Richmond has two dependable pass targets, juniors Arman Shields and Matt Hale. Shields leads the team with 30 receptions and 387 receiving yards has scored twice. Hale has 304 receiving yards for the season and a team-high of three touchdown catches, including a 65-yard score during a win against Bucknell.

Villanova’s defense will try to tire Ward by doing its best to shut down Hightower and the running game. The defense wasn’t spectacular on Saturday, allowing the Tribe 31 points, but got better as the game went along, allowing just 10 of those in the second half.

Senior Allyn Bacchus continues to give an inspired effort on the defensive end. Bacchus made his 41st consecutive start for Villanova last week while registering a season-high of 14 tackles. He currently ranks fifth in the conference in that category.

Also representing Villanova on the conference’s individual leaders’ stat pages is senior Bryan Adams. Adams has made 10 tackles for a loss this season as a linebacker.


Villanova holds a commanding lead over Richmond in its all-time series. The ‘Cats have been victorious in 17 of the 25 games that the teams have played against each other, and they will need another win on Saturday to keep their hopes of having a winning season alive.