‘Nova, Towson face pivotal A-10 Conference showdown

Kyle Scudilla

Towson Tigers


Villanova Wildcats

Saturday, 3 p.m.

Villanova Stadium

.500 or .250. That’s the difference a game can make for the Villanova football team at this critical juncture in their Atlantic 10 conference schedule, which happens to fall on Villanova’s homecoming weekend. This Saturday, the Wildcats will attempt to take a step in the right direction, but they should face a good fight against the Towson Tigers, who are desperate to stop a tough slide and right their own ship as well.

Where the Teams Stand

Villanova had their positive momentum halted last week when they fell to Maine 20-7. The Wildcats had won their two previous games, defeating both Penn and Hofstra on the road. ‘Nova now stands at 1-2 in the conference and 2-4 overall.

Towson, as previously mentioned, is also looking to get back on the right track. The Tigers started off the season red-hot, winning their first four games, only to suffer crushing defeats at the hands of Maine and Massachusetts. Towson has been outscored by a margin of 63-7 in its last two games. The Tigers stand at 4-2 overall, but just 1-2 in the Atlantic 10.

When Villanova Has the Ball

Falling behind in the first minute created a hole too deep for Villanova to climb out of last week against Maine. The complete lack of a running game made an uphill battle much more difficult as the ‘Cats finished with a dismal -39 yards on the ground. Playing from behind nearly the entire game, Villanova took to the air to try to move the ball down field. Quarterback Marvin Burroughs had a solid game with respect to gaining yardage and advancing the offense, but the passing attack never seemed to make the big play when it was needed. After finally scoring with nine minutes left in the game on a Burroughs touchdown run, the offense sputtered and quickly stalled, turning the ball over on its next two possessions.

Burroughs’ two main targets in the comeback effort were DeQuese May and Chris Polite, the team’s two leading pass catchers this season. May racked up a career-high 10 catches for 61 yards out of the backfield while Polite added five catches for 80 yards. In his senior year, May continues to be the driving force behind the Villanova offense, leading the team in rushing yards, receiving yards and receptions.

The lack of balance and turnovers hurt Villanova. They mustered just seven points and no passing touchdowns. Adding to the bad news, wide receiver Anton Ridley, who is third on the team in receiving yards and receptions, will miss the remainder of the season with a broken leg he sustained against Maine.

The offense will match up with Towson’s defense, which has to be shaken up after two forgettable performances in its last two games. Last week against UMass, the Tigers yielded five touchdown passes to Minutemen quarterback Liam Coen, setting a new school record for UMass. The week before that, in their game against Maine, they yielded 255 yards on the ground. This inability to stop the opposing offense has led to the Tigers giving up an average of 31 points per game in their last three outings. The defensive unit’s turnaround effort against Villanova’s offense will be led in part by junior linebacker Brian Branford, who leads the Towson with 25 tackles.

When Towson Has the Ball

Towson’s offense will be eager to get starting quarterback Sean Schaefer back after he missed last week’s game due to illness. Backup Andrew Goldbeck started in Schaefer’s place and managed just 101 passing yards in the first time Towson was shutout since 1997. The Tigers are hoping that Schaefer’s return will boost an offense that, like its defense, has seen a reversal of fortunes in the last two weeks. In Towson’s four wins, the team averaged over 24 points per game. In their two losses, the Tigers managed just 3.5 points per game.

Before sitting out against UMass, Schaefer had enjoyed a solid season behind center for the Tigers. The sophomore has completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 1,454 yards and seven touchdowns. His standout game this season came in a 33-30 win against Hofstra, where he went 43-for-60 for 458 yards and three touchdowns.

Schaefer’s most dangerous weapon this year has been senior Eric Yancey. The wide receiver leads the team in catches (35) and receiving yards (371) and has also scored four times. He is joined in the receiving core by junior Demetrius Harrison, who is having a break-out year. After catching just five passes all season in 2005, Harrison has been a solid option this year, with 27 receptions and 308 receiving yards.

On the ground, Towson has split carries between juniors Rasheed McClaude and Nick Williams, with Williams stepping in as the feature back the last three weeks. The Tigers will continue looking for the right fit against Villanova, as they enter this Saturday’s game with a rushing attack ranked last in the Atlantic 10.

The lack of a running game may be a pivotal feature of this game, especially with Villanova’s recent success at pressuring the quarterback. If Towson relies too heavily on passing to win the game, the Wildcats could combat their strategy with their improved pass rushing. Defensive end Greg Miller and defensive lineman David Dalessandro each have 2.5 sacks this season, totals that place them in the Top Ten in the conference. Villanova as a team ranks third in the conference in sacks this season. Without the threat of a dangerous running game, Towson’s offensive line will have their hands full keeping Villanova’s pass rushers from creating havoc in the backfield.


Saturday will mark just the third time these two teams have faced off, though this will also be the third straight year they are playing against each other. In their first match-up in 2004, Villanova won easily 41-6. Towson returned the favor in 2005, winning handily by a score of 40-19. This upcoming game will serve as the rubber match for the all-time series as well as a crucial game in the current Atlantic 10 standings.