Offense hopes to return to form against Tribe

Kyle Scudilla

Villanova Wildcats


William & Mary Tribe

Saturday, 1 p.m.

Zable Stadium

Villanova’s offense struggled against Maine, scoring just seven points and totaling 170 yards in a losing effort. The following week, they mustered just 166 yards for total offense in a loss at home against Towson. Now, after falling to 1-3, the Wildcats will visit the William & Mary Tribe in Williamsburg, Virginia to avoid falling into the basement of the Atlantic 10’s South Division.

Where the teams stand

Villanova had an early lead in its Homecoming game against the Towson Tigers but fell behind before halftime and never regained the lead. ‘Nova lost its last two games and sits at 1-3 in the Atlantic 10 with a 2-5 overall record. William & Mary, meanwhile, is still desperately searching for its first conference victory in 2006 after dropping its first four A-10 games against Maine, Hofstra, Massachusetts and James Madison. They’ve dropped three of their last four overall, with their only win coming against Liberty with a margin of just one point. The Tribe is 0-4 in the Atlantic 10 and 2-5 overall.

When Villanova has the ball

Not a lot has been going right for the ‘Cats offensively in their last two games. Averaging just 168 yards and 10 points in the last two weeks has caused Villanova to drop towards the bottom of its conference in the standings and in many offensive team statistics.

Matt Dicken was the lone bright spot for Villanova in a tough game against Towson last week. The junior running back ran for 78 yards and scored twice, giving him a team-leading six touchdowns for the season.

His backfield mate DeQuese May, who, despite enjoying a great deal of consistency and success this season, compiled just 21 yards of offense.

Meanwhile, the loss of wide receivers Chris Polite and Anton Ridley to injuries seemed to contribute significantly to the negative effects felt by Marvin Burroughs and the passing game. Burroughs was 11-for-26 for just 71 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. With Polite and Ridley out, the ‘Cats were missing their two primary wide-outs and struggled to find targets to fill the voids. Freshman receiver Shawn Smith, however, had the best game of his young Wildcat career, leading the team with three receptions and 25 receiving yards.

Luckily for Villanova, William & Mary’s defense has been far from fearsome this season, yielding an average of 370.7 total yards per game this year, the third worst in the Atlantic 10. In its last two conference games, the Tribe has yielded totals of 48 and 31 points to UMass and James Madison, respectively. The Tribe’s defensive unit has been especially poor against the run, yielding over 190 yards per game to the opposition’s ball carriers.

When William and Mary has the ball

Villanova’s offense has hit a snag the last few weeks, but the defense has been searching for consistency all season long, and the team failed to find it against Towson. Tigers quarterback, Sean Schaefer, the A-10’s leading passer, riddled the ‘Nova defense with deadly accuracy last Saturday. Schaefer racked up 324 yards through the air, connecting on 35-of-45 passes and tossing for two touchdowns.

While Towson’s rushing game failed to find a consistent option out of the backfield, it didn’t seem to matter with the way Schaefer and the receiving corps played. Wide receiver Eric Yancey piled up eight catches, 131 yards and a touchdown against Villanova, while Marcus Lee finished the day with nine catches and 84 yards. Eight receivers had at least one catch against Villanova’s defense in a banner day for Towson’s passing offense.

In total, the Tigers’ offense posted 425 total yards and controlled the ball well, winning the time of possession battle by possessing the ball for over 38 minutes. Despite the substantial yardage Villanova gave up, the ‘Cats still limited the Tigers to 21 points, echoing a peculiar theme for their defense this season. Even though they rank last in the Atlantic 10 in pass defense (giving up over 276 yards a game), the Wildcats have still averaged giving up the fifth-lowest total of points in the conference at just 22 points per game.

This is thanks, in large part, to the defense coming through in the clutch. The Wildcats rank second in the conference in red zone defense trailing behind Richmond. Despite allowing a league-high 18 trips to the red zone this season, the ‘Cats have yielded to their opponents inside the 20-yard line only 61.1 percent of the time.

This statistic looks good for Villanova but may just make it more frustrating for the embattled unit to realize that while the potential is there, it doesn’t always show up on game day. The defense will have to step up in a big way this Saturday to support the offense in getting Villanova a win and avoiding another losing season.

In stopping the Tribe, the ‘Cats will certainly have to keep an eye on running back Elijah Brooks, who’s currently fifth in the conference with 551 rushing yards. Brooks is also tied for seventh in the A-10 in scoring, with 36 points scored this year thanks to six rushing touchdowns.

Passing the ball, the Tribe has turned to junior Mike Potts as quarterback after sophomore Jake Phillips started the year as the signal-caller. Potts has a 138.3 quarterback rating this season, throwing for five touchdowns and just one interception. The main target in the passing game, meanwhile, has been wide receiver Joe Nicholas. The junior has compiled team highs in both receiving yards (320) and receiving touchdowns (4) for the Tribe in 2006.


Villanova will have recent history on their side when they take on William & Mary on Saturday. The ‘Cats came up with a 35-21 win against the Tribe last year, almost a year to the date of this season’s game. Overall, the Tribe lead the all-time series with a 14-8-1 record.