‘Nova returns home to battle Mountain Hawks

Kyle Scudilla

By Kyle ScudillaStaff Reporter

Lehigh Mountain Hawks


Villanova Wildcats

Saturday, 6 p.m.

Villanova Stadium

After facing a tough out-of-conference game against Division I-A University of Central Florida, the Villanova Wildcats will return to Division I-AA play their first home game of the season against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Each team will be looking for their first win of the young 2006 season.

Where the teams stand

Villanova traveled to Orlando last week to start its season against UCF. They were defeated 35-16, as the Knights were able to put points on the board early and often, while limiting the Wildcats’ scoring to a reasonable level. Lehigh, meanwhile, lost its home opener in a nail-biter, 17-16, to the Albany Great Danes. Neither team has started conference play.

When Villanova has the ball

Villanova’s offense moved the ball well against UCF in last week’s contest, chalking up 322 yards on the day. However, a few missed opportunities in key spots resulted in only 16 points against the Knights. Quarterback Marvin Burroughs, in his first game back with Villanova since an arm injury ended his season very early in 2005, looked sharp and distributed the ball well amongst his receiving corps. Without former starters J.J. Outlaw and John Dieser, the Wildcats will call upon a different group of receivers to make the big plays for Burroughs and the ‘Nova offense. Leading returning receiver DeQuese May led Villanova with 65 receiving yards against UCF. Anton Ridley added 56 yards and a touchdown, while Phil Atkinson led the team with six receptions.

Despite the solid passing attack, the ground game seemed to be largely ineffective. Using a “running back by committee” scheme, the backfield averaged just 2.6 yards a carry on 31 attempts. The bulk of the carries went to May, Matt Dicken and Aaron Jones, though no one seemed able to provide the running game with many big plays. Although the coaching staff called a balanced offensive scheme, with 32 passes and 31 rushing attempts total against UCF, the backfield will need to give more production to Villanova’s offense for their efforts to be truly balanced.

The Lehigh defense should be ready to face the run, since it was just about the only thing Albany showed them last week. Albany attempted 43 rushes against just 11 passes in their win over Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks held their own against Albany’s offense in the rainy conditions, yielding just 152 yards. The only touchdown they surrendered all game was due to a botched punt where the snap was fumbled and recovered by Albany one yard away from the goal line. Despite the loss, defensive back Ernest Moore had a solid game, tallying nine tackles. Lehigh’s defense should come out fired up against Villanova, feeling they played well enough to win the game, while still losing by a point in front of their home crowd.

When Lehigh has the ball

In what rookie head coach Andy Coen called a conservative offensive game plan, due in large part to the rain Lehigh faced last week, the Mountain Hawks were only able to total 147 yards of offense against Albany. Coen will look to make the offense more effective by leaving it up to junior quarterback Sedale Threatt to make big plays. Threatt took over as Lehigh’s starter halfway through the 2005 season and had a respectable showing, throwing for over 200 yards in three of his five starts. Last week against Albany, however, he was 14-for-26 with just 140 yards passing. Villanova’s defense will look to emulate Albany’s success at keeping the passing game from hitting its stride early, which means containing wide receiver Lee Thomas, who had a big game last week. The senior caught four passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

The key weapon on the ground for the Mountain Hawks is running back Matt McGowan. The sophomore had a solid showing against Albany, running for 72 yards on 16 carries. The remainder of the running game was largely ineffective for Lehigh, as they netted just seven yards after losing 142 yards on the ground.

If Villanova is looking to improve on its defense from last week, the first focus would have to be on the secondary. By yielding three touchdown passes in the first half, the Wildcats buried themselves against UCF. However, Lehigh’s passing game simply doesn’t measure up to that of a Division I-A school, which is what the Villanova secondary faced last week. Key veteran performers Allyn Bacchus, Terrance Reaves, Rodney Badger and Kalise Cook should have an easier time handling the Lehigh passing game.


Despite being just an hour away from each other, Villanova and Lehigh have met only seven times in the past. Lehigh leads the all-time series 4-3, but ‘Nova won the last matchup by a score of 22-16 just two seasons ago. The ‘Cats will look to even up the series on Saturday.