Four down, seven to go

Kyle Scudilla

Despite a rocky start to the season, the Villanova Wildcats head into their bye week with an upswing of momentum, the first since the 2006 season kicked off at the beginning of the month. After the rough start, the Wildcats will rest for a week before gearing up to play some of their most important games on the schedule, all against Atlantic 10 competition. Before heading back on the road to resume its season next week against Hofstra, here’s a look back at the beginning of Villanova’s year.

Season kicks off in Orlando: UCF 35, Villanova 16

The ‘Cats traveled to Florida to start ’06 against the Division I-A University of Central Florida Golden Knights. Even though Villanova managed to out-gain UCF in total yards, the Knights’ offense was just too much for ‘Nova’s defense early, putting up 28 points en route to the opening week victory. Marvin Burroughs had a strong game after his return from injury, throwing for 241 yards and a touchdown, completing passes to eight different Villanova receivers, including wide receiver Phil Atkinson who led the team with six catches.

Heartbreak in home opener: Lehigh 31, Villanova 28

Although their passing game couldn’t get off the ground, Villanova’s rushing game trampled Lehigh’s defense for 208 yards and looked well on its way to leading the Wildcats to a win in the team’s first game at Villanova Stadium. Matt Dicken scored twice, while Aaron Jones and Burroughs also found the end zone. Unfortunately for Villanova, the defense struggled to get stops at key moments, leading to a Mountain Hawk comeback that saw Lehigh outscore Villanova 17-7 in the second half. Matt McGowan’s touchdown run with three minutes left put Lehigh ahead for good.

Wildcats fall short on

Parents’ Weekend:

UMass 31, Villanova 21

Once again, the ‘Cats got off to a good start at the stadium, looking like they could pull the upset against the Massachusetts Minutemen. Leading 14-7, with the offense clicking better than it had all season, things went south from there. UMass rode huge offensive outputs by quarterback Liam Coen (350 passing yards, two touchdowns) and running back Steve Baylark (104 rushing yards) to a 10-point victory. UMass pulled away with 17 unanswered points late in the second quarter and early in the third quarter. Burroughs bounced back with 245 yards through the air, and wide receiver Anton Ridley had a season-best 66 receiving yards.

Nail biter in Philly earns

‘Cats first win:

Villanova 27, Penn 20

In a game that was at times reminiscent of Villanova’s big win against the Pennsylvania Quakers last year, the ‘Cats beat its Philadelphia rival once again for their first win of 2006. Despite going down 13-7 early in the second half, Burroughs rallied the troops, throwing three touchdown passes, one to wide receiver Chris Polite and two to DeQuese May. The ‘Nova quarterback finished with 274 yards passing, while May came within just one yard of topping 100 rushing and receiving yards in the same game. The defense, meanwhile, harassed Penn quarterback Robert Irvin, especially in the secondary, where defensive backs Allyn Bacchus and Rodney Badger each picked off a pass, the first two interceptions of the season for Villanova. A late defensive stand at the end of the game, with Penn just yards from the goal line, sealed the game for the Wildcats. The win marked the seventh time in seven games that Villanova has defeated an Ivy League opponent under coach Andy Talley.

While the Wildcats have seen quite a few impressive individual performances, three players have stepped up and taken the lead so far in trying to guide Villanova to the top of the Atlantic 10.

DeQuese May (FB)

Villanova’s senior fullback has given the Wildcats versatility with a capital “V” so far this season. May currently leads the Atlantic 10 with 481 total yards, thanks to his unparalleled skill in both the rushing and the passing attacks. He is also currently in the top 10 in both rushing and receiving yards in the conference. After a so-so offensive effort against Central Florida, the unit has been kick-started, thanks in large part to May. He is tied for the team lead with four touchdowns and had his best game of the year in the win against Penn, scoring twice and finishing with 211 total yards.

Marvin Burroughs (QB)

Burroughs has bounced back in a big way to lead the Wildcats’ offense into battle after missing nearly all of the 2005 season. He has thrown for over 240 yards in three of the team’s four games this year and has been responsible for six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing). He currently ranks second in the conference in total passing (855 yards) and total offense (992 yards). His 93 rushing yards at Penn last week was a career-high.

Allyn Bacchus (S)

Although Villanova’s defense has performed below standard this year, it has seen some shining individual performances. Bacchus, now in his senior year, has been the star of the Wildcats’ defensive unit and one of the most impressive defenders in all the A-10. Through Villanova’s first four games, Allyn leads the conference with 38 tackles. He also has an interception to his credit. Meanwhile, durability continues to be his calling card, as he has started every game for Villanova since his freshman year in 2003.

Looking ahead

The Wildcats will try to improve on their 1-3 start after the break, and they’ll have to do so against their foes from the Atlantic 10.

The remainder of the season will consist of conference games for the Wildcats, who get back on the road against Hofstra and Maine to start October. They’ll return Oct. 21 during homecoming weekend to play the currently undefeated Towson Tigers. The ‘Cats will then travel to William & Mary and return to Villanova Stadium for two November home games, facing Richmond and James Madison. Villanova will once again end the season by renewing their biggest rivalry when they travel to Delaware to take on the Blue Hens. The ‘Cats need to come out hot after the break in order to make themselves a factor in the Atlantic 10, where they are currently 0-1.