‘Cats fight for bragging rights against UPenn

Kyle Scudilla

Villanova WildcatsatPennsylvania QuakersSaturday, 7 p.m.Franklin Field

Although certain aspects of their game improved in the third week, the Villanova Wildcats nevertheless stand at 0-3 for the 2006 season. This is the first time since 1995 that they have opened a season with three straight losses. With a month of away games on the docket, the Wildcats will have to be road warriors to right their ship and turn their season around before it’s too late. They’ll travel just down the road to the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday to try to salvage the early part of their season against the Quakers.

Where the teams stand

The Wildcats, though keeping it close most of the way through, ultimately fell to the University of Massachusetts 31-21 last weekend. ‘Nova is now 0-1 in Atlantic 10 play. The Quakers opened their season with a win on the road last week against the Lafayette Leopards. UPenn is 1-0 and has yet to play an Ivy League conference game.

When Villanova has the ball

For long stretches last week the Villanova’s offense moved the ball quite well. Led by quarterback Marvin Burroughs’ 245 passing yards, the ‘Cats racked up 359 total yards against the UMass defenseled . Villanova receivers were able to get their hands on the ball and make some big plays for the ‘Cats offense. The leading receiver against UMass was junior Anton Ridley. Ridley made three catches for 66 yards leading Villanova with 10 catches and 163 yards. Running back DeQuese May also helped lead the charge with five catches and a touchdown. On the season, he is second on the team in both receptions (9) and receiving yards (111).

May has also handled the bulk of the work on the ground for Villanova. Despite being a fullback, DeQuese is the team’s leading rusher in carries (29) and yards (159). He is currently fifth in the A-10 in total rushing yards and ninth in rushing yards per game. May’s solid performance in both the rushing and passing attacks has been a bright spot for Villanova this year.

Fellow running back Matt Dicken has also been a factor out of the backfield, particularly in the red zone. Dicken scored his third touchdown of the season against UMass after finding the end zone twice against Lehigh.

The Wildcats will face off against a Penn defense that allowed a significant amount of total yardage in their opener against Lafayette, but only gave up 11 points. The Leopards accumulated 417 yards against the Quakers’ defense, including 286 passing yards. But Penn stepped up when it counted, limiting Lafayette to a point total far below its 28 points per game average. Still, a team can only give up so many yards to an offense before it backfires, a lesson the Quakers hope to avoid learning the hard way against Villanova’s improving offensive unit.

When UPenn has the ball

The Quakers, particularly junior running back Joe Sandberg, ran wild against Lafayette last week. Sandberg saw a limited amount of carries in the 2005 season. He started off 2006 as the starter, and justified his coaches’ decision with a great performance, rushing for 166 yards and two touchdowns. He scored his first touchdown of the day on a one-yard run giving the Quakers a 7-0 advantage. He put the nail in the coffin with his second TD, a 36-yard run to put Penn ahead 21-11. Containing Sandberg could prove to be a challenge for the ‘Cats, who are coming off a game where UMass running back Steve Baylark ran for 104 yards against their defensive unit.

Quarterback Robert Irvin, a freshman making his collegiate debut, had a solid, mistake-free performance last week. He went 17-27 for 182 yards, and despite not throwing a touchdown, he did run for one. His favorite target on the day was junior wide receiver Daniel Coleman, who made five catches for 80 yards.

It is imperative for Villanova to put pressure on the UPenn passing game, especially after its disappointing performance against UMass last week. Minutemen quarterback Liam Coen had a field day against Villanova, lighting up the ‘Cats for 350 yards and two touchdown passes, en route to Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Week honors. The Wildcats’ defense was torched for 490 yards of total offense and 31 points. Villanova is currently in last in the A-10 in pass defense (257.3 ypg), total defense (406.7 ypg) and scoring defense (32.3 ppg). Although the Wildcats stood tough against UMass on multiple occasions in the red zone, their inability to limit the opposing offense eventually cost them the game. After cutting the UMass lead to 24-21 in the fourth quarter of last week’s game, it took just two plays for Coen to connect with receiver Brandon London for a 23-yard touchdown pass, which effectively ended any chance Villanova had at coming from behind.

Clearly, the ‘Cats strategy should be to rattle the freshman Irvin, who will be making his home debut at Franklin Field. That could be easier said than done, however, for their embattled defensive unit. One player who should be a big help in that effort, however, is Allyn Bacchus, who continues to have a fine season in the Villanova secondary. Bacchus collected a game-high 11 tackles against UMass and is currently second in the A-10 with 29 tackles for the season.

Another Wildcat defender with a big game against UMass was Greg Miller who collected two sacks in the game. He is now tied with Michael Holland for the team lead.


These two teams last squared off in 2005 in a game the Quakers would like to forget. The Wildcats staged an improbable fourth quarter comeback, and in what was probably their most memorable game of the season, they defeated Penn by a final score of 28-24. The ‘Cats comeback evened the all-time series at five wins apiece. The series’ tiebreaker will be held Saturday at Philadelphia’s historic Franklin Field on UPenn’s campus.