Wildcats look to beat arch rivals, end on high note

Kyle Scudilla

Villanova’s loss last week ensured that its overall record would fall short of the .500 mark, making the season a disappointment for the ‘Cats and their fans. However, there is one more game to be played, and for the Wildcats, it is probably the most anticipated match-up of the season, as they are set to square off with the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens, the team’s arch-rival. Villanova can end the season on the right foot with a win at Villanova Stadium this Saturday afternoon.

Where the Teams StandAs mentioned before, Villanova’s loss last week at the hands of the James Madison Dukes clinched that the team would be unable to reach the .500 mark in either their conference or overall records. The Wildcats have lost their last two games, and five of their last seven after an impressive 2-1 start. Villanova currently sits in last place in the Atlantic 10’s South Division, with a conference record of 2-5, and an overall record of 4-6. Delaware, meanwhile, has not faired much better this season, with the same conference record as Villanova’s (2-5), but with three wins outside the conference, they are 5-5 overall. Unfortunately, those three wins all came in the first three games of the year for the Fightin Blue Hens, and they immediately followed the streak with three straight losses to A-10 foes.

When Villanova Has the BallVillanova’s offense was stifled against a tough defense last week when the ‘Cats squared off against the Dukes. The ground game screeched to a halt, as senior RB Moe Gibson was held to only 43 yards on 20 carries. Though he struggled in the ground game, Gibson was a big weapon in QB Frank Jankowski’s downfield aerial attack. Jankowski moved the ball well, going 30-47 for 363 yards, but he failed to find a receiver for a score. Some nice individual performances were had in the passing game, particularly for Gibson and fellow seniors J.J Outlaw and John Dieser. Outlaw made 10 catches for 94 yards, Dieser made six catches for a team-high 107 yards and Gibson added 51 yards out of the backfield. Despite these solid individual efforts, and a nice opening drive of 11 plays and 72 yards, punctuated by a one-yard touchdown run by Gibson, the Wildcats could not find the end zone for the rest of the day. This has been a problem multiple times for the Wildcats, who seem to move the ball well against most teams, but at times go through long and crippling scoring droughts. Villanova has had success on offense most recently by establishing the run to open up the passing game for Outlaw, Dieser and Chris Polite. Delaware is a defense that certainly can be scored upon, which should allow Villanova more success than they had last week against a much more formidable James Madison defense. The fact that key offense weapons Outlaw, Gibson and Dieser are playing in their final game as Villanova Wildcats and will be in front of a home crowd, should not be discounted in measuring how effective they will be against the Blue Hen defense.

When Delaware Has the BallVillanova’s defense will be trying to rebound off another tough day for the beleaguered run defense. The Wildcats yielded a whopping 291 yards on the ground to James Madison, who was led by the rushing tandem of Maurice Fenner (127 yards, touchdown) and Alvin Banks, Jr. (114 yards, touchdown). Coming into the game, the Wildcats knew the Dukes’ rushing attack was much stronger than the passing game and still could not stop the James Madison backfield. With Delaware coming into town, this focus has to be even stronger, with the versatile and dangerous Omar Cuff starting in the backfield for the Blue Hens. Cuff leads the Atlantic 10 in all-purpose yards this season and certainly warrants the Wildcats’ full attention. He not only leads Delaware in rushing with 1,080 yards and 13 touchdowns, but also leads the team in receiving, with 39 catches for 415 yards and four touchdowns. If Cuff runs wild, the Wildcats will be licking their wounds all day. The key to stopping the Blue Hens is to make their quarterback, Santino Riccio, beat the defense. Riccio has had a solid season, throwing only five picks, but he has lacked explosiveness this year and does not have an eye-popping completion percentage. If the Wildcats can move their focus to limiting Cuff’s productivity on the ground, they will definitely take their chances with Riccio’s ability to get the ball to his teammates. One senior Wildcat will certainly be motivated to stop Cuff from shredding the defense. Senior linebacker Brian Hulea, the leading tackler in the A-10, needs 12 tackles this Saturday to set the Villanova career record for tackles. He is currently one of only three Villanova players to have reached the 400-tackle mark for his career. Another Wildcat to watch this week is junior safety Allyn Bacchus, who will be making his 33rd consecutive start in the Wildcats’ secondary. Last week, Bacchus recorded a game-high 16 tackles and forced two fumbles. He is second to only Hulea in the Atlantic 10 with 109 tackles on the season and will be an important factor in pressuring the Delaware passing attack.

PredictionThe last home game of the season is always a very emotional moment for the graduating seniors on the squad, but this game gets even more significance added in with the team’s prime rivals visiting Villanova Stadium. Look for game changing performances by some of the team’s departing players, including tri-captains Dieser, Hulea, and defensive lineman Darrell Adams to lead Coach Andy Talley’s Wildcats to a win to avenge last year’s loss to the Fightin’ Blue Hens. Villanova 31, Delaware 27