Wildcats hope home cookin’ leads to first ‘W’

Kyle Scudilla

Coming off the bruising Villanova took in New Jersey against Rutgers last week – both with the season-ending injury suffered by starting quarterback Marvin Burroughs and the 38-6 total showing on the scoreboard when all was said and done – the Wildcats are looking to rebound quickly in their first Atlantic-10 match-up of the season against the Northeastern Huskies.

Where the teams stand:

Villanova’s loss to Rutgers last Saturday was their first game of the year, so their overall record stands at 0-1. Northeastern has dropped their first two non-conference games of the year. They suffered a difficult loss to Georgia Southern 41-38 in overtime in their season opener, and then were easily handled by Youngstown State last week in a 35-16 loss. Saturday’s game between the Wildcats and Huskies will mark the first Atlantic-10 action for each team this season.

When Villanova has the ball:

As mentioned before, the Wildcats suffered a big loss against Rutgers last week when QB Marvin Burroughs went down for the season with a broken left arm. Filling in for him for the remainder of that game and the rest of the foreseeable future is sophomore Frank Janikowski. Janikowski performed adequately in his collegiate debut, going 17-32 with 209 yards.

Despite the shuffling at quarterback, Villanova still managed to out-gain the Scarlet Knights 444-327 in total yards, so it is easy to see that the ‘Cats had no problem moving the ball against their Division I-A opponent. However, a poor performance on third down (6-15) and penalties doomed Villanova’s chances to improve on the six points they managed for the day.

Villanova was certainly able to attain much success in the air last week in this match-up, they may look to shift their focus a bit more toward the ground. In its first two games this year, Northeastern’s run defense has been atrocious, allowing an average of 370.5 yards on the ground.

Villanova’s senior tailback Moe Gibson, who struggled last week, has to lead the rushing attack to a huge performance to exploit this glaring weakness. The ground game should help to set up the passing attack, which gained an incredible 359 yards last week against what was a markedly better defense than Northeastern’s defense.

Janikowski should be helped out in a big way in his first career start by Villanova’s stand-out wide receivers J.J. Outlaw and John Dieser, who combined for 15 catches, 165 receiving yards and a touchdown against Rutgers.

The Wildcats must be wary of Northeastern’s defensive standout, sophomore linebacker Joe Mele, who has recorded 22 tackles and two sacks on the season for the Huskies.

When Northeastern has the ball:

Villanova’s defensive strategy this week has to be to look to upset red-shirt freshman quarterback Anthony Orio. Orio performed solidly in last week’s game, going 21-37 for 237 yards and a touchdown last week against Youngstown State, but the offense was only able to muster 16 points.

Villanova’s defense should look to blitz early and keep Orio out of a rhythm from the beginning of the game. The Wildcats’ 4-2-5 defense is led by All-Conference linebacker Bryan Hulea, who recorded 14 tackles in the Rutgers game.

Leading the Wildcats’ pass rush will be fellow All-Conference performer, defensive lineman Darrell Adams. He and the rest of Villanova’s front six will try to assist in cutting down one the 276 passing yards the defense allowed in last week’s performance.

To limit Northeastern’s passing game, the Wildcats’ secondary, led by junior safety Terrance Reaves, has to focus on containing wide-outs Pat Graham and Kendrick Ballantyne, who each had five catches for the Huskies last week.

Special teams:

In what looks to be a game that does not considerably favor one side or the other, special teams may prove to be important, which should be alarming for Villanova. They had two major blunders in last week’s game, one of which proved to set the tone for the entire afternoon.

On the game’s opening kickoff, the Wildcats’ special teams coverage allowed Rutgers kick returner Willie Foster to sprint 93 yards for a touchdown. Villanova could never overcome the early deficit. Later in the game, following Marvin Burroughs’ touchdown pass to John Dieser, kicker Adam James had his extra point attempt blocked. These kind of mistakes need to be eliminated in what seems to be a closely matched, but winnable game for the Wildcats.


Coming off of last week’s blowout, Villanova will come home with a renewed focus in their first conference game of the year. In the end, Villanova’s offensive attack should prove insurmountable for the Huskies to overcome. The talent of the offensive unit should allow Frank Janikowski to have a solid, if not spectacular outing, and Moe Gibson should see a drastic improvement in his performance against the porous Northeastern run defense. Villanova 27, Northeastern 20