Football Looks to End Two-Game Skid vs. Maine


Christopher Taylor/Villanovan Photography

TD Ayo-Durojaiye (above) has 200 rushing yards on the season.

Owen Hewitt, Staff Writer

The No. 14/15 Wildcats (2-2, 0-1 CAA) will look to snap a two-game losing streak when they visit Maine on Oct. 1 at 1 p.m.. The Black Bears are without a win on the season so far, though it is worth noting that two of the three games the Black Bears have played were against FBS opponents New Mexico and Boston College. 

The Wildcats dropped five spots in both the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 and the FCS Coaches Poll after being upset by Monmouth, 49-42, at home on Sept. 24. That loss, paired with the loss at West Point the ‘Cats suffered the week before, marks the first time the Wildcats have lost two in a row since 2019.

Maine has not proven to be much of an issue for the Wildcats in recent years, as since 2006, the ‘Cats hold a 9-3 record over the Black Bears. The most recent result was during the 2020-21 shortened pandemic season, where the ‘Cats easily defeated the Black Bears, 44-17.

However, the season has not exactly gone to plan for head coach Mark Ferrante and the team through the first four games. Junior quarterback Connor Watkins has thrown seven touchdown passes on the year but has also thrown eight interceptions, completing 63% of his passes. 

The ground game has emerged as the main source of offense for the ‘Cats, with the backfield hosting three 200-yard rushers on the season. Graduate running back Jalen Jackson had one of his best games against Monmouth, as he rushed for 187 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. Look for Jackson, senior running back TD Ayo-Durojaiye and senior running back Deewil Barlee to be serious threats against a Maine defensive front that is surrendering 4.3 yards per carry and nearly 190 yards per game. 

The Black Bears’ offensive attack hasn’t been very potent throughout the season so far, as they are averaging 286 yards per game. The Black Bears only average 75 rushing yards per game, which should be a welcome change for a Wildcats defense that has been struggling against the run since the Army game. Maine senior quarterback Joe Fagnano, who is a native of Williamsport, Pennsylvania along with Watkins, has thrown for three touchdowns over the Black Bears’ three games. Fagnano has completed 53% of his passes, throwing three interceptions.

It is important to keep in mind that even though the Black Bears haven’t looked great over their first three games, their level of competition has been fairly high. While Boston College and New Mexico aren’t exactly college football playoff contenders, they are still FBS opponents. Villanova learned the quality of FBS opponents first-hand with its loss at Army.

That said, it’s very hard to get a read on just how good or bad this Maine team is. Will the ‘Cats see the Maine team that was shut out in Albuquerque? Or will they see the team that hung tough with Cornell? Maine was predicted by the CAA Preseason Poll to finish eighth, so in theory, the Wildcats would handle them easily, but in that same CAA preseason poll, Monmouth was picked to finish tenth. 

Fortunately for the ‘Cats, the Black Bears’ rushing attack is not as strong as Monmouth or Army’s, but the problem of run defense is something that the ‘Cats will need to address if they want to get back into the discussion of championship contenders. 

Villanova will look to answer the question that is posed by the loss to Monmouth: was it just a bad Saturday, or was the loss emblematic of a larger problem? The ‘Cats are certainly hoping that the answer is the former and not the latter, but they’ll have to prove it against Maine.