Villanova Hits the Road Against Lehigh


Courtesy of NBC Sports

Villanova Hits the Road Against Lehigh

Nick France

The Villanova Wildcat football team is coming off one of the biggest wins in program history after topping the Temple Owls 19-17 in a hard-fought Mayor’s Cup battle. Now ranked eleventh by the FCS coaches’ poll and twelfth by the STATS poll, the Wildcats will look to continue their success against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks.

The Mountain Hawks are coming off a win at home against the St. Francis Red Flash. However, this game was far from an easy win. St. Francis’s Ben Bruni scored a touchdown early in the fourth to make the score 21-19, but the Red Flash missed the 2-point conversion to potentially tie the game. St. Francis had one last chance, and drove down the field in the final minutes to set up a game-winning 30 yard field goal. However, this attempt was deflected at the line by Lehigh to seal the 21-19 victory.

Andy Coen helms the Mountain Hawks in his 13th year as head coach. He has coached his team to two straight Patriot League titles, despite being ousted in the first round of the FCS playoff both years. Last season, the Mountain Hawks had a 5-1 record in-conference but lost all their out-of-conference matchups, including a 38-35 loss to Villanova last year in Week 1.

The Mountain Hawk offense is certainly one of the nation’s best, as they finished 8th in the country last year in scoring, at a rate of 35.8 PPG. The offense is headlined by quarterback Brad Mayes and running back Dom Bragalone, with each being one of the best in the country at their respective positions. In fact, Bragalone is coming off a 137 yard, 3 touchdown performance against St. Francis. However, last week proved it will be tough to replace graduated receivers Gatlin Casey and Troy Pelletier, who were both First Team All-Patriot recipients last year. This discrepancy at receiver showed in Mayes’ modest performance last week.

While the Mountain Hawk offense is one of the nation’s best, their defense is certainly not up to snuff. The Mountain Hawks allowed 41.0 PPG last season, finishing 120th in the country. In fact, the win against St. Francis last week was the first time the Mountain Hawk defense gave up less than 20 points since a 20-13 win over Bucknell in November of 2016. On top of this, their rushing offense allowed 6.5 yards per carry in 2017. Although the defense did return a few key players, such as linebacker Keith Woetzel and defensive back Riley O’Neil, there is not a lot to build off of defensively this year in the first place.

Look for the Wildcats to take advantage of the weak Mountain Hawk run defense by feeding Aaron Forbes and Matt Gudzak throughout the game. When the run game gets going, keep an eye out for play-action plays by Zach Bednarczyk. This game should be an entertaining matchup. It could certainly become a shootout between two of the FCS’s top offensive talents. However, if Villanova’s outstandingly talented defense does its job against the Lehigh offense, this one could get ugly fast.

Kick-off is at 12:30, on Saturday, September 8th, at Goodman Stadium in Bethlehem, PA.