Defense leads football against Rhode Island

Frank Scicchitano

With a 3-2 record in conference play, the football team finds itself in fifth place in the Colonial Athletic Conference heading into the final three games of the season. At 4-4 overall, the Wildcats will go on the road this Saturday to take on Rhode Island.

The Rams have posted a 1-7 record to this point in the season with their only win coming against Delaware last month. With a 1-4 record in CAA play, Rhode Island is better than only Stony Brook in the conference standings.

Despite being the visiting team, Villanova will surely be favored in this matchup on Saturday.  The Wildcats are coming off of a 13-3 win at home against Maine last weekend.

In its last three contests, Villanova’s defense has only allowed two touchdowns to opposing offenses – both against Towson on Oct. 24. 

The Wildcats will have an opportunity to turn in another strong defensive performance against a Rhode Island team that ranks 10th out of 12 CAA teams in scoring offense this season.

“I just think this defense right now is as good as there is in FCS football,” Head Coach Andy Talley said after last week’s game. 

Junior linebackers Austin Calitro and Corey Majors and senior linebacker and co-captain Don Cherry are the core of this strong defensive unit. The pair of juniors each recorded double-digit tackles against Maine while Cherry had six stops including two and a half for a loss.

Winners of two of its last three games, Villanova has found success on the ground with a variety of runners. 

Redshirt freshman quarterback Zach Bednarczyk picked up 123 yards on the ground in the team’s victory over Maine while senior running back Gary Underwood added 92 yards and caught five passes for 20 yards.

Sophomore Matt Gudzak has also been a productive runner for Villanova, racking up 96 yards against Towson two weeks ago.

The key for Bednarczyk and the Wildcats will be to protect the football and avoid turnovers. The first-year starter has not thrown an interception in either of the two games the team has won with him behind center, while he has thrown a total of five in the team’s three losses.

The Wildcats will look for a combination of defensive dominance and consistent, decisive play from their quarterback in order to secure a victory this Saturday. 

Villanova will need a flawless performance to give them confidence for their final two games against Richmond and James Madison – two teams ranked in the Top 15 of the FCS Coaches Poll.

Kickoff from Kingston, R.I. is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.