‘Cats ready to scale Mountaineers

Mark O'Neil

After a crushing defeat of No. 3 ranked Stephen F. Austin this past weekend, the Wildcats will face top-ranked Appalachian State in North Carolina on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs. Appalachian State is coming off a 42-14 victory over Western Illinois this past Saturday.

Villanova on offense

Last week was senior Matt Szczur’s first week back, and his presence helped lead the ‘Cats back to the offensive efficiency the team had played with earlier in the season. In the win over SFA, Szczur caught 11 passes for 128 yards receiving and a touchdown. Senior Chris Whitney had a big game for the ‘Cats, completing 21 of 30 passes for 222 yards and four touchdowns.

Norman White continued his strong performance this year, catching six passes for 69 yards and three touchdowns. The rushing attack was also up to its usual standard, as the team tallied a combined 234 yards of rushing, led by Szczur with 68 yards.

Appalachian State on offense

Appalachian State’s offense has been its strong point this year, having scored at least 34 points in all but two of their games, one of which was a loss at the hands of the Florida Gators. The strength of the Mountaineers is their rushing attack, as they have been averaging 227 yards per game on the ground. In their dominant 42-14 victory over Western Illinois last week, Appalachian State rushed for 417 yards on the day and five touchdowns.The ground game is led by Mountaineers quarterback DeAndre Presley, who rushed for 264 yards and two scores, while also throwing for a touchdown and two interceptions on just 2 for 7 passing. The adverse weather pushed the Mountaineers to pass less frequently than usual, as they have been averaging just over 200 yards passing per game.

Villanova on defense

After giving up three touchdowns in the first quarter against SFA, the Wildcats defense held strong for the rest of the game, allowing only a field goal early in the second quarter. The ‘Cats defense was all over the Lumberjacks, forcing six turnovers throughout the course of the game, three of them from interceptions and three on fumbles.

Villanova’s defense has been its strength this year, having given up single-digit points five times this season.

The rushing defense has been extremely strong, giving up just under 100 yards a game and holding opponents to only 12 rushing touchdowns all year. The strong rush defense should be useful in stopping the high-powered ground game that Appalachian State employs.

Appalachian State on defense

The Appalachian State defense has been strong, but not as strong as Villanova’s throughout the season. The team is giving up almost 160 yards per game on the ground and just over 180 yards per game in the air.

The Mountaineers defense is anchored by senior linebacker D.J. Smith, who has been outstanding, leading the Mountaineers with 132 tackles on the season. The front line is anchored by senior defensive lineman Jabari Fletcher, who has recorded 8.5 sacks on the season.


While Appalachian State is the top-ranked team in the playoffs, they have shown themselves to be beatable, losing to Georgia Southern and squeaking out wins against Chattanooga and Elon. Villanova has reeled off two very impressive wins against Delaware and Stephen F. Austin, and the return of Szczur has ignited the team. Villanova’s tough run defense stacks up well against Appalachian State’s potent run game, and the Mountaineer’s average run defense bodes well for Villanova. Villanova will squeak out a win in the hardest fought game of the year.