As we approach Saturday's game-day against Old Dominion, here are 3 keys for the Villanova Wildcats as they look to bounce back from last week's loss to Richmond.
1. Get to Heinicke
Taylor Heinicke may not be a cyborg, but it is very likely that he is the best quarterback in the CAA -- maybe in FCS, and he had a great game against the Wildcats last season. The Monarchs lead the CAA in passing offense with an average of 465 yards per game, as well as in passing efficiency. He can also move the chains with his legs if needed, ranking #1 in the conference in total offense -- producing 503.6 yards per game.
Villanova didn't get to the quarterback last weekend against what may have been the CAA's top pass-protecting offensive line (UR has only allowed one sack this season), but they will need their blitz to break through against ODU to have a chance to beat Heinicke. Force him to throw the ball away or put him on his back and you might slow down the ODU offense.
2. Win field position battles on special teams
Old Dominion has one of the CAA's worst scoring defenses, giving up 28.3 points per game (though, giving up 61 to New Hampshire didn't help), but overall their defense seems to rank about middle of the pack in the conference in both rushing and passing. Villanova will have to try and get a short field by winning special teams battles, pinning ODU back on their own side of the field and making good gains in the return game. Winning those battles will allow the offense better opportunities for a big scoring play.
3. Cut out penalties and turnovers
The Wildcats were killed by untimely turnovers and penalties last week. A key drive was knocked back out of the redzone after a flag cost the 'Cats ten yards early in the game and a late interception gave Richmond a chance to ice the game from nine yards out.
Old Dominion has been playing too well this season for a team to be able to come into their stadium, make mistakes like those, and expect to be in position to win. If Villanova can avoid penalties and limit turnovers in key moments, they might be able to run with the Monarchs this weekend, like UNH did.
ODU has had more penalties called against them than any other CAA team this season, with 58 penalties costing 504 yards (or 100.8 yards per game). The fact that they win despite that fact has been a testament to their potent offense making up the difference. Villanova has lost an average of 50 yards per game this season.