Danny Wild-US PRESSWIRE
On Saturday, the Wildcats will travel to Stony Brook to take on a future-CAA football member in the opening round of the NCAA Division 1 Football Championship. Here are 3 keys for the Villanova Wildcats as they prepare to play for a chance to take on Montana State.
1. Stop the run
Stony Brook's offense is Big South Offensive Player of the Year Miguel Maysonet (a leading candidate for the Walter Payton Award) and former Iowa running back Marcus Coker (who was second in the Big Ten in rushing last season). Maysonet was first in the Big South in rushing this season while Coker finished third. Force quarterback Kyle Essington to throw the ball and the 'Cats will take away the strength of the Stony Brook offense. The Seawolves average 290.5 yards on the ground, that's 62.2% of their total offensive production, while Essington passes for an average of 173.6 yards. Success in the passing game for Stony Brook, however, appears to be aided by the run.
2. Use the pass
The Seawolves are the Big South conferences' top defensive teams across the board. The Villanova running game could rack up yards against them, but that might not be enough to get the win. Army's triple-option offense gained almost 300 yards on the Seawolves in a loss earlier this season, so balance is imperative to keep their defense from settling in. The Wildcats will need their young quarterback to complete some passes downfield to any of his receivers.
3. Generate turnovers
In Stony Brook's only loss this season, the Seawolves turned the ball over 5 times to Liberty. Four of those turnovers were interceptions thrown by Essington, including one pick-six, while one was a 44 yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Partially those turnovers will come from stopping the running game as the first key demonstrates, but once the Seawolves are passing the Wildcats will have to make sure that they continue to get pressure into the backfield, forcing him to make quick throws and give up the ball. Villanova defenders also need to look out for opportunities to strip the ball from Stony Brook players as they tackle -- Maysonet was responsible for the fumble that lead to a late touchdown by Liberty.