As we approach Saturday's final home game against JMU, here are 3 keys for the Villanova Wildcats as they look to bounce back from a tough loss and look for a bid to the playoffs.
1. Play defense
In their last game against Towson, the Villanova defense stumbled, allowing Towson's QB, Grant Enders, to move freely in the pocket while the Tigers running game picked up yardage easily. The game turned quickly into a shootout, with the Wildcats ending on the losing end. The 'Cats offense is much improved over last season, but it is not built to win in a high-scoring affair. Villanova will need some back-up from the defensive unit to win this weekend.
2. Stop the run
JMU has had most of it's offensive success on the ground this season, ranking third in rushing offense and eight in the conference in passing offense. The Dukes clearly like to build off of a strong running game, so it will be important for the Wildcats to try and take that aspect of their game away. Tailback Dae'Quan Scott is a close second to Kevin Monangai for the CAA's rushing title at the moment, and the Dukes' quarterback Justin Thorpe also ranks in the conference top-10 for rushing (9th) -- their offense somewhat mirrors Villanova's in that regard.
They are next-to-last in the conference for sacks-allowed this season and are clearly struggling in the pass-blocking aspect of their game, so the defensive linemen will have to perform better this week in collapsing the pocket on passing downs and getting into the backfield to put Thorpe on his back.
3. Complete key passes and run the ball
Villanova has been the CAA's best rushing team so far this season, but this weekend they will face the conference's best rushing defense in JMU. The Dukes are an all-around strong defense, leading in rush defense, total defense and scoring defense, but they are ranked closer to the middle of the pack in passing defense. The 'Cats will hope to have Norman White ready to play after a week off to rest his injured MCL, but even if the star wideout is limited this week, Robertson will need to find some targets downfield to back off the JMU defenders and create opportunities to run.
With both teams preferring the ground game, the time of possession may be a major factor in this game and the 'Cats will still want to run the ball enough to keep the clock in their favor.