The #9 Villanova Wildcats went one up on the Sig Ep frat boys after finding themselves on the receiving end of a knock-out punch on back-to-back Saturdays. Assault charges are pending. In a must-win game in front of its home crowd, the Wildcats of Villanova (6-4, 4-3) again did not take care of business, dropping a tough one to the Wildcats of New Hampshire (6-4, 4-3) by the now familiar score of 24-31 (think Temple and William & Mary). In the process, the 'Nova Wildcats, who began the season with so much promise, find themselves with their backs to the wall in the hunt for a playoff spot.
The story of last week’s loss to Rhode Island was critical turnovers. This week, Nova added penalties to their repertoire – nine of them for 76 yards to go along with three turnovers on fumbles. In a game that ‘Nova dominated in total offense (450 yds. vs. 368 yds.), first downs (32 vs.15) and time of possession (38 minutes vs. 22), they never led in the game. Yet they found themselves in a position to win or tie in the closing seconds. Down 31-24, the Cats had first down at New Hampshire’s 5-yard line with just under 30 seconds remaining in the game. Reminiscent of the last offensive play in the loss to Rhode Island, Chris Whitney fumbled the ball away on a quarterback sack, and New Hampshire ran out the clock.
This is hardly the way Andy Tally envisioned the defense of his first FCS National Championship, particularly when Matt Szczur decided to rejoin the team for his senior year after a summer playing baseball professionally for the Chicago Cubs farm club. With better clock management in the closing minutes of the Temple game and with a healthy Matt Szczur in the games against William & Mary, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, it’s not much of a stretch that ‘Nova could have been 10-0 going into the final game of the season.
Well, that’s enough of the "shoulda, woulda, coulda." The season comes down to a road trip in Saturday’s finale against the #1 Delaware Blue Hens, who have lost a single game by a single point at #2 William and Mary on October 23. If the Cat’s win, there's a good shot that they're in the playoffs; if they lose, it’s all over. The difference maker for the Cats could be Matt Szczur. Talley said he would know Tuesday if his all-American, all-everything player, who has missed six consecutive games with a high ankle sprain, will suit up against Delaware. If he does not, he may never suit up again for Villanova. It is certainly not the way Matt envisioned going out when he took his sabbatical from the Cubs. Let's hope for a more fitting end to his great career.
- Philadelphia Inquirer: " Loss to New Hampshire puts Villanova on the ropes"
- Delco Times: Loss dims Villanova’s playoff hopes
- Fanhouse.com: New Hampshire holds off Villanova 31-24