With only six wins heading into the final game of the regular season, the Villanova football team needs a win against the top-ranked Delaware team to have a hope of gaining a playoff bid. Luckily there are high hopes that senior stud Matt Szczur will return to the gridiron this week, which should take some offensive pressure off of Chris Whitney.
Matt Szczur is returning from a double-high ankle sprain, and while he has been cleared by the team medical staff, the decision to play will be up to him. He has a baseball career to worry about, and won't play at Delaware unless he feels entirely comfortable. If he decides that he will put on pads and take the field, Andy Talley has announced that he may only take the field for a limited number of plays and will not line up in the wildcat package.
Regardless of Szczur's availability, this is a must-win game for the Wildcats, who have struggled with turnovers in their last two games. A trend that will need to end to advance into the postseason.
Andy Talley has recently criticized the level of emotion displayed by his team. The coach would like to see the Wildcats come out against Delaware not just ready to play a game, but hungry for a win.
Villanova has won the last four meetings of these teams and Delaware still hasn't earned an engraved plate on the "Battle of the Blue" trophy since it's inauguration. The Wildcats lead the all-time series between the schools 22-20-1. Talley's team hasn't lost three straight games since the end of the 2005 season.
Penn State transfer QB Pat Devlin has completed 67 percent of his passes this season, compiling 1,852 yards through the air and 11 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Chris Whitney has completed 63.7% of his passes for 1668 yards and 16 touchdowns. Both teams are capable of moving the ball on the ground as well, with the talented 5th-year senior RBs at Villanova (Ball and Babbaro) and the Blue Hens' talented youngster Andrew Pierce all gaining serious yardarge on the ground.
Delaware is ranked number one in both FCS rankings and will be a difficult match-up for Villanova. Facing an offense that is strong both through the air as well as on the ground, Talley's team will need to be provide strong coverage on the Blue Hens receivers to complement the always-strong rushing defense.
The Wildcats will need maximum effort to stop the Blue Hens. The Wildcats will need emotion.
With Matt Szczur in pads on Saturday, it isn't hard to believe that the emotion will be there. Few players crave wins as much as Szczur -- who came back to Villanova despite being drafted to play baseball for the Cubs over the summer.
Even without Szczur running the wildcat or on the field for every play, "[h]aving him would be a great moral booster," according to Andy Talley.
Despite three FCS losses, the Wildcats have not been blown out this season, losing by no more than 7 in any game. Could Matt Szczur be that 7 point difference-maker? In his own words:
I know I could have done something to contribute. I know I could have scored a touchdown, prevented a touchdown, kept the offense on the field by converting a third or fourth down. It’s a confidence thing. I know I would have been able to help out the team in some way.
A Delaware win likely keeps the Wildcats out of the playoffs. It would also secure a CAA title and automatic bid for the Blue Hens -- even though they are likely playoff bound regardless of the outcome. With a win guaranteeing home field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Hens will be very motivated this weekend.
These are two high-powered offensive and defensive teams and regardless how it pans out, this promises to be an exciting game.
Villanova will kick off against Delaware at NOON from Delaware Stadium in Newark, Delaware. Television coverage will be provided by the Comcast Network and radio coverage will be available on 950AM ESPN Radio.