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Towson at Villanova preview: Can the 'Cats get back on track?

After a painful loss on the road dimmed the Wildcats' CAA title hopes, they return home to face last season's FCS runners-up, Towson.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Wildcats have had an interesting recent history with Towson, with the Tigers' 2011 destruction of Villanova in Baltimore genuinely signalling the Tigers' arrival as a CAA Conference and FCS contender. Towson added stud running back Terrance West (now with the Cleveland Browns) that season, and built a team around him in the last few that was as strong as anyone in the subdivision. With West gone this year, however, the Tigers have taken a step back, going 4-5 overall and 2-3 in conference play.

Both of those conference victories have come back-to-back against Delaware and CAA-newcomers, Elon. The Tigers will be looking to go for three-in-a-row when they kick off at Villanova at 7:00pm tomorrow.

The Wildcats have been vulnerable to the passing attack this season, but the Tigers are not a power passing team. They average just 130 yards per game in the air and have passed for just 5 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Connor Frazier hasn't been able to replace Peter Athens, whose quick release and accurate passing allowed the Tigers to complement West's ground attack.

Towson isn't a pushover this season, however, and their tailback, Darius Victor, isn't West, but his 106 yards per game are leading the CAA so far this season. Their pass rush has led to 23 sacks on the season, just one behind Villanova -- and mostly behind the strength of defensive end Ryan Delaire.

The injury bug has wreaked havoc on the Tigers, who will see their starting left tackle out of his pads tomorrow night -- adding to a growing problem of inexperienced offensive linemen.

Last week, Villanova's John Robertson had his worst performance of the season in a one-point loss to Richmond. The 'Cats quarterback accounted for just 139 yards passing (and one touchdown) and ran for another 65. The 'Cats rely on the junior QB to lead the offense, so he will likely have to do a lot more to get things going again this week. In the two previous weeks, things seems a little off, but the offense still put up it's usual impressive numbers.

The Tigers struggled against another dual-threat quarterback in JMU's Vad Lee. The Dukes' signal caller passed for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns, and ran for 24 in a 62-7 drubbing at Harrisonburg.

Villanova beat Towson last season on homecoming for the Tigers, in a game that was nationally-televised on NBC Sports Network. The Tigers have not forgotten that game, and will come into the Main Line looking to show the Wildcats a thing or two. In order to win, however, they will have to overcome a passing defense that has underwhelmed and figure out how to handle John Robertson -- who can beat them in the air, or with his feet.

Villanova's head coach Andy Talley has repeatedly praised Robertson, foisting him up among the top quarterbacks in the country. Recently, he put it in no uncertain terms -- telling the Philadelphia Inquirer that his quarterback could start for any team in the country.

"He is the best quarterback in I-AA, and certainly one of the top five in the nation at any level," Talley stated. Robertson was passed on by most bigger programs when he was tearing up the gridiron for Paramus High School in New Jersey, but he has risen to the top of the heap while at Villanova -- a top contender for the Walter Payton Award for the top-player in I-AA football this season.

Next season, the pro scouts will be taking a look, to try and figure out whether Robertson has a future in the NFL. For him to get there, he will have to win games like this one, where talented defensive linemen will work to make him uncomfortable, and making tough throws under pressure could be make-or-break for the team.