Winners & Sinners is a new feature that we're going to run every week, where we highlight the players/areas that performed quite well, and the same for the things that didn't quite meet the mark.
The Villanova Wildcats lost a heartbreaker at Syracuse 27-26 in double overtime on Friday night, but there were some very positive signs for the season to come as Andy Talley's troops nearly pulled off a shocking upset of an FBS foe. Like most performances, however, there were some things that could spell trouble if they aren't rectified in the coming week.
John Robertson - The preseason All-American didn't disappoint with his running ability, carrying 34 times for 115 yards. But it was his performance in the passing game - something Robertson identified as an area to work on in the offseason, that really turned my head. His line of 16-27 for 199 yards and a TD was good for a 133.4 rating. And I'd be remiss I didn't mention his receivers - Mike Burke, Earnest Pettway, Gary Underwood, Lincoln Collins and Aaron Wells all made huge catches. And no, I'm not forgetting Poppy.
Poppy Livers - The senior co-captain was spectacular all evening. 5 catches for 58 yards, and then the 68-yard punt return for the touchdown which finished as SportsCenter's #2 play of the night. The former walk-on continues to be a weapon whenever he's on the field. He looks to be in line for a monster season.
The Offensive/Defensive Lines - Two units that were openly questioned in the offseason, and for good reason. New left tackle Brad Seaton struggled early with the speed of Syracuse's rush, but adjusted well as the game went on. The defensive line, other than Syracuse's long touchdown run, was dominant. Not fair to judge their lack of pressure in the pass rush with Syracuse continuously throwing quickly to the left and right.
Don Cherry - I couldn't find any official stats, but #44 stood out as a man among boys, especially late in the game when the 'Nova D was executing multiple goal-line stands. Quick shout outs to Joey Harmon, Corey Majors and Dillon Lucas are in order too. The 'Cats are absolutely loaded at LB.
Chris Gough - Never put a foot wrong in his first 3 years as the kickoff specialist, so I'm sure this wasn't the debut he had hoped for. He'll likely rue missing that game-winning field goal for a while, but he'd be better served by putting it behind him. He won the starting job for a reason, but unless he turns it around next week, the calls for freshman Steve Weyler will get a bit louder.
Clay Horne - We were a bit surprised to see Mike Burke and Kevin Gulyas ahead of him on the depth chart, but we quickly found out why. Robertson hit him on a beautiful slant on the opening drive, which Horne dropped. Not only would it have been a first down, but Horne's size and momentum could have sprung him in to the endzone. Gough would miss the ensuing field goal, and Villanova lost some early momentum.
Goal Line Playcalling - I covered this extensively on Saturday so I don't want to spend too much time here, but with the success Robertson had rolling out all night and the size disadvantage against the 'Cuse D presented, it was curious to say the least.