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Villanova vs William & Mary Football Preview: Wildcats healthier and ready for challenge

The Wildcats will try and bounce back after a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad game.

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Things couldn't have gone much worse for Villanova in their last five quarters of football; all-everything quarterback John Robertson's knee gave out, ending his season, and a dismal Thursday night performance ended an epic winning streak over local Ivy League rival Penn. It was hardly the way that the coaches had drawn up the 2015 season, to be breaking in a new signal-caller and rebuilding the offensive line to boot.

With Zach Bednarczyk leading the offense for the second week in a row, Villanova will look to bounce back from that loss to Penn two weeks ago, taking on a William & Mary team that also had to deal with an injured star player this season. With identical 2-2 records, this will be a turning point game for the team that comes out on top.

The Wildcats had a little over two-weeks to prepare their new starting quarterback, thanks to a Pope-induced Thursday night game before last week's bye. With a little more time to scheme, the Villanova staff is hoping that Bednarcyk will be ready for a defense that only allowed 133 yards passing in their last two games.

More time to prepare can't hurt. Bednarczyk looked spectacular in relief against Delaware, but the Villanova offense was not ready in first start against Penn, where he passed for a touchdown, but also threw an interception and completed just 58% of his passes for an offense that never quite found its groove.

While the Tribe has been stingy against the pass this season, they may be more susceptible to the ground game. This game will be a good time for 'Nova to get establish the running game, against a defense that allowed 347 yards to Delaware last week. An effective game from Gary Underwood and Javon White will help the defense to catch their breath, as well as opening things up for Bednarczyk in the passing game.

It will be key to this game, and the balance of the season, for Villanova to show that they can find their rhythm on offense.

Giving the defense a break will be important, and moving the ball effectively will keep a strong Tribe offense off of the turf. William & Mary features two of the top running backs in the CAA with Mikal Abdul-Saboor and Kendell Anderson, who are both in the league top-10 for rushing yards. Their star, however, is Abdul-Saboor, who sat out of their game last week with an injury and could be out again this week. 'Nova has had success in the past against the W&M running game, but  Kendell Anderson did have some success against Nova last year when he ripped a couple of big runs.

This season, William & Mary have one of the better quarterbacks in the league as well in Steve Cluley. Through four games, he has accumulated 848 yards, 7 touchdowns, and just one interception.

For Villanova, combatting that attack will fall to the defense, which has been the Cats' strongest unit. The passing defense took a step back last week when they allowed Penn to throw for two touchdowns against them in their 24-13 loss at home. Prior to that game they had given up a total of three touchdowns through the air in their previous three games. It all starts in the trenches, however, and the Wildcats defense will need to be effective against the ground game, and bring pressure on Cluley on passing downs to give the secondary a chance to make plays.

Also important for the Wildcats this week is to find a solution on 4th downs. Villanova was set to go for it on 4th downs regularly with John Robertson running the offense, but with him sidelined indefinitely it may be more imperative for Gerard Smith to bring some consistency to the kicking game this week. Smith is moving up the depth chart to replace Steve Weyler, who was never able to find his confidence since a rough start to his career last season. If Bednarczyk's offense stalls out within range, being able to put three points on the board reliably will take a lot of pressure off of the freshman.

In a match-up of two teams that have a history of close games, we could be in for another close one if the Villanova offense can pull itself back together. Of the last five meetings of these teams, only one was decided by more than four points -- and none were won by more than a touchdown.