Dating back to 1895, Villanova football has faced off against Delaware 48 times. This Saturday will be the 49th meeting in the rivalry, now often referred to as the Battle of the Blue. Villanova has the lead in the series, 26-21-1, with one tie coming in 1976.
The Battle of the Blue trophy began being used in 2007, and Villanova has had possession of it seven of the eight years, including the last three. Since the trophy started being used in 2007, three out of the first four years, involved a team that went on to play in the FCS championship game. Delaware in 2007 and 2010, and Villanova in 2009.
Last week Villanova took down ranked Fordham 14-7, on the backs of their defense and running game. Starting in place of injured Gary Underwood, running back Javon White rushed for 143 yards and John Robertson rushed for 49 yards of his own including a touchdown. The run defense was great once again, holding Fordham's star running back Chase Edmonds to only 74 yards on 16 attempts.
All-American linebacker Don Cherry's senior campaign picked right up from where his junior year left off. Through two games, Cherry's recorded 11.5 tackles, one sack, and a forced fumble. Junior linebacker Austin Cailtro has started his 2015 season off on the right foot, totaling 14.5 tackles, one sack, and four tackles for loss . 6'7" defensive lineman Tanoh Kpassagnon, finally free of injury, has added 1.5 sacks, and 1.5 tackles for loss and will look to slow down the Delaware running game.
Nova's pass defense was also solid, holding the Kevin Anderson (an FBS transfer quarterback) to 85 yards on 9-22 passing, with one touchdown. The Wildcats passing game was efficient as Robertson finished 12-18 for 161 yards and a TD.
Over in Delaware, it's been a sluggish start to the 2015 campaign. After struggling in a loss to Jacksonville University (not the one that almost beat Auburn) the Blue Hens defeated Lafayette 19-9 last weekend. Delaware's rushing attack is looking very strong, having run for 257 yards against Lafayette, and 163 against Jacksonville. Though starter Wes Hills is out for the season with a broken foot, reserves Jalen Randolph, Kareem Williams and Thomas Jefferson have all seen plenty of action. That will definitely make things tougher for the 'Nova defense having to deal with fresh backs all game. The Wildcats' rush defense against the Blue Hens' rushing attack is definitely a matchup to watch.
Delaware's quarterback play is much less impressive than their run game. Two quarterbacks, Joe Walker and Blake Rankin, have gotten playing time thus far but it will be Walker as the starter going forward. He only threw for 58(!!) yards against Lafayette, so there's some work to do in the passing attack. Walker did run for 82 yards combined through two games, adding another wrinkle to the Hens' rushing attack.
Delaware's run defense looks promising, having held Lafayette and Jacksonville to 55 and 70 rushing yards, respectively. Linebacker Charles Bell has played well through two games, racking up 15 tackles, and an INT. 6'5" defensive lineman Bilal Nichols, has 12 tackles through two games, including a tackle for loss, and one half sack.
Delaware's pass defense has also been struggling so far, allowing 269 yards in the air to Jacksonville, and 215 to Lafayette. That is something Walter Payton Award winner John Robertson has to take advantage of. Receiver Aaron Wells gained 87 yards through the air against Fordham, and look for him to improve on that against the struggling Delaware defensive backs.
Luckily for Delaware, they don't have the same kicking issues as Villanova. Frank Raggo is 4-4 on field goals for the season, including a long of 45 yards. To put it lightly, 'Nova's kicking game is not good. Steve Weyler seems to have figured out PATs, but field goals have eluded him thus far (0-3).
This is the conference opener for both teams, and it's a long standing rivalry. For those reasons alone it's hard to predict an outcome, but I'm confident in John Robertson and his supporting cast and they'll go in to this game as the favorites behind a (hopefully) large Parents' Weekend crowd. Expect the Wildcats to hoist The Battle of the Blue trophy for the fourth straight year.