Exhale. Villanova’s FBS-schedule is done for another year, and the ‘Cats got out of the game relatively unscatched injury-wise. Zach Bednarczyk seemed to shake off a big hit, and Changa Hodge’s lacerated kidney came before the team ever left campus.
Past that, there was plenty of reason to be excited. The ‘Nova defense appears to be legit once again. They stymied the Panthers all afternoon, giving up just 261 yards of offense (175 passing, 86 rushing) against a team that was built to run them over all afternoon.
The obvious eyesore was the offensive side of the ball for the Wildcats. 172 yards of offense, even against a stellar defense like Pitt, is just plain bad.
If we’re looking at that performance glass-half-full, Pitt’s defense is the perfect counter to Villanova’s offense (and their deficiencies). Here’s the relevant excerpt from Football Study Hall’s analysis (from when Narduzzi was at Michigan State):
TL:DR: Pitt likes to stack the box, play press coverage, and dare you to try to beat them downfield. It’s a defense that basically says, “We’re better than you to a man, so give us your best shot.”
Because of this, ‘Nova was never likely to establish the run. But that was their best shot at making this a game. They were just beaten by a better unit, and that’s okay.
With the run failing, Bednarczyk constantly found himself in 3rd and long. And without a proven WR corps. that could beat that press coverage, Bednarczyk predictably took a lot of pressure and hits. It was tough to watch.
The bright side? ‘Nova isn’t (likely) going to play a defense that big, fast, or good again this season. And the breakout performance of TE Ryan Bell (6 catches, 52 yards) adds a positional-weapon that was missing last season.
Let’s hold on a rush to judgement. This team still has a chance to be really good, and facing a Lehigh defense that gave up 215 yards rushing to Monmouth might the kickstart this team needs.