No. 12 Villanova (3-2, 1-1 CAA) has yet to win back-to-back games this season. The Wildcats have been trading wins and losses, and they’ll be searching for a Week 6 victory to end that pattern.
With defending National Champion James Madison lurking in the distance, Villanova will have to first deal with Maine (1-2, 0-2 CAA) at home, before heading down to take on the champs.
Here are three things to watch for in Saturday’s game:
Schetelich’s First Career Start
Redshirt freshman Jack Schetelich might have virtually gotten his first start by playing almost 95 percent of last week’s game against Towson, after subbing in for Zach Bednarczyk shortly into the game’s opening drive. With Bednarczyk expected to be gone until at least the end of the month with a knee injury, Schetelich is just a day away from making his first ever start for the Wildcats. The Cranford, N.J. native is a dual-threat quarterback and really demonstrated a knack for being a hard runner with the ball. Schetelich has great scrambling instincts and can really run hard. While his passing might not have been the best—5-of-15 pass completions for 59 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions (although one of them was off of just a tipped ball)—head coach Mark Ferrante lauded the ability of his young quarterback to have “short-term memory.” He didn’t get too caught up in his mistakes and the Wildcat defense had his back. With that first game out of the way and the expectation of being a starter moving forward, maybe those jitters will be gone and we will get to see a more effective Schetelich under center. Not every redshirt freshman gets unexpectedly thrusted into a game and becomes the hero right away (i.e. Bednarczyk in 2015), but what’s important is that Villanova did manage to find a way to win and Schetelich has some footage to learn from. With injuries depleting the Wildcats at nearly every key position, a victory would certainly boost morale and keep them above-.500 regardless of what happens when they play the Dukes the week after. As long as Schetelich doesn’t try to force things, the Wildcat offense should be okay. He will be going against a Black Bear defense that has given up an average of 400 yards per game.
The Black Bears have the second-best rushing attack in the CAA. Leading the way is sophomore Josh Mack, who has rushed for 502 yards and four touchdowns so far this season. Mack proved to be one of the top freshmen around last season, and he’s on pace to shatter his 700-yard, six-touchdown performance from a year ago. He averages a conference-best 167.3 yards per game this year, and has yet to miss the 100-yard mark in any of his games so far. Mack will be tested by a strong Villanova defense that hasn’t given up 100 yards on the ground to a single team so far. While the Wildcats were fortunate to dodge Albany’s Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, it doesn’t look like Mack will be missing this game.
If Mack can’t establish his presence on the ground, it might be a long day for the Black Bears. Quarterback Josh Ferguson isn’t exactly the most accurate around, completing only 50 percent of his passes this season and featuring a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 6:5.
Count on Them
With injuries affecting so many different positions on the Wildcat roster, Bednarczyk was just the latest blow. Fortunately, his knee injury isn’t a season-ender. Top receiver and tight end Ryan Bell, as well as running back Matt Gudzak, also went down with knee injuries when the ‘Cats played against Albany. However, Bell and Gudzak are done for the year and are expected to undergo season-ending surgery. Now, Aaron Forbes will be the feature back. While he’s still looking for his first touchdown of the year, his 248 yards off of 49 carries are the highest for the ‘Cats thus far. Taurus Phillips and Jarrett McClenton will be vital in getting the receiving corps going. Phillips has played very well through five games, and McClenton is one of the most-targeted receivers in this offense-—and one that can make an impact on jet sweeps with his legs. Lastly, it took about three years (felt way longer though) but Villanova seems to finally have a reliable kicker. Drew Kresge nailed a 46-yard field goal to give the ‘Cats a one-point lead before they gained separation. Kresge has made 5-of-6 field goal attempts and hasn’t missed from inside 40. On extra point attempts, he’s made all but one. Another great thing about Kresge: he’s only a sophomore.