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3 Things to Watch vs. Towson

Villanova is looking to bounce back after last week’s performance.

NCAA Football: Towson at Maryland Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Both teams enter Week 5 searching for a rebound win after losing last week. No. 14 Villanova (2-2) plays its final leg of a series of road games to begin the season, heading down to play Towson (2-2) on Saturday, at 6 p.m.

The Wildcats have not won at Towson since 2013. They hope to turn that around. Here are three other things to watch for when the ‘Cats play the Tigers:


Injury Bugged

The Wildcats have been hit pretty hard with injuries this season, seemingly losing players almost every week. They were already down two wide receivers going into the start of the season, and then two more went down in the Temple game—Changa Hodge and Alex Padovani. In last week’s loss to Albany, the Wildcats were dealt even more misfortunes, as a few more players went down. Ryan Bell, a leading receiver and one of the top tight ends in the CAA, was injured in the first half of the game. Senior running back Matt Gudzak was hurt in the game’s final, deciding play of the game. Bell and Gudzak’s time tables for a return are uncertain. As of Thursday afternoon, they were still waiting for the results of their MRIs. For another senior playmaker, Rob Rolle, is fate is already determined. Like Bell, Rolle left in the first half of the game, after he took a shot to the knees. The team announced, via press release, that the preseason All-American and CAA Defensive Player of the Year will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. The 6-foot safety led the FCS last season with seven interceptions. This year, through four games, he tallied 14 tackles, two pass breakups, and one fumble recovery. Rolle is a big part of Villanova’s veteran-laden secondary. He is eligible to redshirt and come back for a fifth-year, but the ‘Cats will be missing him moving forward.

Tiger Cubs

Towson’s backfield is loaded with young players. Redshirt freshman Ryan Stover is the man under center. He is a dual-threat quarterback, with a decent arm and the ability to be mobile. Stover has a good arm, but he needs to improve on being more accurate. He’s shown spurts of being capable, but he’s not all that consistent. Against St. Francis (Pa.), he orchestrated a game-winning drive in which he completed 10-of-12 passes. Stover likes to take off and scramble often, as he leads the Tigers in carries. At running back, expect Towson to split time between redshirt sophomore Shane Simpson—who’s a better returner than an actual tailback—and true freshman Adrian Feliz-Platt, who has gotten more and more action as the season unfolds. Together, they account for just over 200 rushing yards and two touchdowns. After a slow start to the running game, the two have helped the Tigers get their ground attack going, helping the team run for over 100 yards in each of their last two games. These young players will be surely tested when they face off against the Wildcats’ defense, which hasn’t allowed a single team to rush for 100 yards this season. They also haven’t given up 20 points to an opponent. Towson has been struggling mostly on the offensive side, mainly allowing its defense to set the tone while it fails to even reach the 20-point mark this year. If these young guns can’t get the ball moving forward, it might be a long day for them.

Jumpstarting the Offense

With just 254 total yards and three lost fumbles, last week’s performance on offense was not the best for the Wildcats. Villanova struggled offensively for most of the game. Credit goes to a great defensive effort and gameplan by Albany, but Villanova has seen better days. It didn’t help that Zach Bednarczyk’s favorite target, senior tight end Ryan Bell went down early in the game. Regardless, the situation is about to get a little more complicated with Bell and Gudzak joining the injury list. Gudzak missing time will mean more of the proven back Aaron Forbes and possibly even more touches for Justin Covington, who played very well against Lafayette. However, the key to getting this offense going will be with Bednarczyk continuing his growth as a passer and keeping that aerial attack alive. Prior to the Albany game, Villanova’s offense had looked very good and balanced. Two players that will be vital in the receiving corps are Taurus Phillips and Jarrett McClenton. Phillips is Villanova’s next-best receiver, sitting just a step behind Bell in every receiving category. He’s on pace to shatter his production from last season. As for McClenton, this is his time to prove that he was worth the hype coming out of high school. McClenton was one of the top receivers against Albany, bringing in four catches for 53 yards. Will he have that breakout game to get him going?