Against Maine last week the Villanova defense played spectacular, allowing only three points on the night, and holding a strong Black Bears rushing attack to only 159 yards. 'Nova's special teams also forced missed field goals for Maine from 27, and 35 yards. Quarterback Zach Bednarczyk started using his legs much more, running for 123 yards and one touchdown on the night.
The victory moved Villanova to 4-4 on the season, and 3-2 in CAA play. It isn't likely but the playoffs are still a possibility for this Wildcat squad (thanks Chris!).
The focus for Villanova now shifts to Rhode Island who is 1-7 on the season and 1-4 in the CAA. The Rams started off the season with a loss to FBS Syracuse and followed that with losses to Albany, Harvard, Maine, and Brown. Rhody won their first game of the season against Delaware, but then fell to Richmond and New Hampshire.
JuCo transfer Paul Mroz started the first six games for Rhode Island but is out for the season after he tore a thumb ligament. (Side note: Torn ligaments in fingers hurt much more than what you would imagine.) Freshman Wesley McKoy, and sophomore James Caparell have both played quarterback for the struggling Rams in Mroz's absence.
McKoy has only thrown 25 passes on the season, but he's completed 65% of them for 175 yards in the previous two games against Richmond and New Hampshire. He also has one touchdown pass in each game without throwing an interception. James Caparell didn't play against New Hampshire, but against Richmond he completed 53% of his passes for 68 yards while throwing one interception.
I am expecting to see McKoy start and play the majority, if not all, of the game. With an offense that's only averaging 149 passing yards a game I'm not sure it makes much of a difference, but it appears McKoy just runs things smoother and doesn't turn the ball over.
Harold Cooper is the feature back for Rhode Island, but he's been struggling quite a bit this season. Cooper's only averaging 83 rushing yards a game, and has fumbled the ball five times. Luckily for the Rams only two of those have been lost, but his inability to hold onto the football could be a problem against a very good Villanova defense.
Cooper is also a receiving threat, he has 23 receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Harold must be accounted for on kickoffs as well. He took one back 92 yards earlier this season and is almost always back to receive.
Markey Clarke is the only other running back who gets noticeable time and he only has 28 rushes for 80 yards and has fumbled the ball once. Khayri Denny is the star wide out for Rhode Island, as he has accumulated 299 yards through the air and scored twice.
Villanova is only allowing 140 rushing yards a game, combine that with Rhode Island's 99 rushing yards a game and problems holding onto the ball, it doesn't look good for the Rams. As a whole, Rhode Island is averaging only 14 points a game, so except the Wildcats defense to have another week in which they dominate their opponent.
Zach Bednarczyk and co. have a great opportunity to improve off of last week, this Rams defense allows 427 yards per game. The run defense is respectable, but the pass defense allows 247 yards a game through the air. That gives Kevin Gulyas a chance to improve on an already very good season, and add to his four receiving touchdowns.
Linebacker Adam Parker leads the defense with 68 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and one sack. Defensive end Greg Doutre has also gotten to the quarterback twice this year.
This Rhode Island team has struggled mightily so far in 2015. The Villanova defense shut out an Albany team that handily defeated this Rams squad. Gary Underwood and Zach Bednarczyk should lead the way and put up a lot of points this Saturday. Villanova should win, but as we've seen through the season you never know what Wildcats team will show up.
NOTE: The game will be the 400th of Andy Talley's career.