The sun is setting on the 2018 football season. The Villanova Wildcats only have two games left in the regular season and this Saturday will be their final home game of the year.
Villanova (4-5, 1-5 CAA) is coming off of its first victory in a month. Last week, the Wildcats enjoyed a complete all-around game to take down the Richmond Spiders. Their 45-21 victory was a big way to rebound after back-to-back scoreless games, which topped off a four-game losing streak.
As for William & Mary (3-5, 2-3 CAA), the Tribe will enter Saturday’s contest after losing on the road to Rhode Island. It was the team’s fourth loss in six games.
Here are three things to watch for in the Tribe-Wildcats game, which is scheduled to kickoff at 1 p.m.
Salute to Seniors
It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for Villanova, who started the year on a promising note with a big FBS upset. Then, the ‘Cats were winless for all of October, and having a few injuries didn’t help their cause. They were able to taste victory once again last week, and they will look to do that again. For Villanova’s seniors, this is their last hurrah and their final chance to win at home.
The Wildcats will celebrate 18 seniors before kickoff. On offense, this includes starting quarterback Zach Bednarczyk and top rusher Aaron Forbes. Fellow running backs Matt Gudzak and Corey Russo will also be honored before the game. Top receiver Jarrett McClenton, and two others, Adeyemi DaSilva, and Andrew Smith, lead the wide receivers. Tight end Ryan Bell, as well as mainstay linemen Ethan Greenidge, Louie Csaszar, and Brandon Hitner round out the offensive line.
On the other side of the ball, there are defensive backs Rob Rolle, Isaiah Alicea, and Chucky Smith. In the front seven, linebackers Joseph Sotomayor and Jeff Steeb, as well as defensive linemen, Ben Evans and Bryan White, will top off the Senior Day celebrations.
Much like Richmond last week, the Tribe is very vulnerable to the run game. As a matter of fact, William & Mary has the worst rushing defense in the CAA, sitting below Richmond in 12th place. The Tribe has given up an average of 189.2 rushing yards per game and a conference-high 19 touchdowns on the ground. This plays right into Villanova’s favor, as the ‘Cats do love to run the ball, especially with the variety of running backs they have.
It’s safe to expect another big performance for Forbes as well as the other running backs in the rotation—Gudzak, redshirt sophomore Justin Covington, and freshman Jalen Jackson. Forbes is coming off of a career-best 160-yard rushing performance against Richmond. He’s likely to replicate with a similar performance, after torching another subpar run defense in Richmond. It was an explosive performance all-around for Villanova’s offense against the Spiders, but with 257 of its 427 yards in that game coming from the ground, this could be trouble for William & Mary.
This hasn’t been the greatest of seasons for William & Mary, but it is a step up from the 2-9 campaign from last season. Overall, this isn’t the same Tribe that some of Villanova’s redshirt, fifth-year seniors would have remembered. In 2015, William & Mary was one of the top teams in the CAA and even made it to the FCS Playoffs with a 9-4 record.
Overall, this William & Mary team is struggling. Offensively, the Tribe averages a meager 13.3 points per game (last in CAA). They give up a subpar 29.4 points per game to opponents (ninth in CAA), but their offensive struggles is the team’s biggest crutch. Points and yardage aren’t easy to come by. The Tribe has scored more than 20 points only twice this season, and both times, they won.
Senior wide receiver DeVonte Dedmon is a playmaker when he is able to get the ball and is dangerous. He is one of their go-to players this season, and leads receivers with 31 catches for 530 yards and four touchdowns. However, with inconsistent quarterback play, his damage and opportunities has been limited. On the ground, junior running back Albert Funderburke has a team-high 215 yards and a touchdown. If Villanova doesn’t make mistakes and let William & Mary have chances to score or put together something on offense, this Tribe squad shouldn’t be much to worry about.