Following Villanova's loss to Boston College last weekend, head coach Andy Talley said he was pleased with his team's performance - especially the defense. Unfortunately, Villanova lost two defensive starters in OLB Pat Haggerty (possibly for the year) and SS Matt McCann to injury during the loss, something that Talley has always been wary of in FBS matchups. McCann is confirmed out against Fordham, leaving the Villanova defense thinner against a Fordham team that just put up 51 points in their opening week victory. Here's what Villanova needs to do to win the game.
1. Defend the pass
The run defense as very stout against Boston College, limiting the Eagles to just 128 yards rushing while only sacking Chase Rettig once (sacks count as negative yardage in college football). The pass defense on the other hand, was brutal. Rettig hit at a 77% clip and 2 touchdowns, including 13 completions to Alex Amidon for 146 yards. Rettig had a third touchdown called back due to a chop block.
Michael Nebrich just threw for 267 yards and 4 touchdowns and will look to replicate his strong performance this week. With McCann out, Jerry Miles will need to step up and 'Nova will need stronger play from Craig James and Shane Harris at the corners. Some more pressure on the QB wouldn't hurt either, as the 'Cats gave Rettig way too much time to pick them apart last week.
2. Get Monangai going
Kevin Monangai struggled against BC with the Eagles' defense keying in on him. The junior carried 11 times for just 23 yards. As a team, Villanova did quite well, running 36 times for 197 yards, their 5.5 ypc holding up well against last season's numbers. But those stats are a bit inflated, as much of that was due to John Robertson (13 carries, 94 yards) breaking a couple of long runs, as well as Jamal Abdur-Rahman's fake punt being counted in the total yardage.
Monangai having a bounceback game will be crucial, as it will take pressure off John Robertson, who committed 3 turnovers late in last week's game when he began to force the issue. It will also allow Villanova to revert to their ball control offense, and keep their defense fresh as the game wears on.
3. Smart, error-free football
Let me be clear: the fake punt was BRILLIANT. It was perfectly timed by the coaches, and perfectly executed by the players. But, the trickeration should have probably died there. An end-around to Poppy Livers resulted in a negative gain, and a halfback toss by Gary Underwood resulted in an interception late in the half when Villanova could have probably gotten 3 points. Underwood should have put the ball in his pocket on that last one, but the play should have never been called by the coaches, and it risked blowing a halftime lead that the team fought so hard for. Overall, I didn't love the offensive game that the coaching staff called, and I'll be looking for improvements this week.
On the player side, 4 turnovers (and a -3 turnover differential) is not the way to win a ballgame. Both of Robertson's INTs were badly forced, and while he was obliterated late in the game, he probably thinks he should have held onto the football. Monangai also had a fumbled exchange with Robertson early in the game that Mike Burke jumped on, or it could have been even worse.
Villanova is a better team than Fordham, but the Wildcats are on the road and Fordham is brimming with confidence after a big week one win. 'Nova cannot give them any gifts.
More from VU Hoops:
- Matt McCann Injury: Safety confirmed out vs. Fordham
- Villanova vs. Fordham: Game Time, TV Schedule and more
- Video: Villanova scores touchdown on impressive fake punt
- Matt Szczur to appear on E:60 Tuesday September 3, 2013
- Ben Ijalana doesn't stay unemployed for long as OL-starved Jets claim the Nova Alum