Morgan State isn't a common opponent for Villanova; in fact, in 120 years of playing on the gridiron, the Wildcats and Bears have never played each other before. The game came together in the offseason, with Villanova looking to take advantage of an extra week this season for FCS teams to schedule a 12th game, and Morgan State available for the relatively-short trip up from Baltimore. The historically-black college (HBCU)
The Bears are 4-3 on the season so far, with losses to FBS Eastern Michigan, Holy Cross and Norfolk State -- all on the road. They steamrolled D-II Bowie State (28-3) and Florida A&M (24-9), but the rest of their games, including their trip to EMU, have been decided by three-or-fewer points.
To teach us a few things about Morgan State, we reached out to Edward Lee of the Baltimore Sun. Lee covers college sports for the Sun, including the Bears.
(1) Herb Walker Jr. was averaging 152.5 yards per game prior to last weekend. What does the Walter Payton Award candidate do well to rack up massive yardage?
At 5-feet-8 and 180 pounds, Herb Walker Jr. is not a physically intimidating running back, but he is not afraid to dip his shoulder and crash into a would-be tackler in an attempt to gain an extra yard or two. Walker has decent speed, but there is a quickness that allows him to cut back and spin out of tackles. He likes to run between the tackles, and defensive players at times have had some difficulty spotting him behind Morgan State's massive offensive line.
(2) Andy Talley referred to Robert Council as a "dual-threat" at quarterback on Monday, how effective can he be in the passing game?
Robert Council's arm isn't going to scare anyone. He has only dropped back 130 times, completing less than 45 percent of his throws. I will say that Council does have a strong arm and can throw the ball deep if his receivers can get behind the secondary. But if there's enough pressure around the pocket, his first option is to tuck the football and scramble for yards rather than take a sack or throw an interception.
(3) The Bears went a disappointing 5-7 last season, good for fourth in the MEAC, and started the season 0-5. Things turned around for them down the stretch, and they’re off to a much better start this year. What is this team doing better in 2014?
Offensively, Morgan State is being patient with the run and giving the ball to Walker on a consistent basis. The unit has also benefited from improved play from Council, who was forced to look over his shoulder last season as he rotated with Seth Higgins and Moses Skillon. This season, Council has coach Lee Hull's full faith and confidence, which has boosted his morale. And the offensive line is a veteran-laden group that can open running lanes for Walker. Defensively, assistant head coach and defensive coordinator John Morgan Jr. realized that outside linebacker Christopher Robinson is a better pass rusher than a pass-coverage defender, and Robinson has responded with 11 sacks. The defense still has problems stopping opponents on third down, but the unit has gotten slightly better.
(4) Villanova has a Walter Payton candidate of its own in quarterback John Robertson. The dual-threat has been running less this season, but has been infinitely more dangerous as a passer. What does Morgan State’s defense do well, and how can they stop or contain Robertson?
The defense has an underrated defensive front, and the linebackers and safeties are hard hitters. But I think this unit will be severely tested by John Robertson. Morgan State has not faced a versatile quarterback like Robertson, and his accuracy and arm strength will likely make Saturday a long day for the secondary. To limit Robertson, the defense will have to pressure Robertson, but also keep him in the pocket. I could see senior middle linebacker Cody Acker "spying" Robertson on obvious passing downs. But this is going to be a difficult assignment for Morgan State.
(5) Has Lee Hull made any major changes at Morgan State since taking over at head-coach to adapt to his preferred scheme?
Lee Hull, a former wide receivers coach at Maryland, tried to install a quick-strike passing attack in the offseason and preseason. But he recognized that the offense's strength is running the ball and has stuck with that formula even if his DNA is screaming for airing the ball out. Hull has given Morgan greater autonomy with the defense, but I think the greatest thing Hull has done is bring a freshness to the program, and his relative youth (he is 48 years old) has helped him connect with the players.