As good as things have been going for Villanova football this season -- they are 4-1 overall and 2-0 in CAA games -- things have still been rough on the Main Line.
The Wildcats have had trouble staying healthy this season, as head coach Andy Talley repeatedly mentions. On defense, they have lost DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, DB Trey Johnson, and LB Corey Majors for the season. On offense, the Wildcats have Austin Medley sidelined for at least another week, while starting Center Ross Hall missed the Maine game and is out for this week as well.
Now, Talley reports that, "our tight end, Earnest Pettway, is likely going to be out of the year," as well. Pettway had caught five touchdown passes from quarterback John Robertson already this season, and was a huge match-up problem for opposing defenses with his combination of speed, size and athleticism.
That will likely include Purdue transfer Ryan Morris, who came to Villanova in the offseason after the Boilermakers had asked him to bulk up and work on the offensive line. Morris has I-A size and strength for the position, but lacks some of the speed and athleticism of Pettway -- but he can be an asset in the blocking game and has shown enough to be a viable threat in the red zone as a receiver.
In the meantime, the Villanova offense will rely on John Robertson to drive the action.
"He's tremendously accurate," Talley stated. "He's playing at an All-American level right now."
The coach went on to challenge the media to show him another player in college football who looks as good as Robertson has this season. The Wildcats' quarterback threw the ball well despite some drizzly-rain in Maine threatening to make things difficult for him with his non-throwing hand in a soft cast. He also ripped off a few good runs.
"He's a slithery dude, you watch him over time and you don't think he's going anywhere, then he gains 10." URI coach Flemming on Robertson— Brian Ewart (@Brian_Ewart) October 6, 2014
It has been a great help for Robertson to have Kevin Monangai to help gain yardage in chunks, and Gary Underwood has emerged this season for the 'Cats.
"He has really developed into a top-flight running back in the CAA," Talley said of Underwood. "He has top-flight speed, which is a surprise," because he didn't really show that game-breaking ability last season.
Going into the weekend, Talley won't be taking his foot off the gas while preparing for a home contest with the 0-5 Rhode Island Rams. After firing current Villanova assistant Joe Trainer, URI hired another former Talley assistant in Jim Fleming, who later coached in the MAC, ACC and C-USA before taking on the head coaching position in Rhode Island.
"He's a guy who knows what he's doing," the coach said. "They're getting better and better, and closer and closer."
In other words, Talley won't be assuming any easy victories in CAA play.