Thursday, September 30, 2010

Keys to the Game- Villanova-William & Mary Edition

In a rematch of one of the great games ever played on the Main Line, the Villanova Football Team will travel to Williamsburg, VA to take on The Tribe of William & Mary this Saturday at Zable Stadium.  Not only did Villanova win both games last season, but they have not lost to Bill & Mary since 2004, so you can be sure that Jimmye Laycock wants very badly to beat The 'Cats.  Without Matt Szczur, this game becomes a little bit more difficult to win, but it's not a death sentence as this Villanova team is plenty talented enough to win without him.

Here are the keys to the game
  1. Be Balanced on Offense- The biggest issue I had with the offensive game plan last week was the lack of passing even though Chris Whitney only had two incompletions the entire game.  I understand that running the ball is our bread and butter, but Whitney has been simply too good to keep the ball out of the air and a good passing attack is much harder to stop than a good run game.
  2. Forget Last Year- I know that VU beat W&M twice last season, but the past is the past and as far as I'm concerned, those games never happened.  If Villanova's players allow themselves to get big headed about their chances because of last year, that is a recipe for disaster.  It is okay to be confident going into the game, but don't take it overboard. 
  3. Harass The QB- William & Mary will be starting a new Quarterback this week in Mike Paulus (brother of famous Dookie Greg Paulus.)  Paulus, a transfer from UNC lost the competition to start heading out of training camp and thus will be starting for the first time this Saturday.  I hope that Villanova defensive coordinator Mark Reardon is able to use this to his advantage and dial up the pressure to give the young quarterback happy feet.
  4. Take the Crowd Out Early- This game has already been sold out for a while, so a loud crowd should be expected.  The key when you have a hostile environment is to silence the crowd with some big plays early.  Nothing does that better than an opening drive touchdown followed by a quick three and out. 
  5. Play Smart- Now that we're in the heart of CAA conference play, turnover margin becomes absolutely key.  It is impossible to beat good teams like Delaware and James Madison if you hurt yourself with turnovers and stupid penalties.  If Villanova plays smart, efficient football on offense and defense, they are an incredibly tough team to stop.   

Source: Szczur Christ Will Sit This One Out

As i first "reported" last night on Twitter Matt Szczur will most likely sit out the upcoming game against William & Mary because his ankle(s) will not be healthy enough to take the punishment of a football game.  They're officially calling it a game time decision, but evidently there would need to be an act of Szczur in order for him to play. 

I don't like being the bearer of bad news, but this information comes from someone I trust far too much to go against them.  I hope that he will be able to play, but the outlook looks quite bleak.  One silver lining to this is the fact that as far as injuries go, this is perhaps the best possible time because of the upcoming bye week. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Operation Chaos: Racist Football Fan Edition

Today when I was researching the last white running back to run for 1,000 yards (it was Craig James) due to my recent fantasy acquisition of Peyton Hillis, i stumbled across Caste Football,  a site with obvious white supremacist tones.

I normally do not condone lowering myself to the level of a bunch of inbred hicks who have never read a book or met a black person, but I would like to ask my readers to register for the forum on their site and act like an illiterate racist dickhead.  If possible, act like segregation just recently ended and that you're none to thrilled about it.

Any reference to the three-fifths compromise that is used in terms relevant to football are greatly appreciated.

That is all.

The Walking Wounded: A Lesson in Injury Management

Villanova players are going down as if James Woods is the team Doctor

As Villanova alum Brian Westbrook could tell you, injuries are a part of football.  Perhaps the most important ingredient to a successful season is luck on the injury front, and that was especially clear during Villanova's national championship season in 2009The 2010 season, which is still in it's infancy has been a completely different story, as several starters  (including Szczur Christ himself) have been bitten by the injury bug.   Because of this rash of injuries, I would like to use my influence as the proprietor of a third tier college sports blog (and my total lack of relevant medical knowledge) to suggest the best course of action to prevent further injury.  
  1. Vicodin is your friend- If you feel like crap but still want to play, there is no better way to achieve your goal than to adhere to the Brett Favre method of pain management: a heavy dose of highly addictive pharmaceuticals.  We need you to be able to run through a brick wall without so much as feeling anything.  Don't worry about getting the shakes or other associated side effects.. those are for the offseason (or whenever you decide to quit football.)   
  2. Concussion? No Problem- All of this noise about concussions in recent years doesn't apply to you.  If get up off the turf and suddenly have no idea what your name is, don't worry, all of that information will come back to you in due time.  If you have a concussion, alll you have to remember is who you're supposed to block, so that Paul Walker doesn't get hurt because James Van Der Beek sucks at quarterback.
  3. Never listen to a doctor from Midland- He obviously does not have your best interests at heart, because he only cares about his own greedy (and possibly Jewish) self.  
  4. Football is more important than your ability to walk- If a doctor tells you that you have the choice of football and being paralyzed from the waist down, choose football.  If you choose anything else, you're a disgrace to your teammates and the glorious game that others who are less fortunate than you would kill to get the opportunity to play just one snap.
Special thanks to the New York Mets medical staff for the injury advice.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Does Penn Put Up Such a Fight?

Despite the fact that they are consistently better than Penn, the Villanova Football team has always had trouble putting them away since the series was resumed in 1999.  Having attended the majority of those games, the inability to put The Quakers away absolutely confounds me. 

I have come up with several explanations on my own:
  1. Villanova never takes Penn seriously- I highly doubt this is the case, but I will say that it is a possibility simply because of the obvious talent gap between the two teams.  When you play in a tough league like the CAA, it's easy to overlook out of conference opponents, but once again I don't believe this to be the case. 
  2. Penn has the capacity for greater depth- While Penn (or any other Ivy League school) doesn't have the luxury of athletic scholarships, their academic standing and capacity for financial aid gives them the ability to field a team with very little disparity in talent between the best players and the worst players on the roster.  While Villanova's players were huffing and puffing on the field, Penn was able to put fresh players on to further wear down The 'Cats.  The fact that they have more depth allows them to allow the other team to get tired and then put the reinforcements in.
  3. Villanova has let Penn get into their heads- Perhaps the most likely scenario of all.  Penn has given even the best Villanova teams close games and it hasn't changed year in and year out.  Due to the lack of equivalent talent, any edge that Penn has in this series is undoubtedly mental and they have used that to their advantage to a degree by keeping the games close.  Even with a perceived advantage in "swagger" Villanova has shown that talent above all reigns supreme.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Keys to the Game- Villanova-Penn Edition

This Saturday, the Villanova Football Team will take on the Quakers of the University of Pennsylvania.  This will be the first time since 2007 that the yearly tilt between the two teams will be played away from Franklin Field.  Villanova has not lost in this series in 99 years, but for some reason Penn is able to keep games closer than the obvious talent gap between the two teams should allow.  With a home game this season, Villanova should be able to take care of business against Penn this season.

Here are my keys to the game:
  1. Take Control of The Game Early- This season, the UPenn football team is playing in honor of defensive end Owen Thomas, who committed suicide earlier this year.  Penn always gets up to play this game, and I expect that they will try to honor their fallen comrade by finally beating Villanova and winning another Ivy League title.  To counter this emotion, Villanova must deflate the Quakers by letting them know early that they will never be able to stand toe to toe with The 'Cats and come away with a win.  
  2. Good Quarterback Play- In the last two meetings with The Quakers, Villanova has benched the starting quarterback during the game because they were either unable to move the ball (Chris Whitney last year) or threw what seemed to be five end zone interceptions (Antwon Young in 2008.)  Since Villanova's backup Dustin Thomas is out for the second straight week, they do not have the luxury of a backup quarterback who will be able to confidently fill in, so Whitney will have to play better than he did last year.
  3.  Protect The Ball- I have no doubt that Villanova is a better team than Penn, but that doesn't mean this game will be a cakewalk.  Penn could find a way to stay in the game if Villanova coughs up the football a few time.   I can say definitively that if Villanova wins the turnover battle in this game, they will win the game.  If Villanova turns the ball over and Penn is able to get points off those turnovers, the chances of an upset happening are exponentially greater. 
  4. Keep Ball Rolling- Senior running back Aaron Ball has been Villanova's best offensive player so far this season, with 100 yard rushing performances against both Towson and Lehigh.  Penn has been stout against the run the past two seasons, but I have confidence that Ball can break through the Quaker defense and have another big game.  Giving him the ball early and often and having success doing so will make for a long night for Penn.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is This Year's Defense Better Than it Was in 2009?

Following his team's 43-7 thrashing at the hands of Villanova, Towson head coach Rob Ambrose opined that he thought that this year's Villanova defense was better than the defense that helped carry The Wildcats to a national championship.  Making a convincing argument that this team's defense is better than last year's is a tough sell after only three games and only one against a CAA opponent, but I'll entertain the idea anyway. 

Reasons this defense could be better:
  1. Through two games against FCS opponents, VU is allowing only 23 rushing yards per game (when you include the Temple game, that number jumps to 56 yards per game.)
  2. Players like Rakim Cox, Antoine Lewis, Mario Johnson, Thomas Weaver, Keelan Malone, and Donald Davis have solidified what is arguably the biggest, deepest, and most athletic defensive line Villanova has seen in years despite injuries.
  3. Projected starter at defensive end Tamai Young still hasn't seen any action in a game.  This is big, because Young can play either end or nose tackle. 
  4. Pass defense, perennially an issue since Villanova instituted the 3-3-5 defense has been a strength, with corners Eric Loper and James Pitts playing very well for the most part. 
  5. Villanova has given up only one touchdown in two games against FCS opponents.
  6. Terence Thomas and Marquis Kirkland have matured as players and emerged as dominant defensive players in the run game along with rushing the passer.
Reasons there is no way
  1. The losses of Tim Kukucka and Phil Matusz along with the season ending injury of Marlon Johnson will be felt in due time.  One could argue that you simply can't replace experience players like that on the defensive line.
  2. This year's pass rush doesn't seem to have the upside that it did last year.
  3. The team has yet to play an above average FCS team this year. 
  4. Injuries are starting to pile up, and one injury in any position could have catastrophic effects on the team.  
  5. It's only September, and last season's defense progressed and became better down the stretch.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Temple Fans: Concentrate on Your Team (it's pretty good)

Since word surfaced about the Big East inviting Villanova to the conference for football, Temple fans have been clogging up message boards and comment sections of websites with talk about how Villanova isn't in the position to move that TU is in and how unfair it is.  Meanwhile, the Temple football team has rattled off three consecutive victories against Villanova, Central Michigan, and UConn with an upcoming game against State Pen Penn State in Happy Valley.  Temple fans are referring to this game as a way to "make a statement" to the Big East that they should be in over Villanova.  I'm sorry Temple fans, but the only statement that this game is going to make to the John Marinatto and the Big East is "Temple doesn't suck hard anymore."

Those associated with Temple and their football program must realize that The Owls had their shot in the Big East and it ended in catastrophe, which is why the Big East will do anything in their power to prevent traveling the same road twice. 

If I was a fan of Temple football right now, I would thank god for every day that Al Golden is still my coach, ignore what the Big East is doing and hope to hell that Temple wrecks the Nittany Lions this week.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Keys to the Game- Villanova-Towson Edition

 The Villanova Football Team will take on the Tigers of Towson State Penitentiary University this afternoon at Villanova StadiumVillanova hasn't lost a game to Towson since a depressing Saturday afternoon at Villanova Stadium during the enigmatic 6-5 season of 2006.  Towson is historically a basement dwellar, but Villanova has usually had a difficult time with them for one reason or another.

So here are the keys to today's game:
  1. Present a Balanced Attack- Towson isn't a good defensive team against the run or the pass, but they're also not particularly weak at defending the run or the pass.  I'm sure that Villanova will be able to run the ball this game, but I would just as well like to see Chris Whitney throw the ball for 300 yards (which hasn't been done by a Villanova Quarterback since Frank Jankowski in 2005!)  Whitney has been simply decent this year, neither great nor bad but it's to the point where he needs to become more involved in the game plan now that Villanova is finally facing CAA opponents.
  2. Make the Quarterback Uncomfortable- After being without a competent quarterback last season, Towson looks like they have a good one this season in Chris Hart.  After two games this season, Hart is averaging over 100 yards per game on the ground.  Villanova has had difficulty in the past with run first quarterbacks (Rodney Landers is a glaring example,) so they will have to play sound defensive football and take advantage of any chance they have to bring him down in the backfield.  In my unprofessional opinion, keeping a spy on Hart would be a pretty decent idea. 
  3. Capitalize on Opportunities-  Against Lehigh last week, The 'Cats turned the ball over far too often.  Once Villanova starts playing against CAA teams, turnovers simply can't happen period.  In order to score points, you need the ball and turning the ball over doesn't allow you to have possession of the ball.  Villanova must also turn red zone opportunities into seven points, something they didn't do against TempleTwo of the best measures of a team's overall record are turnover margin and red zone efficiency, and Villanova will need to sure those up to be successful this season.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Villanova Blog: Nova Basketball Report

In a week when I changed my layout, I was outdone by a new Villanova blog: Nova Basketball Report.  From what I've gathered, they're student run and they're trying to trick people by having a catchy name and nice graphics.  From what I've gathered it's pretty decent so far though and I hope that they don't get burnout from it.  So now in addition to my friends at The Nova Blog and VUHoops, make sure to head over to the new guy and check it out.

The Best Way To Send a Message to VU Admin: Fill Villanova Stadium

Detractors of a potential Villanova move to the Big East in football will point out that our fan base has never supported the team as it is currently.  While I believe that to be a flawed argument, something must be done to prove those doubters wrong.  There is no better way to show that Villanova fans want this move than to fill up Villanova Stadium on a regular basis this year. 

I know that most fans see a big difference between seeing VU play Towson or Richmond and seeing Rutgers and Syracuse, but the detractors aren't willing to see things through that viewpoint because they are fundamentally opposed to Villanova doing to move up in football.  If Villanova Stadium is a sell out for home games, those blowhards will find it very difficult to justify a vote of no.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thoughts After Two Games

After two games, the Villanova Football Team is currently 1-1 and regained their number one ranking in the Sports Network poll after Montana lost to Cal Poly this weekend. Headed into this weekend's home opener against Towson, I think the team has played quite well for the most part, but they still have some things they need to work on.
Here are my thoughts on the team so far:
  • The Defensive Line has performed quite well despite the graduation of Tim Kukucka and Phil Matusz and the season ending injury to Marlon Johnson.  Freshmen like Antoine Lewis and Rakim Cox have stepped up in a big way.
  • The Offense is still making a bit too many mistakes, but for the most part they are doing a good job.  Chris Whitney needs to cut down a bit on the turnovers (which he should based on his career numbers.)
  • Aaron Ball has been running like a man possessed.  The offensive line deserves some credit for this, but Ball seems to have returned to his 2008 form.
  • Terence Thomas and Marquis Kirkland are tackle machines.  It helps to have two incredible linebackers when you are trying to break in new players on the defensive line.
  • This defense has the potential to be better than last years depending on the development of our young players.
  • We need to get this team healthy.  Apparently, defensive lineman Tamai Young is on his way back from a knee injury and he may be back for the game this week against Towson.
  • I would love to see this team play a full four quarters of good football as we'll need that against teams like Delaware and James Madison.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Q&A With Lehigh Football Nation

As part of the lead up to the Villanova-Lehigh game, I shot some questions over to Chuck Burton, HNIC at the fantastic blog Lehigh Football Nation, perhaps the most well written blog for an individual football team in in America. Below are his answers to my questions

1. When do you think the Patriot League will finally give in and realize that Scholarships are in the best interest of their teams?

If you ask football fans and coaches, you'll probably hear that they all believe that full scholarships will make their teams better - and coaches' jobs easier on the recruiting trail.  However, the folks that need to be convinced are the Patriot League university presidents - committing to full football scholarships may be a lot more pricey than folks think, too, thanks to Title IX, and presidents may not be willing or able to do so.

I think full scholarships will eventually happen - most likely after this season - but the real question is will the Patriot League be the same whatever happens.  The ultimate issue might not be philosophy, but survival.  If they don't give full scholarships, will more teams follow Fordham out the door?  Or if they do get full scholarships and keep Fordham, will other schools leave?

2. How do you think Lehigh stacks up in this year's Patriot League?

Most years the Patriot League is very wide-open, and this year is no exception.  Colgate is pretty much the consensus favorite, but folks at Lafayette and Holy Cross have good reasons to believe that they have a shot at the title.  Lehigh, with so many seniors on the team, have to be considered in the mix for the title as well.  They have as good a chance as the Raiders, Leopards and Crusaders of taking it.

3. If Villanova fans had to know the name of two Lehigh players (one on offense and one on defense) who would they be?

OL Will Rackley is a bona-fide NFL prospect on Lehigh's "O" line, and the fact that they gave up 0 sacks to an aggressive Drake defense was a real badge of pride for the unit.  Defensively, LB Al Pierce was the hero of last years' win over Lafayette and kicked off last week with 2 1/2 tackles for loss as well.  If he's healthy, Lehigh's defense will be tough.

4. What do you see as the strengths, weaknesses of this year's Lehigh squad?

The strengths are a strong defense, returning a ton of starters and some really good playmakers, and a strong return game featuring DB/RS John Kennedy and DB/RS Jarard Cribbs.  The big weakness is that Lehigh is in effect breaking in a new QB, Chris Lum, and a new offensive coordinator, so there is uncertainty there.  Lehigh also needs to learn how to win close football games.  Five of their seven losses last year were by a TD or less.

5. I'm of the belief that this game should be a staple of Villanova's Out of Conference schedule.  How do Lehigh Football fans feel that this game may be discontinued?

All the Lehigh fans I've seen are real happy with the series, and I agree with them, I love this game.  Most Lehigh fans would love to see either Delaware or Villanova on the schedule every year - a Top 25 team to test ourselves against.  Losing this game really takes away an opportunity to see the Mountain Hawks take on a great FCS opponent -  home or away.  In addition, I think Lehigh's fans traveled pretty well when we've played, too, which is something important to consider.  It makes for a really good atmosphere, and it's an easy game to get to from the Lehigh Valley.  There should always be more games like this, not less.

Dear VU Administration: Don't Be Stupid

Finally, the rumor that for so long everyone (except jealous Delaware and Temple fans) knew was more than just a rumor has been confirmed by Villanova administration.  Any talk of an "in-depth evaluation" about a move to the Big East in Football should be a complete moot point as this is unquestionably the best thing for Villanova both as a university and as an athletic program.  The fact is that with the uncertainty in college sports revolving major conference realignment, VU cannot afford to say no at this point and remain a major contender in basketball, which is what the administration really cares about.

The best way to solve this issue is to ask Jay Wright what his opinion is of moving up, and if he says yes the school should do it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Keys to the Game- Villanova-Lehigh Edition

Last Friday's loss made me feel like quite the sad panda.  It's never good to lose a game that you play well enough to win, it's even worse when it's against Temple.  Hopefully, Villanova will take out their anger this week when they travel to the place of Jeebus' birth to take on the Mountain Hawks (formerly known as the Engineers) of Lehigh University.

Here are my keys to the game:
  1. Get Angry- It sucks to lose, and this team hasn't done too much losing in the recent future.  I fully expect to see a hard hitting, inspired effort from this team after a shitty loss.  The fact is, Lehigh isn't as good as Temple, and Villanova is much better than Drake, the team that Lehigh beat last week.   There is a fine line between getting angry and racking tons of stupid penalties, but this is a mature team that shouldn't have those types of problems.  If Villanova at least matches Lehigh's intensity then they should coast to a win.
  2. Convert on Scoring Chances- The Temple game could have been different had Villanova converted on some early field goal opportunities.  I guess Nick Yako had to eventually experience some growing pains, but there is no doubt that if Yako one of the two field goals he missed that The 'Cats would have won.  If you leave points on the field, it's hard to win games.  
  3. Stick to What is Working- What killed Villanova in the game against Temple was the fact that they got conservative in the second half and didn't stick to what worked.  I don't know what the deal was, but I believe Aaron Ball only had one carry in the second half of last Friday's game, after punishing the Temple defense with his running in the first half.  The best way to allow a team back into a game is to alter your game plan and play to prevent a loss rather than continually trying to score.  Unless the game is completely out of reach, the coaches shouldn't stray too far from what they did when they had the most success.
  4. Make it a Track Meet- The fact is, 'Nova will have better athletes than Lehigh and the best way to win is to exploit Lehigh's weaknesses with our bigger and faster players.  Patriot League teams haven't fared well against Villanova since Lehigh beat us in 2006 and the athletic difference is perhaps the biggest reason Villanova has been able to seperate themselves from PL opposition.
  5. Win- Nothing cures a case of the "Mondays" like a resounding win.  A lopsided win in this game will help boost the confidence of a team that surely left a bit of their swagger on the grass of Lincoln Financial Field last week.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Villanova Band is on My Shit List

After not showing up for the Temple game, by my (unofficial count off the top of my head) the Villanova University Band has not shown up to the following games  (all of these games are home games or games within 20 miles of Villanova.)

Temple (two years in a row)
Penn (the last two years)
Every home Playoff Game since 2008
James Madison (2008)
Towson (2008)

My suggestion: make the Villanova Band participate in the ticket lottery for the basketball season.  I really don't care if they don't have enough clarinets. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Keys For Villanova Against Temple

Well it's almost here . We are one day away from the second annual Mayor's Cup game and I hope everyone is nearly as excited for it as I am.  Villanova comes into this season after winning the 2009 NCAA Division I Football Championship and Temple comes off this season fresh off a berth in the prestigious Eagle Bank Bowl (which is almost like a BCS game, minus the crowd, interest or talent.)  Anyways, Villanova has a tough fight ahead of them and they hope to make it three in a row against Temple.

Here are my keys to the game
  1. Make Chester Stewart beat you- Temple's greatest perceived strength is their offensive line and their running game.  If "Heisman candidate" Bernard Pierce and his diminutive counterpart Matt Brown are stopped in the backfield, Temple's offense will be severely hampered.  Chester Stewart, the quarterback for The Owls has completed less than 50 percent of the passes he has thrown in his career and has never thrown for 200 yards in a game.  I know that pass defense has been a perennial weakness for The 'Cats, but I'd rather take my chance with an unproven quarterback than a pair of good running backs. 
  2. Don't be afraid to pull out a gadget play- Andy Talley has received somewhat of a reputation (Mostly from angry Delaware fans) a for his team's propensity to use trick plays (fake punts, receiver passes etc.)  I think that this game would be the perfect time for some trickery, especially since they are playing against an opponent that has considerably more players on scholarship.  When a team has an advantage in an area like depth, the other team must find a way to out-scheme them. What is there to lose if you take a few chances in this game?
  3. Use Matt Szczur- Last season, Matt Szczur received only seven touches in the Temple game (one of his lowest totals of the season.)  I believe that that number must double in order for us to win this year because The Wildcats won't have Brandyn Harvey to bail them out.  Szczur receiving touches in creative ways is beneficial to the Nova cause.
  4. Establish the run game- Last season, Villanova was unable to establish the run and because of that, the defense was on the field for most of the game.  This year, it is imperative that they give Temple a heavy dose of the run.  Chris Whitney is where the running game starts, as he has the option to run the ball on almost every play.  After Whitney, I would think that the primary running option will be senior runningback Aaron Ball who will most likely be looking to bounce back after a (somewhat) disappointing junior year.  Ball's backfield mate is fellow senior running back Angelo Babbaro also figures into the mix as Villanova's 3rd down back, and I'd be a retard to not mention Matt Szczur as an integral part of the Villanova run game.
  5. Make the fans proud- Running out of Lincoln Financial Field yelling like an idiot last season was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I expect nothing less than an inspired performance this year from the team as they hope to assert their dominance in the Philadelphia football scene.