Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crippling Villanova Football Injuries Through The Years

Norman White is a team captain and was expected to be the leading play maker on a Villanova offense in transition. After going down with a Lisfranc fracture in his foot, White will not be a factor on the team this season,  but will get the opportunity to play out his eligibility next season. This is not the first time this has happened to a Villanova football team (it happens to them quite frequently in fact), and it will surely not be the last.

Here are some comparable injuries from the past 15 seasons

1999: Brian Westbrook- In the spring of 1999, Brian Westbrook was coming off the greatest statistical season in Villanova history, when he became the first player in NCAA history to gain 1,000 yards on the ground and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. During the winter however, Westbrook suffered an injury to his left knee, a joint which had been plagued by injuries since he was in high school and led to an abbreviated NFL career despite his effectiveness whenever he was on the field. The 1999 team had promise, but they were hamstrung by the injury to Westbrook and as a result, Chris Boden was forced to throw it an ungodly number of times and Murle Sango set the still standing school record for receptions in a season, something that would have been unlikely with the presence of Westbrook, who would have taken away some of Sango's targets.

2003: Matt Chila- The 2003 football season started out great for Villanova, and senior tight end Matt Chila was arguably the best player on the team regardless of position. Mid way through that season, Chila suffered a knee injury that was, according to A Season In Purgatory by Tony Moss "so gruesome that few who witnessed it could stomach recounting the tale," and Villanova completely collapsed down the stretch, losing three of four to teams they should have beaten. There was also the matter of Marvin Burroughs replacing Joe Casamento at quarterback which may or may not have been a blunder in and of itself, but clearly the season ending injury to Chila did irreparable harm to a promising team.

2004: Ray Ventrone- 2004 started in a similarly promising fashion to 2003, and just like in 2003, Villanova suffered an injury that changed the rest of the season, although this time it was to a defensive player. When Ray Ventrone went down with a fractured fibula, the Villanova defense went from one that was the strength of the team to one that was sub par at best. In the two weeks that immediately followed Ventrone's injury, the team gave up 85 points in two losses and at that point, the season was already over.

2005: Marvin Burroughs- I don't know if anything could have made the 2005 team good, but Marvin Burroughs' injury in the season opener at Rutgers virtually guaranteed that the 2005 season would be a woeful one. Burroughs' backup, Frank Jankowski performed admirably given the circumstances, but the sophomore was unable to make up for the fact that the 2005 Villanova defense was the most inept in the modern era of the program.

2007: Antwon Young- You could say that this was a blessing in disguise because it led to the rise of Chris Whitney, but at the time this was a horrible misfortune. Antwon Young was leading the conference in touchdown passes before he suffered a knee injury and he didn't look to be slowing down. Villanova lost two close games against UMass and Richmond that Antwon would have given the team a better shot at winning. It's a moot point though because Whitney took over and was a badass for four years.

2010: Matt Szczur- Although this injury wasn't of the season ending variety, the coaches had absolutely no contingency plan for it and the team wasn't ready to lose him. Matt Szczur's injury cost Villanova  at least one home playoff game, and who knows what would have happened had the team not needed to travel 7,000 miles in three weeks. 

So this Villanova team is not in a unique situation. The 2005 or 2007 seasons are perhaps the most analogous to this season. It will be interesting to see if the lack of Norman White for an entire season will allow the coaches to sufficiently alter their plans on offense.

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