11 Dec 2021 | 03:20 | Football
VILLANOVA, Pa.—In its first of what will likely be three consecutive matchups against nationally-ranked opponents, No. 13 Villanova (3-1, 0-1 CAA Football) travels to No. 18 Stony Brook (3-1, 1-0) on Saturday evening for a 6 p.m. kickoff at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. The game begins a stretch of seven consecutive conference games for the Wildcats, who closed out their regular season non-conference schedule last week.
This season is the first since 2009 in which Villanova went undefeated in its three non-conference games. In addition to recording a win over FBS member Temple in the opening week of the 2018 campaign, the Wildcats also tallied wins over Patriot League foes Lehigh and Bucknell. Now comes the heavy lifting on the CAA schedule, beginning with the first of several anticipated Top 25 battles of the season.
Villanova moved up two spots to No. 13 in this week’s STATS FCS Top 25 poll, with the Seawolves also leaping two spots to No. 18 after a decisive victory over Richmond last week. Since they became an FCS member in 1985, the Wildcats are 48-44 (.522) in games where both teams are ranked in the nation’s top 25. Villanova is 59-72 overall versus ranked teams since 1985, including a record of 27-24 over the last 10 years.
Saturday evening’s game will be broadcast by Fox College Sports and can be seen on Verizon FIOS systems on the FCS Atlantic channel (Channel 300). The telecast is also accessible for most viewers on the FOX Sports GO mobile app, and to all fans for a fee of $7.95 on CAA.TV. Fans can also catch the radio broadcast of the game on 610 ESPN as well as on the TuneIn mobile app with Ryan Fannon and Kevin Reilly calling the action.
The all-time series between the Wildcats and Stony Brook is a short and somewhat odd one. Villanova has played more than 1,100 games in its history, but its only two previous matchups against the Seawolves came within a span of four total games. The teams met each other in the first round of the 2012 playoffs and then played again during Week 3 of the 2013 regular season. Those two games happened to come during Stony Brook’s final year in the Big South Conference and its first as a CAA Football member, while the teams’ did not appear on each other’s schedules in the past four seasons.
Impressively for both teams, not a lot has changed over the years. Stony Brook finished the 2012 season ranked sixth in the country in rushing offense, while the Wildcats were ranked in the top-20 nationally at stopping the run during the 2013 campaign. Fast forward a few years to the present, where this week’s NCAA leaders show the Seawolves leading CAA Football and ranked 21st in rushing yards per game while Villanova comes in at No. 21 in the nation and third in the CAA in rushing defense. Cue the ‘keys to the game.’
Aside from an aberrant game against Towson two weeks ago in which the Tigers ran for 208 yards, the Wildcats have held their other three opponents this season below 50 yards on the ground. Villanova has given up fewer than 100 rushing yards to 28 of its last 64 opponents over the last six years. Senior linebacker Jeff Steeb (Sweetwater, N.J.), junior Drew Wiley (Pennington, N.J.) and senior safety Rob Rolle (Newfield, N.J.) have all recorded 10+ total stops on rushing plays this season.
The offensive side of the ball is where Villanova has taken the biggest step forward from last season. Senior quarterback Zach Bednarczyk (Wallington, N.J.) currently ranks in the nation’s top-10 in four different passing categories. He leads CAA Football and is second in the country with 11 passing touchdowns, and has thrown for a total of 1,139 yards while completing 67.8 percent (82-of-121) of his passes. Bednarczyk and sophomore wide receiver Josh McGrigg (Alexandria, Va.) connected on the longest pass play in school history against Bucknell last week, a 90-yard touchdown in the first quarter which was the linchpin towards McGrigg recording the sixth-highest single-game receiving total (five catches, 187 yards) in the Wildcats record book.
Senior wide receiver Jarrett McClenton (Bensalem, Pa.) has been a favorite target of Bednarczyk through the first four games. McClenton leads the team with 323 receiving yards and is tied for the CAA lead with four receiving touchdowns. He became the first Villanova player since 2005 to record consecutive 100+ yard receiving games when he notched the first two such games of his career with 114 yards in back-to-back weeks against Lehigh and Towson.
This week is the front end of a two-game road swing for the Wildcats, who will travel to Maine on October 6. Villanova’s next three opponents, beginning with 18th-ranked Stony Brook this week, appear in this week’s national rankings. Maine comes in at No. 16 this week, while the Wildcats next home opponent will be current No. 2 James Madison on October 13.
December 11th, 2021
December 11th, 2021