Preview: #15 William & Mary vs. #5 Villanova


It’s finally Homecoming weekend! We hope that everyone is busy packing up and ready to head to Williamsburg to witness a battle between two nationally ranked CAA teams. The Tribe (4-2, 1-1) will have to overcome last week’s tough loss at New Hampshire and step up their game.

We’ll be approaching this preview article slightly differently, as we have consulted Brian Ewart, of SB Nation’s Villanova site in scouting this weekend’s opponent, the Villanova Wildcats (5-1, 3-0). So without further ado, let’s get the insider’s scoop and scout the Villanova Wildcats.

Villanova This Year & Players to Watch:

1. Aside from John Robertson (QB), who are some Villanova players to watch both offensively and defensively? 
You definitely want to keep an eye on receiver Poppy Livers and running back Gary Underwood on offense. Livers is a playmaker out of the slot who seems to always be open and capable of finding yards after the catch, while Underwood is really emerging as a running threat this season, and has had some big time performances carrying the ball as well as catching passes out of the backfield.
On defense, watch out for Don Cherry. The linebacker has been all over the place for the Wildcats and finds his way to the ball, and into the backfield, regularly. Joe Sarnese is another player to watch, he’s the leader of the secondary at Safety and has a nose for big plays.
John Robertson leads the CAA in Pass Efficiency (via the Sports Network)
John Robertson leads the CAA in Pass Efficiency (via The Sports Network)
2. What are the injury updates with regards to the Villanova team? 
Nobody new got injured last weekend, so that’s good. Robertson’s hand is still in a cast, but we’re hopefully going to see center Ross Hall and tailback Austin Medley return to action this weekend. 
3. Who is Robertson’s go to target on offense?
Livers is definitely the guy who gets the most attention. He’s been doing a good job of spreading the ball around this season, and guys like Kevin Gulyas and Mike Burke are also going to get their chances. Livers is the guy who is most likely to turn a pass into a big play, however, with Gulyas and Burke playing more of a possession-receiver role.
Wide Receiver #18 Poppy Livers (Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Wide Receiver Poppy Livers. He packs a punch at 5’7” 168 lb. (Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
4. What is Villanova’s biggest weakness on defense? 
Pass protection. They usually have a bend-don’t-break mentality in the secondary, and will trade the possibility of giving up a shorter gain in the air for the chance to get into the backfield and make a big play. So, they are definitely vulnerable to give up yardage — over 400 passing yards to JMU, for example. They have also been using some young guys at the corner spots that has led to a big play or two when they get caught making a rookie mistake.
5. Where do you expect Villanova to be ranked at the end of the season? And who from the CAA do you think will make the FCS Playoffs? 
If the Wildcats take care of business, they should at least win a share of the CAA title and finish in the top-five. Depending on their seeding, I definitely think they can make a really good playoff run. The best-case scenario puts them in Frisco, but worst-case, they should finish with a good ranking and a couple extra games in December.
From the CAA, I think Villanova and UNH should definitely make it (barring disaster) and I would expect that Richmond and William & Mary will get there as well — the CAA has some very good teams this year, and should get at least three of them into the field.

Be sure to check out more of Brian’s work and follow his Twitter handle here! @Brian_Ewart. Much thanks to Brian for giving us the insight on Villanova!

Tribe Keys to Victory:

  • Sack Robertson. Let’s get this pass rush going and release the beast that is Mike Reilly. We absolutely have to keep Robertson off his game, both in the air with the pass rush and on the ground with Luke Rhodes and Airek Green.
  • Air it out. JMU showed that this Villanova defense can be exploited. Will Cluley prove his doubters wrong?
  • Tre McBride has to finish with more receiving yards than Villanova’s Poppy Livers. Tre is due for another big game; let’s make it happen on Homecoming weekend.

Viewing: If you can’t make it out to the game, you can watch it for free via Tribe Athletics’ online stream here!

WMSB Prediction: Tribe 24 Villanova 21
If the Tribe is to be in this one, the offense HAS to get going, including the likes of QB Steve Cluley and WR Tre McBride. The W&M pass game has yet to really go off in a game this season, and what better time to start than now? You can check out our answers to Brian’s questions about the Tribe here on SB Nation. LET’S GO TRIBE!!!
Check out the official game notes here!

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