#4 Villanova Wildcats (5-1) vs. #18 William & Mary Tribe (4-2)
When: Saturday, October 18, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Walter J. Zable Stadium, Williamsburg, VA
William & Mary’s Previous Season Record: 7-5
Key Players for William & Mary: #7 Mikal Abdul-Saboor (5-11, 175) Jr., RB; #3 Tre McBride (6-2, 205) Sr., WR/KR/PR; #95 Mike Reilly (6-4, 265) Sr., DE; #50 Luke Rhodes (6-2, 242) Jr., LB; #80 John Carpenter (6-1, 190) Sr., K/P
Record vs. Similar Opponents: N/A
Scouting Report: William & Mary will look to give Villanova a hard time as the Wildcats look to extend their winning streak on the road. The Tribe is known for notoriously being able to play very well at home. Villanova is 4-10 all time at the Walter J. Zable Stadium, but 2-1 in the last three regular season meetings. This would be Villanova’s first trip down to Williamsburg since 2010, when they lost 31-24. Offensively, the Tribe is just about average. They post 23.8 points per game, which lands them in the middle of the pack for conference rankings. William & Mary has only put up 15 touchdowns so far this season, a third of them come from running back Mikal Abdul-Saboor. Abdul-Saboor leads the ground attack with 426 yards and five touchdowns. He averages a decent 5.0 yards per carry. However, it is worth noting that three of his touchdowns came from the blowout win against Hampton earlier this season. The passing game has been inconsistent, sophomore quarterback Steve Cluley has completed 52.3% of his passes this season and has three touchdowns to go along with three interceptions. He has shown flashes of excellence in games against Lafayette and Stony Brook, but he has struggled against the better defenses. Although his stats don’t suggest it, Cluley is capable of scrambling around if need be. He has a pair of rushing touchdowns and posted a 60-yard run against Lafayette, the longest run by a William & Mary quarterback in the last 30 yards. His top target will be Tre McBride. McBride was named First Team All-CAA last season, and was also the CAA Special Teams Player of the Year. As a wide receiver, he has 25 receptions for 281 yards and a touchdown this season. As a returner, he has 301 yards kick returning and 54 punt returning. Cluley will also have senior veteran Sean Ballard and true freshman Devonte Dedmon to throw to. Dedmon is the first true freshman to start at wide receiver for the Tribe since 1991. Defensively, the Tribe is led by preseason CAA Defensive Player of the Year Mike Reilly and three-year starter Luke Rhodes. Reilly, the leading sack artist, has five tackles for losses, five sacks, one forced fumble, and a blocked kick. Meanwhile, Rhodes is the leading tackler for the Tribe. He has tallied 52 tackles so far this season, and has sacked the quarterback three times. Rhodes has also forced and recovered one fumble each. Junior cornerback DeAndre Houston-Carson leads the secondary. He has the second most tackles on the team and has picked off two passes so far this season. Outside linebacker Airek Green also has a pair of interceptions this season. On special teams, the Tribe leads the CAA in blocked kicks with five. On the other side of the ball, their kicker is the best in the conference. John Carpenter is 11-for-14 in field goal attempts, and is capable of knocking them down from long range. While he has missed two 51-yarders, he has consistently made his other attempts. In fact, he made a pair of 49-yard field goals in a single game.
Outlook: The red-hot Villanova offense comes into a tough environment to face a consistently good defense. Statistically, it’s hard to discount Villanova’s offense because of how well William & Mary defends their home turf. Villanova has the highest scoring offense and the most efficient passing offense in the CAA. Meanwhile, William & Mary features the second worst passing defense in the conference. John Robertson has drastically gotten better as a passer from last season. He boasts an outstanding 20-1 touchdown to interception ratio. He leads the offense that boasts an arsenal of weapons. Defensively, Villanova is no joke, they have done a solid job this season and will be important in keeping the Tribe in check. They have the second best defense in the conference. The one issue that may hinder Villanova’s momentum is their kicking game. They cannot afford to miss out on points, especially early on. Steve Weyler appears to have taken over kicking duties and he’s going to have to bring a clear mind and his best game. While Villanova has all these stats and great games to prove themselves, William & Mary has history on their side. History has shown again and again that when these two meet, it is always a tight game. It’s going to be a close one, and the Wildcats can expect to keep their first string in the game for a lot longer than they have in the past few games. It’s going to be tight, but ultimately Villanova will walk out with the win.
Prediction: Villanova 28, William & Mary 24