#6 Villanova Wildcats (10-2) vs. Liberty Flames (9-4)
When: Saturday, December 6, 2014, at 4:30 p.m.
Where: Villanova Stadium
Coverage: ESPN3, WatchESPN.com
Liberty’s Previous Season Record: 8-4, Missed Playoffs
Key Players for Liberty: #2 D.J. Abnar (5-10, 185) Jr., RB; #6 Josh Woodrum (6-3, 225) Jr., QB; #13 Darrin Peterson (6-2, 190) Jr., WR; #27 Jacob Hagen (6-3, 205) Sr., S; #14 Kenny Scott (5-10, 180) Sr., CB
Scouting Report: Liberty is no fluke, they certainly earned their spot to play against the Wildcats tomorrow afternoon. They took down then-#1 Coastal Carolina, beating them by a slim margin of 15-14. Last week, they overcame a 21-10 deficit against James Madison and shut them out in the second half to help them win their first ever playoff game, 26-21. In fact, in these last two games, they shut their opponents out in the second half in back-to-back games. The Flames are burning brightly, coming into Saturday’s matchup with a ton of confidence – and a lot of fans. Earlier in the week, a Liberty fan tweeted out that 18 buses of fans were making the trip up north to Villanova. Since then, that number is now reported to be 31 buses. Whatever the number is, it’s safe to say they are not bluffing and care about their team. This is a video of Liberty at James Madison from last week:
With that said, Liberty is looking to bring the heat – literally. They look to do so through the trail blazing of running back D.J. Abnar. Abnar has carried the ball 271 times for 1,235 yards and 15 touchdowns. Abnar added a pair of touchdowns in last week’s winning effort against James Madison. He is a solid running back, who usually averages close to 100 yards per game and grabs first downs. Handing the ball off to him is Josh Woodrum. Villanova head coach Andy Talley said earlier this week that Woodrum reminded him of Villanova’s own Chris Whitney. Whitney was the quarterback of the 2009 squad that won the national championship. Woodrum has a solid arm, passing for 2,765 yards and 19 touchdowns. He can also scramble and take off if need be, he has the second most carries on the team, with 74. The junior signal caller has added 257 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. His one flaw is his decision-making. At times, he makes some questionable decisions. So far this season, he has thrown nine interceptions. While the 19-9 touchdown to interception ratio is certainly better than it is bad, it’s definitely not pristine. Catching a bulk of the passes is Darrin Peterson, who has 80 receptions, 1,276 yards, and 12 touchdowns this season. Peterson is Woodrum’s go-to guy, especially when it comes to the deep ball. He has great acceleration and speed to help him make the key catches in the game. Also keep an eye out for wideouts Gabe Henderson and Dante Shells. Henderson and Shells can take the load off of Peterson when needed. In fact, Henderson got most of the catches and receiving yards in the game against James Madison. He had seven catches for 92 yards, while Peterson had four for 62 yards. On defense, their secondary is what makes their unit work so well. Villanova has not faced a safety that is as big of a playmaker as Jacob Hagen. Hagen just needs one more interception to set a conference record. The senior safety has a whopping eight interceptions so far this season. He has a nose for the ball, always looking to get involved in every play. Aside from racking up interceptions, Hagen leads the team in tackles (96) and forced fumbles (3), he has also recovered a fumble. Kenny Scott has also proven to be a good cornerback for the Flames. Scott is a solid coverage man, most notably snagging three interceptions and picking up two fumbles. Their defensive line is solid. Dominique Davis, Toby Onyechi, and Chima Uzowithe have about eight sacks apiece. They will look to keep Robertson contained in the pocket, hoping that he won’t escape their clutches and break free. Uzowithe has the distinction of being able to block two kicks and force two fumbles this season. As for special teams, their kicker is a stud. John Lunsford is 16-for-21 when it comes to kicking field goals this season. More importantly, he’s 4-for-5 when kicking field goals from 50 yards out or more. He can boast about the fact that he has nailed a 60-yarder this season.
Outlook: The Liberty Flames are heating up at the right time. They play all four quarters, never letting up for a second, and that is how they were able to win against then-#1 Coastal Carolina and James Madison. If Villanova wants to win this, they are going to have to be sure to knock them out when Liberty is on the ropes. One thing Villanova will have going for them is the weather. Liberty loves to go for the deep ball, and I’ve seen the Wildcats get torched on the long passes. Weather.com is slating a 100% chance of rain for tomorrow. While this will dampen the fun for fans, this will surely make them think twice when it comes to passing the ball. Yes, the rain affects Villanova too, but they’ve proven that they can get production from other ways too – running, scrambles, short passes, screens, etc. Besides, with such a talented Liberty secondary, they are probably not going to want to look deep anyways. When opposing defenses limit what Abnar can do, they give the Flames a harder time when it comes to executing their game plan. Abnar definitely opens up the opportunities through the air once he establishes his presence on the ground. It will be interesting to see what kind of pressure each defense can force on opposing quarterbacks, that will be an indicator of which way the game will lean. Regardless of what happens, this is a team that shouldn’t be taken lightly – two teams already made that mistake.
Everyone needs to come out and support Villanova football tomorrow. Liberty fans are surely going to come and make some noise, it would be embarrassing and a disservice to the football team if the home game suddenly becomes an away game.