#6 Villanova Wildcats (1-1) vs. Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens (1-1)
When: Saturday, September 19, 2015, at 12 p.m.
Where: Villanova Stadium
Coverage: Comcast SportsNet
Delaware’s Previous Season Record: 6-6
Key Players for Delaware: #32 Kareem Williams (5-11, 200) So., RB; #33 Jalen Randolph (6-1, 230) Jr., RB; #73 Blaine Woodson (6-2, 290) So., DT; #5 Charles Bell (6-0, 230) So., LB; #73 David Tinsley (6-1, 285) Sr., DT
Scouting Report: The Delaware Blue Hens will look to continue the momentum they gained against Lafayette this Saturday as they play Villanova in its home opener. Delaware will go to its run-first offense and control the tempo of the game. This team loves to run the ball. The Blue Hens’ have rushed for an impressive 420 yards in their first two games of the season (all the while holding their first two opponents collectively to 125 rushing yards). This should come as no surprise to local football fans, because last year the Hens racked up 1,946 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns (in just a 12 game schedule no less!).
Early on in the season, it looked like RB Wes Hills would lead the Hens’ powerful run attack, and perhaps even break 1,000 yards rushing (as he had almost done the season prior). However, a season ending foot injury brought those hopes to a close. The Hens were quick to recover, and they now lean on the effective tandem of RBs Kareem Williams and Jalen Randolph.
Both backs have shown plenty of talent early in the season. Thus far, Randolph has been given the higher share of carries (26 carries, 73 rushing yards), but don’t be surprised if the Hens feed Williams (14 carries, 93 rushing yards) plenty as well. Don’t let those rushing stats fool you though. Keep your eyes peeled on Randolph; this is a kid who has some home-run potential, and plenty of ability to make people miss (see his 40+ yard touchdown run against Delaware State last year). Add in the occasional insertion of RB Thomas Jefferson, and this is an RB committee that probably will keep its conditioning well into the 4th quarter. This Hens running game is also complemented by the fact that their current QB, Joe Walker, has some wheels on him too (17 carries, 97 yards). In fact, only he and Williams have the team’s sole rushing touchdowns in the season so far.
While the running game for the Hens will look to be potent, curtail your expectations of this team’s passing game. Delaware has been vanilla at best in the passing game this year. Current starter Joe Walker received the starting nod last week versus Lafayette. In that game, he completed 4 passes out of 15 attempts, for just only 58 yards. His season stats are not much better: 7 completions on 24 attempts, for 110 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions. In fact, the only passing touchdown this team has was off a trick play in week 1 against Jacksonville, where top WR Diante Cherry (5 catches, 68 yards on the season) received a pitch, and threw a pass on a seam route to downfield RB Randolph.
Defensively, this team has a few big names one ought to keep an eye on. LB Charles Bell has been a versatile force, with 15 total tackles, 1 interception, and 1 pass defended thus far. On the defensive line, there are two big names to watch. DT’s David Tinsley (current solo captain of the Hens, voted in almost unanimously) and Blaine Woodson will both be forces to be reckoned with in the trenches. Tinsley leads the team for the most solo tackles, with 7, and leads in tackles-for-loss and sacks, with 4 and 3, respectively. Woodson has held his own, with 9 total tackles and 1.5 sacks and tackles-for loss on the season. Do be wary of him, because he led the Hens’ defense last year in sacks, with 8.5.
Outlook: This is the Battle of the Blue, the annual Villanova-Delaware clash. Both games in the last couple of years have come down to the last minute. Hopefully this game will be just as intense for the parents and families in the crowd. Despite that, this will not be an easy win for Villanova. The Hens rushing defense (as stated above), has only allowed 125 rushing yards between their first two opponents. Their passing defense, however, has surrendered an average of 242 yards passing per game, so expect QB John Robertson to sling it often, especially in the second half if the running game is contained. Fortunately, RB Gary Underwood has been cleared of his injury and is expected to play. This game will also require Villanova to really bring its A game in regards to run defense. Sure, they limited Fordham to 1.9 yards per carry and 71 yards total on the ground last week (as well as 111 yards passing on 23 attempts) and that was a fantastic defensive effort. This is also the same defense that allowed UConn to run and pass rampantly. The stats will tell you that UConn’s run game was contained, with 105 yards rushing on 39 attempts, but it was attitude differential. UConn smacked Villanova in the face in the trenches that game, and really set the tempo. And of course, UConn did throw 2 touchdowns. So, really, it’s a matter of which version of Villanova’s defense shows up. Fortunately for the Wildcats, Delaware’s aerial attack does not seem anywhere near the level of UConn’s.
I expect Villanova to try and smack Delaware in the face early on. They almost have to. As said in the scouting report, the Hens will run it, and run it, until they’re red in the face. They have the luxury of running multiple backs, so Villanova has to be ready to buckle down. Expect LB Don Cherry to go beast-mode, and help his defense set the tone and play some old-fashioned smash-mouth football. Cherry and Austin Calitro both had great games last week against Fordham. On offense, I for one hope that Villanova goes to WRs Aaron Wells and Kevin Gulyas early and often. Coach Andy Talley has to exploit the Hens’ weak pass defense. Don’t be shocked if Robertson puts on a show in the passing game; I don’t see him running around too much. That aspect of his game has been contained thus far in his first two outings, and that Hens defensive line is sure to give him fits if he does try to scamper. If Robertson can put on an aerial assault, and keep them honest by feeding Underwood every here and there, then Villanova will come out victorious. Maybe roughed up, but victorious. I expect a true, old-fashioned slug fest. May the tougher team win.
Prediction: Villanova 21, Delaware 14