#25 Villanova Wildcats (2-3) vs. Albany Great Danes (2-4)
When: Saturday, October 16, 2015, at 3:30 p.m.
Where: Bob Ford Field, Albany, NY
Albany’s Previous Season Record: 7-5
Key Players for Albany: #1 Zee Roberson (6-2 180) Fr., WR; #39 Elliot Croskey (6-2 205) Fr., RB; #15 Rayshan Clark (6-1 194) Jr., S; #13 Jamal Merritt (5-11 202) Sr., S; #6 Julian Cox (6-2 210) Fr., LB
Scouting Report: Albany has suffered back-to-back crushing defeats at the hands of Maine (39-7), and Holy Cross (37-0), and look to return to form at home against Villanova tomorrow afternoon. Expect Albany Coach Greg Gattuso to fire his team up and come in angry, especially after the tensions that arose between the two teams last year.
Even though the Danes will be an angry team tomorrow, the return to form that they seek will be difficult. The Great Danes have lost several play-makers due to graduation, such as QB Will Fiacchi and RB Omar Osbourne. The suspension of sophomore WR Josh Gontarek, a Jerry Rice Award finalist last season, has also hindered the Great Danes’ offensive output. In short, the Wildcats will be playing an Albany team that is a shadow of what it was last season.
Despite these losses on their offense, don’t dismiss the Danes right away. There will still be a few players to look for in Saturday’s game. WR Zee Roberson has been stellar as the team’s number one wide-out. He currently leads the CAA in catches (34), and has a solid 312 yards receiving and two touchdown receptions. Look for QB D.J. Crook to force-feed the freshman early and often, as the Villanova secondary has been ineffective against star wide-outs this season.
The running game for Albany, while not as potent as the passing game, still has one star. RB Elliot Croskey has shouldered the running attack for the Danes, and currently sits at 399 yards rushing on 109 carries (3.7 yards-per-carry) with three touchdowns rushing. Croskey also leads the team with 460 all-purpose yards (399 yards rushing, 61 yards receiving). As said by Albany Student Press Sports Editor Aaron Cheris: “Elliot Croskey is the #1 back and has big play potential…”. Don’t be shocked if he has a good outing against the ‘Cats.
The Dane defense, as a whole, is rather weak (they have surrendered an average of 31.7 points per game). Despite that, they have a few high-level performers. Safety Rayshan Clark is the biggest name on this defense. He currently leads the team in tackles (51), and pass break-ups (6). He also is tied in the CAA for most interceptions (3).
Clark is not the only good safety on this team: he is joined by fellow safety Jamal Merritt, who is second on the team in interceptions (2) and pass break-ups (3). He is also third on the team in solo tackles (20). He and Clark will both give ‘Cats QB Zach Bednarczyk fits, as Bednarczyk is still very much the greenhorn, and has yet to fully develop as a quarterback.
The linebacker corps for Albany is led by redshirt freshman Julian Cox, who has been a surprise this season. Expect him to be a versatile threat, as he is second in the team in tackles (49), tied for first in tackles-for-loss (3) and sacks (2), and even has an interception. He will be all over the field tomorrow, so Villanova must account for him.
Outlook: Albany has struggled on both sides of the ball, plain and simple. Their defense is quite porous despite the fact that they have a great safety corps in Jamal Merritt and Rayshan Clark. Villanova should look to run the ball with RBs Gary Underwood and Javon White to ease the pressure off of Bednarczyk. Once the run game has been established, then Villanova should implement a simple dink-and-dunk passing attack, and keep things simple for Bednarczyk. Although ‘Nova won’t rack up a lot of points, they should be able to somewhat move the ball.
Albany’s offensive game-plan will be simple: feed wide-out Zee Roberson. If the Wildcats can at least contain him, then everything else should fall into place, as Albany RB Elliot Croskey should be easily contained (the ‘Nova defense has been relatively stout against the run this season).
All in all, this game will be a low-scoring effort, as both teams have struggled offensively this season. I think ‘Nova will be able to contain Roberson just enough to limit the Albany offense. I expect Andy Talley to use the game and develop Bednarczyk. If Bednarczyk plays well, and if the running game can click, then Villanova ought to earn a win.
Prediction: Villanova 21, Albany 14