On a balmy day at Villanova stadium, the Villanova Wildcats and William & Mary Tribe showcased a great battle of the trenches. The Tribe held the score advantage for 59 minutes and 28 seconds of the football game, through costly Villanova turnovers and great field position throughout, but the Wildcat defense kept the game close. The Tribe were held to 289 yards of total offense, 1 Touchdown, and 3 field goals inside the Villanova 10 yard line. While Villanova’s defense kept them in the game, the Villanova offense had trouble getting consistent yardage. Villanova quarterback, Sophomore John Robertson threw an early pick to William & Mary linebacker Airek Green, which set up their lone touchdown. Robertson also led several 3-and-out drives that were combined with poor kicking, which gave William & Mary good field position throughout the contest. Thanks to a fantastic kicking day from Tribesman kicker/punter John Carpenter, the Wildcats had to play with long fields all game. The Wildcats caught their break in the 3rd quarter when Junior, All-CAA, running back Kevin Monangai broke away from the heavily stacked William & Mary defensive line for a 54 yard gain that set up an Austin Medley, 13 yard, touchdown to cut the Tribe lead to 3, bringing the score to 13-10. Ultimately, the game was won in a last minute touchdown on a quarterback sneak by Villanova’s Robertson that brought the final score to 20-16.
Villanova ran primarily a 4-3 defense, which was a game plan adjustment from their typical 3-4 base, due to the run heavy William & Mary offense. The Wildcat defensive front was headlined by Buck Buchanon award candidate, Antoine Lewis (Senior, 6’2’’,290), who efficiently manned the nose tackle position for most of the game. Lewis racked up 4 solo tackles, and plugged up run lanes all day. I was most impressed by Lewis’s explosion off the line, his high motor play style, as well as his upper body strength that allowed him to control the line of scrimmage. Also making a big impact on the Villanova defensive line was senior defensive end, Rakim Cox (6’4, 260). Cox made a huge sack inside the 5 yard line early in the second quarter that deflated a 70 yard Tribe drive. Cox used his explosive jump off the snap and a very quick swim move to get past his blocker and bring down the quarterback. Cox also demonstrated great upper body strength and football IQ by consistently setting the edge against the run, as well as getting his hands up in passing lanes, which altered throws off the line.
The Villanova offensive line seemed to have a guys playing out of position. Dan Shirey (Shy-ree) was an All-CAA center in 2010 and 2011, but has been playing right guard for most of the year. Shirey demonstrated great anchor ability, and help blocking, which are both favorable qualities in centers. However, his upper body strength and his tendency to play with his shoulders out in front were beat by inside rush moves of the William & Mary defensive front. As a result, Shirey allowed a lot of pressure to come up the middle, forcing quicker throws from Robertson. Shirey did work on his snapping during pregame, which suggests he is at least the back up to starting center, Peter Sotiriou. However, starting Shirey at center would be more complementary to his skill set. Another player who looked out of place on the Wildcat offensive line was starting right tackle, Vince Kowalski. Kowalski played the role of aggressive run blocker to set the edge for the Wildcat rush attack. He had great explosion and punch off the snap, kept his feet pushing in his drive blocks, and even had nastiness in finishing his blocks. However, Kowalski looked uncomfortable pass blocking the edge due to the limited flexibility in his hips, which apparent in his 3-point stance. Kowalski started the season off as the starting right guard and I believe that is his natural position. However, I do understand him playing right tackle since Robertson is a run heavy QB and having a mauler on the edge is very advantageous for his tendency to run.
Two standouts for William & Mary were juniors Kicker/Punter John Carpenter (6’1’’, 190) and WR Tre McBride (6’1’’, 200). Carpenter showed a field goal kicking range of 55+ yards in the pregame and forced touch backs on 4 of 5 kick offs during the course of the game. Also, Carpenter’s warm-up punts were consistently tight spirals, with great hang time, and an average distance of 50 yards. During the game, he showed that he can kick and punt with touch from his 3 short yardage field goals and his 2 punts inside the 20 yard line. Not only do I still see punting as his biggest strength, I believe Carpenter has the potential to be an NFL punter if he becomes more precise in his short yardage punting.
McBride finished with a stat line of 4 receptions for 78 yards with a long of 37, however, he could have easily had close to 200 yards receiving and a couple of touchdowns if his quarterbacks had the ability to throw deep with accuracy. McBride consistently and easily gained separation from the Villanova defensive backs, and found himself with his hand up in the air trying to get his quarterback’s attention all game. When the quarterback did throw the ball downfield, the balls were severely under thrown and the only reason why they were not intercepted was McBride’s talent for fighting for the ball. On McBride’s 37 yard reception, he made a true NFL catch. McBride was double covered and the ball was severely under thrown, but McBride made a tremendous leap, high pointing the ball in a full extension, hands catch. McBride also demonstrated good speed, elusiveness, and blocking ability.
Villanova improved its overall record to 3-2 and 2-0 in conference play. The Wildcats travel to Baltimore next week to take on the undefeated, conference rival, Towson Tigers. William & Mary falls to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in conference play. The Tribe play at home versus non-conference Penn (2-1).
–Daniel Jonsson— @HighDesertScout
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