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« MIAC Football Week Three: Kicking It InThe CAA Today: DEFENSE!!!!!! »

Permalink 10/02/09 , The CSN Way, CSN Diary

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The CSN Way: Close (Conference) Shaves

By Chuck Burton, The CSN Way Columnist

floatedleftfloated rightFootball players are no stranger to the razor. Many of them know what it’s like to get a close shave - whether getting a buzz cut, shaving their heads, or even getting a mohawk.

As the FCS season goes from out-of-conference tune-ups and money games with FBS schools to key games in conference play, the stakes get even higher. Games that may have seemed like speed bumps on the way to the conference championship end up being tests of a team’s grit and character. Conversely, beating a conference opponent ranked in the Top 25 is a perfect way to ruin a rivals’ season - or a great way to get on the national radar screen.

So far in this young season, we’ve seen some classic “close shaves” already in conference play. This week, we’ll take a closer look at eight of them - and two huge conference upsets in the early going - to get a taste of the types of “close shaves” and big upsets that conference play is all about. It could be a preview of what to expect in the weeks to come.


Sensing The Top Ten
There have been ten conference football games in this early part of the season that have been thrillers: two which were massive upsets. What’s the recipe for those underdogs to pull off the upsets - and how do the top teams persevere to stave off the threat of the upset? It always involves making one more play that the opposition - or sometimes even getting a little bit lucky, too.

To start - and to prove once again that, on any given Saturday, a conference team can bring some serious hurt, no matter how astronomical the odds may seem, we’ll start with the two biggest conference upsets, followed by the eight closest shaves of the year.

floatedrightMammoth upset No. 1: UT Chattanooga 38, Wofford 9. The last three meetings between these two SoCon schools weren’t even close: the Terriers averaged 51 points per game in all three blowout wins, while the Mocs barely averaged three touchdowns in all three games combined. Despite the fact that Wofford had a huge number of injured players traveling to Finley stadium this past weekend, most pundits had the nationally-ranked Terriers winning comfortably against UT-Chattanooga.

But the Mocs, playing in their second league game of the year, turned recent history on its ear. After playing the Terriers tough in a wet first half, a key interception by defensive back Jordan Tippett in the final seconds was returned to the Wofford 20, which was promptly converted to a 39 yard field goal by kicker Craig Carnay to go into halftime with a 17-7 lead. Chattanooga took the momentum from the first half into the second half with a smothering defensive performance, stuffing Wofford on two fourth-down conversions and forcing two punts.

“I’ve coached for 30 years and this is the best victory I’ve ever had in my life,” said Mocs coach Russ Huesman. “I’ve been in bowl games and won a national championship, but tonight’s win is the best.” That’s the power of a conference game.

Mammoth Upset No. 2: Cornell 14, Yale 12. Cornell has long been known in the Ivy League as a team that can find ways to win at home, but struggle on the road. This weekend on national TV, however, the Big Red found a way to finally win a road game and get into the discussion for the Ivy League title race - their first win on the road since 2005.

The Yale Bowl had been particularly unkind to Cornell - they hadn’t won there since 1997 - but on this day, the Big Red would make two more big plays than Yale to win the football game. They did it with a touchdown from their first play from scrimmage - a 81 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ben Gantner to wideout Stephen Liuzza - and a 20 yard interception return for a touchdown from defensive back Anthony Ambrosi. While Yale would score two touchdowns as well, a missed extra point, a missed two point conversion, and a 51 yard field goal attempt that would fall short would cement Cornell’s historic win.

In conference games, sometimes it just comes down to dominating defense, big plays and a little bit of luck. Yale’s luck at home ran out last Saturday.

Eight Blades for a Close Shave
8. Butler 28, Morehead State 21, OT. Falling behind 21-0 by halftime, some times throw in the towel and pack it in early. But in league play, you fight until the very end - which is what the Bulldogs did last week to get a stunning victory in Morehead, Kentucky.

The Bulldogs, led on offense by sophomore quarterback Andrew Huck, mounted their comeback in the second half first with a 9 yard touchdown strike on his first drive of the second half. While the Bulldog defense would only allow Morehead State four second half first downs, it would be a fumble forced by Nick Caldecott that would set up another 7 yard strike by Watkins - and a two-point conversion - to knot the game at 21.

The emotions of league play went to overtime, where the team who scored the last three touchdowns managed a fourth to pull out an emotional three touchdown come-from-behind win.

floatedleft7. Southern 48, Alcorn State 42. “Whenever we play those guys, whether it’s a low-scoring game or a high-scoring game, it’s almost always something crazy like this,” Sothern offensive coordinator Mark Orlando said after this barn-burner of a game. What was not crazy, however, was the never-say-die attitude of Alcorn State, who hadn’t scored a single point in their first two games.

The Braves, led by quarterback Tim Buckley’s 408 yards passing, and 52 yards rushing, would score four touchdowns in an intense, 48-point quarter. Southern would need to convert a kickoff return for touchdown by Byron Williams and a 63 yard touchdown pass from Bryant Lee to Warren Matthews just to keep up with the speed which Buckley and Alcorn State were punching it in the end zone. Only when the Braves missed the onside kick was the game finally in hand.

With these conference games, teams will play the entire way. History is no judge of the team before you. Nap at your peril.

6. Harvard 24, Brown 21. While both the Bears and Crimson were Ivy League co-champions from last year, Harvard had keen memories of the game they lost in Rhode Island 24-22 that wasn’t determined until the last two minutes as Brown held on to win. This time, the roles were reversed on a Friday night in Cambridge under the lights at Harvard stadium.

This past weekend, it was Harvard quarterback Collier Winters, in only his second collegiate start, who would lead his Crimson to a 24-14 lead by orchestrating three touchdowns - two with his arm, a third with his feet. But in a game fitting of championship contenders, Brown quarterback Kyle Newhall - also in his second collegiate start - would score a touchdown to cut the deficit to three.

One onside kick later, Brown had the ball - and next thing horrified Harvard fans knew, Newhall and the Bear offense was at the Harvard 25. With 4th and 10 - and a missed 40 yard field goal still stinging last week against Stony Brook, that would have been the game winner - Brown head coach Phil Estes elected to try a pass for the win instead of going for the game-tying field goal - that was, to the relief of Crimson fans, batted down in the end zone.

Sometimes the game comes down to one big play - and big coaching decisions. Take care to make the right ones.

5. Colgate 20, Fordham 12. While undefeated Colgate dominated this cold, rainy night game last weekend in Hamilton, New York, winless Fordham would hang around - and had a chance to poach the game at the end. It was definitely a bad-weather game - with three missed field goals, one missed extra point, one blocked extra point, and one extra point that ricocheted in off the goalpost - and a defensive game, with both teams combining for 21 tackles for loss in the game. Near the end of regulation, Ram quarterback John Skelton was sacked with under ten seconds to go, deep in Colgate territory.

Fordham Athletics has the rest of the story: “Fordham rushed to the line and appeared to have gotten the snap off in time but the players were confused. Some stopped playing, assuming the game was over while others started running the play. Skelton himself took a few steps back and stopped before rolling out to his right and finding wideout David Moore in the end zone but there was no touchdown signal from the officials. The referee gathered with some of the other officials and, after a few minutes, signaled that the snap did not happen before the game ended.”

Many observers thought that Skelton did get the play off, and while the official report didn’t talk about coach Masella ripping into the officials on the field after the game ended the Rams saw their upset bid come to an end in a 20-12 loss at Colgate.

You have to play all sixty minutes. Letting teams hang around is a recipe for disaster - and a potential miracle for the opposition.

floatedright4. Montana 41, Northern Arizona 34, OT Going into this game, it didn’t look like it was going to end up as an instant classic - NAU head coach Jerome Souers, a former assistant and Montana, had failed to beat the Griz in eleven tries. And it certainly didn’t midway of the third quarter, where the Griz was putting on one of their routine Lumberjack beatings with a 27-14 lead.

Somewhere along the way, however, someone forgot to tell the Lumberjacks that they didn’t belong on the same field as the Griz. Quarterback Micheal Herrick orchestrated three straight scoring drives - while NAU’s defense held firm - and found themselves on the brink of a victory over the hated Griz, 31-27, with just under four minutes in regulation.

But the Griz - as they often do - responded with a 50 yard kickoff return by Jabin Sambrano, followed up by a 41 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Selle to Sam Gratton. While the Lumberjacks would nail a 47 yard field goal at the end of regulation to force overtime, it would be safety Shann Schillinger’s interception that would finally put NAU’s upset bid to bed.

Once again, history was no guide, nor a two-touchdown lead after halftime. You’re never really safe until you make that big play.

3. Wagner 56, St. Francis (PA) 48, 3OT. The Red Flash, going into their first conference game of the season, seemed to have Wagner on the ropes by the end of the third quarter when a 3 yard touchdown run by running back Jude Yearwood gave St. Francis a 31-14 lead when the gun for the end of the third quarter sounded. Little did the folks at Wagner stadium know that the offensive fireworks - and an amazing six touchdowns - would await them from their Seahawks before this game was over.

Wagner ran the ball 44 times in the game, with only 12 passing attempts. Only one touchdown - a blocked punt recovered in the end zone by defensive back Frantz Placide - was not a rushing touchdown. After a last-second field goal by Josh Thiel tied the game at 34, the Red Flash and Seahawks would find the end zone - and keep finding the end zone - until John Kelly’s run came up just short in the third overtime.

Wagner head coach Walt Hameline won by going to his strength - never wavering, even when down by three scores. Sometimes if you keep pounding away with your strength - no matter what the odds - good this will happen in conference play.

2. Weber State 36, Portland State 29. Portland State, fresh off a demoralizing loss to Montana the week before, figured by most to be easy fodder for preseason Big Sky favorite Weber State’s Wildcats to have them for lunch at PGE park. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

With the Wildcats up 28-10 late in the 3rd quarter, the Vikings made their move: first with a 97 yard kickoff return from Aaron Woods, then with a 31 yard interception return by Shead DeShawn. In the span of twelve seconds, it was a 28-23 game - and within Portland State head coach Jerry Glanville’s reach. After a testy fourth quarter, Viking quarterback Drew Hubel’s 15 yard touchdown pass to Aaron Woods gave the Vikings a 29-28 lead - but with a 1:15 eternity for Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins to try to pull out the win.

No matter what the record, road games are always dangerous, especially with wily head coaches. But don’t give a Payton Award candidate 1:15 to beat you: Higgins would do that to the Vikings, his 38 yard touchdown pass to Tim Toone giving Weber State the 36-29 victory.

floatedleft1. Richmond 16, Delaware 15. The same Spider team that handled Duke struggled to get their offense going against Delaware, only gaining 56 yards on the ground and scoring their first touchdown in the waning minutes of the first half, had their hands full the second week of the season with Delaware.

In always-packed and always-loud Tubby Raymond Field, Richmond was operating from behind until a Andrew Howard field goal game the Spiders their first lead of the game with just under six minutes to play. But Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin coolly guided the Hens to a chip-shot field goal try - a 23 yarder, no further than an extra point. Richmond put in what they call their “Desperation Unit” to try to block the kick - and, almost miraculously, junior wideout Kevin Grayson’s hand, in the middle of three leaping Spider defenders, knocked the ball to the ground in front of the stunned Delaware crowd numbering 20,800 fans.

“I don’t know what feeling went through my body when that ball hit my hand, but I can tell you I was the happiest person in America,” Grayson said in the post-game press conference.

“I sat right here in this [conference] room Friday and told them it will come down to special teams play,” a fired-up K.C. Keeler, Delaware’s head football coach, said. “When two really good teams play each other, it comes down to turnovers and special teams. Win the turnover battle and the special teams battle, and that’s how you win.”

In a game with evenly matched conference teams, sometimes the game comes down to the little things, like converting kicks. You have to do the little things right to win the big conference games.

Chuckles for Week Five Ending 10/4
Two weekends in a row I’ve had an awesome winning percentage - thanks to my upset pick of UT-Chattanooga over Wofford. I went an amazing 29-4 in the games last week - once again, not a typo - to put my record for the year at 95-26, to put me at an incredible 77.8% winning percentage for the year. I’ve never had this much success picking games before.

Not only did I pick the upset of the year correctly, I also got so many games right, like James Madison’s tough battle against Liberty, a close battle between Harvard and Brown, and a defensive struggle between Lafayette and Penn.

Again, this just ratchets up the pressure for this coming week. Hopefully I’ll be up to the challenge - once again.

Regret of the week
There simply are no regrets this week, analyzing my four losses. I boldly picked two heated local rivalry games and came up losing both (picking Towson to beat Morgan State and Georgetown to upend Howard), picked an FBS upset by No. 8-ranked McNeese State (they played well, but fell to Tulane, 42-32), and a tough Pioneer League conference game (Morehead State had a three touchdown lead before falling in overtime to Butler, 28-21).

Five Outside the Top 25
Grambling State vs. Prairie View A&M (State Fair Classic).
One of the more unique classic games out there - it’s hooked up with the Texas State fair in Dalas, the nation’s largest - this year’s Classic features something else, too: a game that could very well determine the SWAC championship down the line. The question becomes: do you take Grambling, who sent six players to the X-ray room after their 56-6 loss to FBS Oklahoma State? Or do you take Prairie View, who through the cancellation of the Angel City Classic had a two -week layoff since their last game? My hunch is to take the fresher team - they’ll get over the layoff, but while star Grambling defensive end Christian Anthony was not among the injured last week, the Tigers will have a harder time overcoming their dings.

Panther Practice Gets Old 29, Ding Danged Grambling 13

Harvard at Lehigh. Harvard quarterback Collier Winters has been a revelation in this early going, with no interceptions in his first two starts to go with 448 yards passing and 106 yards rushing. While Lehigh linebacker Matt Cohen and the Lehigh defense may slow down the Winters express a bit this week, it won’t be enough for the Mountain Hawks to pull off the upset.

Polar Express 24, Mountain Chickens 17

Missouri State at Youngstown State. Who are the Penguins anyway, coasting to a 3-1 start with their only loss coming to FBS Pittsburgh? Led by defensive tackle Mychael Savage (16 tackles, 2 sacks) and running back Kevin Smith (313 yards, 4 touchdowns) Penguin fans are permitting themselves to think, just a second, about possibly returning to the Top 25. They’ll be tested by tight end Clay Harbor and the Bears - but they’ll get a big home win, and get their Penguin bandwagon bus warmed up.

Savage Penguins 31, Clay Bears 21

Lafayette at Yale. Led by Mark Leggerio, Lafayette’s defense is one of the best in the nation. The question is: with starting quarterback Rob Curley out with an injury, can Ryan O’Neil helm the offense to score enough points to take on another tough defensive team in Yale? (Don’t ever say I avoid picking tough games.) I’m thinking this is one of momentum: Yale, after their heartbreaking 14-12 last weekend, will not reverse their slide against the Leopards, who gutted out a 20-17 overtime win against Penn. Take the hot team.

Hot Steaming Leopards 15, Ice Cold Bolldogs 11

Georgia Southern at Wofford. No, really, how much more bad luck can Wofford endure? First, the humiliating defeat at UT-Chattanooga, then word comes out that H1N1 has laid up much of the football team. Fortunately the Terriers welcome the Eagles to town, where their defensive road woes (72 points allowed in two games) is the perfect vaccine for losing. Having said that, this one will be close.

Sick As Terriers 31, The Eagle Vaccine 28

Three More Games I’m Watching
Rhode Island at Brown (Rhode Island Governor’s Cup).
I love state rivalry games - and this one, one of the oldest in the nation, is among the best anywhere. 93 meetings; two high-powered offenses, Brown’s led by quarterback Kyle Newhall, Rhode Island’s led by quarterback Chris Paul-Etienne; and the Governor on hand to present the trophy to the winner. Don’t look at the records here: I like the Bears, playing at home, with that high-octane offense. It will be a barn-burner.

Kids In the Newhall 41, “Gee? No, CPE.” 38

San Diego at Butler. San Diego has been in the news lately with the ridiculous and the sublime: ridiculous when it cam eto light that their Payton Award candidate at quarterback, Sebastian Trujilo, had to withdraw from school since their financial aid was taken away, and sublime when they learned that former Torero Josh Johnson would be starting this weekend for the Tampa Bay Bucs. Will the drama - not to mention the long road trip - help or hurt the Toreros? Call me convinced after Butler’s win over Morehead State last weekend: these Bulldogs, and quarterback Andrew Huck bite.

Huck’s Hucksters 32, Tamed Toreros 27

South Dakota at North Dakota. While not a named rivalry (talk about a rivalry that’s crying out for one), this Dakota battle dates from 1903, and the last three meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer. In the 91st meeting of this (let’s call it the “Battle for Iya” - look it up), again, throw away the records: it will be a shootout between Sioux quarterback Jake Landry and Coyote quarterback Noah Shepard, with the Sioux on top in a packed Alerus center.

Landry Gets The Rock 37, Shepard’s Pie The Sequel 26

Picking the Sports Network Top 25
Indiana State at No. 3 Northern Iowa.
Did you read the leader this week - that thing about never ignoring conference games, always play hard, the game’s never over? Ignore that in this case.

Prideful Panthers 47, Miles of Clear-Cut Forest 3

No. 6 New Hampshire at Towson. At risk of never being allowed to run for public office, I have to say that Towson could surprise here. But even with Wildcat quarterback R.J. Toman out with turf toe, take New Hampshire quarterback Kevin Decker and the Wildcats.

All Hands On Decker 32, Greek Tragedies 16

No. 7 James Madison at Hofstra. Is this going to be the first game where I put my leader where my picks are? Not after seeing that Hofstra gives up 26 points and 347 yards per game. Wonder what the newspaper headlines might be after the game?

“Founding Father Wounds Pride” 37, “Hofstra Hecklers Hate Hamburgers” 6

No. 8 Southern Illinois at Western Illinois. How about this game? I’m in real danger of serious hypocrisy - oh wait, Western Illinois gives up 421 yards per game. Never mind.

Statistical Salukis 35, Chronic Leathernecks 24

No. 10 Appalachian State at The Citadel. Now we’re talking. While head coach Jerry Moore and the Mountaineers come into this week fresh off a 20-7 win over Samford, head coach Kevin Higgins’ Bulldogs look like a team that maybe, just maybe, can outgun quarterback Armanti Edwards and App State. Would I put it past quarterback Bart Blanchard and the Bulldogs? I would not. But the specter of a third loss - especially a conference loss - should show the Mountaineers the way through to a terrifying win.

Yosef’s Close Shave 38, Bart’s “D’Oh! So Close!” 35

Montana State at No. 11 Weber State. So very hard to gauge how good the Bobcats are - quarterback Mark Iddins is responsible for all four of their offensive touchdowns this year - but on the road against quarterback Cameron Higgins and the Wildcats, who come back from Portland State with key momentum, should probably be enough to take this game. It will be close, but the Wildcats prevail in a tight one for the second straight week.

Higgins Did It 28, Iddins Didn’t Do It 20

No. 12 Elon at Furman. If there was ever a “Danger, Will Robinson” week for the Phoenix, it’s this week. Elon wideout Terrell Hudgins has been getting all the positive press this week - he could break the NCAA career receptions record this weekend, as he approaches Jerry Rice’s career receiving yardage record as well - but if there’s a team that can match Elon point for point it’s Furman, behind quarterback Jordan Sorrells and the running back with the best name in FCS, Tersoo Uhaa. I think this is the week Hudgins and the Phoenix come crashing to earth.

“Shark Bait! Uhaa Ahh!” 44, Hudgins’ Heartbreak 31

Missouri S&T (D-II) No. 13 Central Arkansas. Some D-II teams can hang with FCS teams, but the Miners ain’t one of them.

Man-Eating Killing Machines 52, Miner 2049ers 6

No. 15 South Carolina State at South Carolina (FBS). I won’t lie; I’m a huge South Carolina State fan. But South Carolina, one of the better teams of the SEC, just seem like too much to handle for anybody. Running back William Ford will represent, but will ultimately fall.

Fightin’ Spurriers 42, Pummeled Pough’s 24

No. 17 Eastern Washington at Idaho State. It’s a conference game, true, but Idaho State hasn’t found a way to win yet. They won’t start against the high-flying Eagles, either.

Eager Eagles 47, Bungled Bengals 3

No. 16 South Dakota State at No. 19 Cal Poly. Most weeks, this might be the “Game of the Week", pitting two former Great West conference teams against each other and a stern test for the Jackrabbits and their 3-0 record. Instead, it’s a must-win for linebacker Marty Mohamed and the rest of the Mustangs if they harbor any playoff hopes this year. It won’t be easy, however, as South Dakota State’s defense (first in the nation in rush defense, led by defensive lineman Danny Batten) and their offense (running back Kyle Minett with 369 yards and 5 touchdowns) will be hard to beat. The Jacks are tested - and win a close one in San Luis Obispo.

Jacked-Up Batten Rams 20, Stung ‘Stangs 19

UT-Martin at No. 20 Jacksonville State. I love that James Horne, our OVC columnist, has called Jacksonville State’s season the “ruin it for everyone” campaign. The Gamecocks, ineligible for the league title due to historic APR violations, seem to have rallied behind coach Jack Crowe and quarterback Ryan Perriloux to indeed ruin everyone’s season, and it’s working. Hard to picture the 2-2 Skyhawks, even with the rushing of Miguel Barnes, being the team to upend Jax State on the road.

Fightin’ Crowes 38, Passenger Pigeons 24

No. 21 Holy Cross at Northeastern. Quarterback Dominic Randolph and the Crusaders should not have much trouble with the Huskies, who don’t seem to have figured out how to score points or prevent other teams from scoring, either. Not a good recipe for a upset of a ranked team.

Crusading Goliath? 41, Bostonian David? 14

No. 22 Texas State at Southern Utah. This game, featuring two high-octane offenses, could be a hidden treat this week. These Thunderbirds, featuring quarterback Cade Cooper (already 1,019 yards passing and 10 touchdowns), will score points in bunches - but so will the Bobcats, with Bradley George and a pretty strong running game featuring Alvin Canady and Frank Reddick. I smell an upset here: while pinball offense might work well at home, those Thunderbirds sure play a mean pinball themselves.

Chunderbirds No More 62, Out-Bombed Bomb Kittes 48

No. 18 Eastern Kentucky at No. 23 Eastern Illinois. Already billed as the “OVC Championship Game", the winner will find the OVC theirs to lose after this weekend. Even better this week are the personalities involved: the ageless Eastern Illinois head coach Bob Spoo; Andre Barbor, the Eastern Kentucky offensive lineman with the snakes and the pit bull; and Eastern Illinois defensive tackle Trevor Frericks calling the game their “Super Bowl". Emotion will be intense; linebacker Nick Nasti will be fired up; and the Panthers will win the game.

Nasti Boys 28, Not A Great EKU Escapade 24

Cornell at No. 25 Colgate. Speaking of emotional rivalries, you’d think this upstate New York rivalry, the 92 meeting between these two schools - the first in recent memory between undefeated Colgate and undefeated Cornell, no less - would be the source of an emotional press conference. Not so. Cornell defensive coordinator Clayton Carlin told the Cornell Daily Sun “We’re so much different this year than last year in every way, shape and form,” he said. “We don’t circle any game. … The focus is on us and how we can get better.” While admirable, to this reporter that sounds like the recipe for a blowout loss. Never, ever underestimate the factor of emotion here.

Big Maroon (Raider) Machine 37, Broken Down Big Red Machine 6

Game of the Week
No. 5. William & Mary at No. 2 Villanova.

floatedrightIt’s unfamiliar territory for both teams; undefeated records, top five rankings, national showdowns, and regular season national TV games. Both teams have had success in the playoffs in the past, and both teams have made strong runs at the national championship. But a regular season game like this - with this much hype, on a national channel like Versus Network - has eluded the Main Line and Colonial Williamsburg for decades.

No matter how much Jimmye Laycock tries to bring up the same old chestnuts and paint this as just another game, “still trying to get ready to play, just like you normally do,” this is different. “The national exposure is good, it’s good for us, it’s good for Villanova, it’s good for the league,” he said. “But that’s an extra thing: we’ve got to get ourselves ready to play. I don’t know [how to prepare for a nationally-televised regular season game], I’ve never done it before.”

Fortunately for coach Laycock, he has some football players that play real hard, especially on defense. Defensive linemen Adrian Tracy (15 tackles, 2 sacks) and Sean Lissemore (18 tackles, 5 tackles for loss) anchor a defensive line that is one of the best at stuffing the run in the entire country. “They’re very consistent about the way they play, and they set the stage for us.” Laycock said. Add to that freshman defensive back B.W. Webb - already with three interceptions, including the game-winner against FBS Virginia - and you have a great defense going to the Main Line this Saturday.

Quarterback R.J. Archer (779 yards passing, 9 touchdowns) and running back Jonathan Grimes (297 yards, 2 touchdowns) complete the picture on offense and have given the Tribe their first 4-0 start in fifteen years. But the Tribe has had problems with the Wildcats the past few years - it won’t be easy to get the Villanova monkey off their backs. “Everything about them worries me,” Laycock said.

floatedleftCoach Talley, the master of understatement, said this week that he entered the game last weekend against Northeastern wondering “if he had an offense". The Wildcat head coach certainly does have one, with the sixth-ranked rushing offense in the nation (led by quarterback Chris Whitney’s 276 yards rushing, and running back Aaron Ball’s 212 yards rushing), and not all those yards came against the Huskies in a 56-7 whupping.

Of course, Villanova’s defense has also shined mightily so far this year, with eight interceptions on the year, linebacker Terence Thomas’ 3 sacks leading a fierce pass rush, and a linebacking unit of Thomas, Osayi Osunde, and Marquis Kirkland that could be the best unit in FCS. Oh, yeah, and speedy Tim Kukucka on the defensive line as well, a player who some think might have a chance to play on Sundays.

“This is a great big-time game for both teams,” Talley said. “It’s a pretty scary thing, really - this has been one of the better teams we’ve had at Villanova, but you could easily be out of the playoff picture as the season goes on. We don’t want to be left out.”

At Villanova stadium this weekend, prepare to see some fantastic defenses hit the field. Key for the Tribe will be R.J. Archer - will he be able to make hay against the Villanova defense, who seems to have a lot of answers to questions? Key for the Wildcats will be their ability to get their multi-faceted running game going against the “immovable object” that is William & Mary’s rushing defense. It will be physical, it will be a tough battle - but I see Villanova eking this one out - late - with just one more defensive big play to take this one.

Villanova 17, William & Mary 14