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The CAA Today: The Rematch, AGAIN

floated rightTerence Thomas, Sr. CSN The CAA Today columnist

A rematch by definition is a second or return contest between opponents. In last week’s quarterfinals, we had two such games involving CAA teams, and a third game pitting a CAA team against a Missouri Valley team creating a rematch between the conferences.

When rematches are spoken of, there’s usually a reference to the prior game where Team B narrowly lost to Team A, or Team B would have won had it not been for a set of circumstances. The loser of the previous game always is looking toward the rematch with vengeful thoughts on its mind but also with the knowledge that it previously lost to its opponent. The victor in general will come into the rematch with confidence, sometimes too much confidence. From these rematches, rivalries are born.

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Appalachian State held a 2 – 1 advantage over Richmond in the playoffs, and a 4 – 3 record overall. This latest edition of the series was set to be played in Richmond’s “City” stadium with the winner advancing to the semifinals. This match had all the makings of a epic battle between two titans, and it was worthy of its pregame hype and the admission.

William & Mary and Southern Illinois never had faced each other. But SIU was familiar with CAA opponents going 1 – 3 against the CAA in the playoffs losing at Delaware in 2003, 48 – 7 in the first round of the playoffs, beating Massachusetts in 2007 in the quarterfinals at home, 34 – 27, losing to Delaware again in ‘07 in the semifinals at home, 20 – 17, and losing to New Hampshire at home in the first round in ‘08, 29 – 20. In 1996, William & Mary lost a second-round matchup to Northern Iowa 38 – 35 for its only meeting with an MVC team.

On Oct 10, New Hampshire, ranked No. 5 in the country defeated then No. 2, Villanova 28 – 24 in Durham, N.H. At the time, Villanova was 5 – 0, while New Hampshire was 4 – 0. With the victory, UNH closed the series gap to 10 – 9 Nova. Last Saturday, UNH wanted to knot the all-time series record and advance to the semifinals. Nova had only one loss on its record in 2009 thanks to UNH. Nova wanted to right that wrong and move on to the semifinals. Wildcats vs. Wildcats Part II.

Appalachian State @ Richmond

On that 35-degree night, Richmond opened in the form of a champion moving the ball 75 yards in 12 plays, consuming just under six minutes. UR Sr., QB, Eric Ward (Atlanta, Ga.) was 4-for-5 in passing on the drive for 34 yards, and he rushed once for 13 yards. Rs, Jr., FB, Ben Keating (Charlotte, N.C.) finished the drive with a 2-yard TD run giving the Spiders a 7 – 0 lead after the PAT by Sr, K, Andrew Howard (Glen Allen, Va.).

The Mountaineers would match the Spiders’ TD with one of their own, marching 75 yards in seven plays in a little more than two minutes in their opening drive to tie the score at 7 – 7. After beginning the drive with a false start penalty, Jr. RB, Devon Moore (Mebane, N.C.) ripped off a 45-yard run to set the tone for the ASU running game. Moore would rush twice more on the drive for a total of four yards, while Sr. QB, Armanti Edwards (Greenwood, S.C.) would rush only once, but it was enough as the talented QB ran for a 16-yard TD.

The Mountaineers forced UR into a three and out and mounted another scoring threat, going 45 yards in eight plays. But on fourth-and-seven from the UR 32, the Spiders stopped Moore for a 4-yard loss.

Richmond and ASU would trade punts on their next series. With just under 12 minutes remaining in the second quarter, Ward led the Spiders on a six-play, 49-yard TD drive that ate up 3½ minutes. Ward was 2-for-2 in passing for 27 yards, which included a 19-yard TD pass to Rs. So., Trey Gray (Cuero, Texas). Also instrumental on the drive was the running of Rs. Sr., Justin Forte (Marietta, Ga.), who ran for 16 yards on three carries. The Spiders held a 14 – 7 lead that would hold up until halftime.

The first half was played like the preceding 12 games for UR, steady offense, backed up by a sound defense. However, it was the second half where the wheels fell off. UR missed opportunities to put ASU away early in the fourth quarter, then the Spiders stopped playing defense. From the Mountaineers’ perspective, they probably didn’t start playing offense until the fourth quarter.

ASU got possession first to start the third quarter, and the duo of Edwards and Moore led the Mountaineers on a seven-play, 43-yard TD drive that tied the score at 14 – 14 after the PAT by Jr., K, Jason Vitaris (Seneca, S.C.). On a fourth and two from the UR 35, Moore would plow through for four yards. With first down from the UR 17, Moore would run off tackle for the 17-yard score.

On UR’s opening third-quarter possession, Ward led the Spiders on a 14-play, 55-yard drive that consumed 7:42. The score put the Spiders back on top, 21-14. Fr., FB, Kendall Gaskins (Burlington, N.J.) finished the scoring drive with a 1-yard TD run.

The Spiders stopped the Mountaineers in their next drive with a three and out. They then drove 58 yards in nine plays taking up a little more than four minutes, finishing the drive in the fourth quarter. However, Howard’s 29-yard FG try from the right hash mark would miss wide left. UR would stop the ASU again with a three and out, and this time, the Spiders converted an eight-play, 54-yard drive into three points as Howard would make the 27-yard kick. UR had the lead 24 – 14, with 9:23 remaining and it undoubtedly was feeling good about themselves.

ASU started its next drive on its 36. On two passes from Edwards (32 & 27 yards), ASU had a first and goal from the five. Moore ran the ball in for a TD from there, narrowing the score to 24 – 21 UR. The drive took 45 seconds.

The Spiders took 50 seconds to get two yards in three plays.

With 7:48 remaining, the Mountaineers rushed nine straight times covering 73 yards. Moore rushed seven times, and Edwards capped off the drive with a three-yard run giving the Mountaineers their first lead at 28 – 24.

UR would have another three and out. However, on the punt, Rs., Jr. Eric McBride (Richmond, Va.) stripped the ball from the ASU punt returner, and ran it in for the eight-yard score giving the Spiders back the lead at 31 – 28 with 3:26 left.

Starting on the ASU 30, Edwards would lead the Mountaineers on a 12-play, 70-yard drive, completing 5-of-6 passes for 47 yards. The most notable pass was the 4-yard TD pass to Jr. WR, Matt Cline (Thomasville, N.C.) giving the Mountaineers back the lead at 35 – 31 with 10 seconds remaining.

With the ball at the UR 45, Ward had time for one play. As he took the ball from under center, Ward was flushed to his left, and as he was attempting to step into his throw, he was sacked, thus ending the game and his career as a Spider.

The rematch went to the Mountaineers deservedly so, extending their lead in the series over the Spiders to 5 – 3 overall, and 3 – 1 in the playoffs.

The Mountaineers advanced to the semifinals where they will play No. 1 seed Montana.

See the photo gallery by our own Keith Cline here.

On Monday, Richmond head coach Mike London stepped down to fill the head coaching vacancy at the University of Virginia. UR is in the process of seeking a successor to London. While I would never fault anyone for bettering themselves and the welfare of their family, you have to wonder whether the distraction of this pursuit somehow cost the Spiders this game. While it’s true neither London nor any of his assistants were capable of playing one down, and all of the effort that occurred on the field was that of the players, it is still the coaches who put together the game plan, who on game day make the crucial decisions. Can one focus on the job at hand with the knowledge another opportunity is eagerly awaiting his presence? In this writer’s opinion, last Saturday, Richmond lost twice. In losing the game to the Mountaineers, it also lost a great head coach, or it had lost the head coach prior to the game with the Mountaineers, then went ahead and lost the game.

William & Mary @ Southern Illinois

On a windy, 34-degree day, the Salukis came roaring out of the gate, driving 41 yards in five plays and scoring a field goal by Jr., PK, Kyle Dougherty (Merritt Island, Fla.) from 46 yards. Fr. QB, Paul McIntosh (Evansville, Ind.) began the drive with a 34-yard run. SIU had a 3 – 0 lead. It would turn out to be its last lead.

The Tribe went three and out on their first drive and punted the ball back to SIU. With the Salukis back on the march, and first down at the Tribe 26, McIntosh would again scramble for an 18-yard gain to the Tribe’s 6. However, this play was called back due to a holding penalty. The Salukis settled for a 39-yard field goal try by Dougherty that came up short. The first quarter ended with the Salukis leading 3 – 0.

With 11:25 left in the half, the Tribe’s offense finally would get untracked as Rs., Sr., QB, R.J. Archer (Earlysville, Va.) led the Tribe on a 10-play, 62-yard drive, eating up more than five minutes and ending in a 36-yard FG by Rs., Sr., PK, Brian Pate (Fredericksburg, Va), knotting the score at 3 – 3.

The Salukis were on their fifth offensive series of the first half. The Tribe forced another three and out. This was the third time so far. Archer guided the Tribe eight plays in 77 yards in a little more than two minutes that ended in a 6-yard TD run by So, Jonathan Grimes (Palmyra, N.J.) giving the Tribe a 10 – 3 lead - an advantage the Tribe would not relinquish.

With 1:35 remaining in the half, SIU brought in Jr. QB, Chris Dieker (Topeka, Kan.). Dieker had been the starter in the beginning of the season before breaking his collarbone. Dieker would fare no better than Mcintosh. In his first series, the Salukis were -5 yards in three plays. The halftime score was William & Mary 10 – Southern Illinois 3.

In the second offensive series of the third quarter, Grimes scored from seven yards out pushing the Tribe lead to 17 – 3. Grimes would score again with seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter to bring the score to its final of 24 – 3.

The Tribe completely dominated holding that vaunted Saluki rushing attack to just 84 net yards rushing. In the second half, the Salukis had the ball for just 7:22, and only 2:05 in the fourth quarter. The Salukis came into this game ranked No. 3 nationally scoring an average of 36 points per game. They had not scored fewer than 27 points in any game this season. The Salukis were fourth nationally in yards per game with an average of 232.50. The Tribe has proved once again to all of FCS just how tough play in the CAA is.

The MVC will have to wait until next year’s playoffs if it would like another rematch. Meanwhile, the Tribe will entertain thoughts of a rematch with Villanova in the semifinals this coming weekend.

New Hampshire @ Villanova

On a cold, windy, 34-degree, snowy afternoon (night), the New Hampshire Wildcats squared off against the home team Villanova Wildcats on the Main Line. The field was completely covered by snow making it difficult to determine what yard line the ball was on. Villanova won the toss and deferred to the second half. This was undoubtedly the first of many right decisions by head coach Andy Talley.

On the first play from scrimmage, Jr. SS, John Dempsey (Secane, Pa.) recovered a UNH fumble and ran it back 21 yards for a touchdown and inside of 15 seconds, Nova held a 7 – 0 lead.

UNH struggled with fielding kicks all night. After fielding the ensuing kickoff, UNH started its next drive at the 15. After a 1-yard run and two incomplete passes, UNH punted.

Missing from the Oct 10 game was Rs., Jr. RB, Angelo Babbaro (Canfield, Ohio). With the drive starting at the Nova 47, Babbaro took the first carry 17 yards. Nova kept the ball on the ground seven of the next eight plays allowing for Rs. Fr. PK, Nick Yako to kick a 32-yard FG to increase the lead to 10 – 0 with 8:15 remaining in the first quarter.

UNH suffered another three and out as its drive started on its own 28. They would lose 15 yards after three plays.

Nova got the ball on the UNH 40 and moved to the UNH 12. On fourth and two, Jr. WR, Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) out of the Wildcat formation was stopped a yard short.

UNH starting at its 11, lost six yards after three plays and punted 19 yards. Starting on the UNH 25, Villanova gave the ball to Babbaro who ran it in for the score and the 17 – 0 lead as the first quarter ended.

UNH had 11 plays in the first quarter for a -39 yards, where Nova had 16 plays for 96 yards. Babbaro had three rushes for 43 yards.

Nova’s next drive began with 14 minutes to go in the second quarter. It marched 69 yards in eight plays, all rushing plays, and capped it off with a 1-yard TD run by Jr. QB, Chris Whitney (Warminster, Pa.) increasing Nova’s lead to 24 – 0.

UNH had two more possessions in the second quarter and each resulted in three and outs. At halftime, UNH had yet to gain a first down and had 20 offensive plays, netting -33 yards. Nova had 38 plays for 235 yards. Nova had attempted just four passes, completing three for 44 yards. Babbaro led all rushers with nine carries for 77 yards.

UNH did not fare much better in the second half. Sr. DE, Tim Kukucka (Wall, N.J.) sacked the UNH QB in the end zone forcing the QB to fumble out of bounds resulting in a safety, extending the Nova lead to 26 – 0.

Later in the third quarter, Szczur scored on a 29-yard TD run, and Babbaro added another 59-yard TD run to push the Nova lead to 39 – 0.

With four minutes remaining in the third quarter, UNH switched QBs as the starter Jr., R.J. Toman (Mission Viejo, Calif.) had been sacked four times.

At the end of the third quarter, UNH had 46 offensive plays for -21 yards. Nova had 48 offensive plays for 340 yards. Babbaro had 13 carries for 148 yards and 2 TDs.

UNH finally would score early in the fourth quarter as So., QB, Kevin Decker (Armonk, N.Y.) found So., WR Mickey Mangieri (Pound Ridge, N.Y.) for an 18-yard TD pass to cut the gap to 39 – 7.

Nova scored one more time on Rs. Sr. QB, Antwon Young’s 1-yard run with just under four minutes left. In what was built to be an epic rematch, Villanova overpowered the New Hampshire Wildcats 46 – 7. The weather had forced New Hampshire to run the ball. This played to Villanova’s strength. New Hampshire was not built to slug it out with Villanova.

See the fantastic photo gallery by our own Mark Campbell here.

Up next for Villanova is a rematch with William & Mary with the winner advancing to the championship game in Tennessee.

SEMIFINAL PREVIEW:

And then there were two …

#5 William & Mary (11 – 2) @ #1 Villanova (12 – 1) @ 8 p.m., Friday
TV: ESPN2, ESPN2HD, ESPN360.COM
Series: William & Mary Leads 14 – 12 – 1
Villanova holds a five-game win streak over the Tribe and a 9 – 4 advantage in games played at Villanova Stadium. The last Tribe victory came in Williamsburg in 2004. In 2009, Villanova was the only squad to put up more than 20 points on the Tribe. This will be the winner’s first time going to the championship game. The Tribe will look to get out of the gate quickly and score TDs in the Red Zone opposed to FGs. Nova will look to play smashmouth football and take the spirit out of the Tribe quickly in a rematch that the nation will witness firsthand. It will be a game neither side will soon forget. In one corner, you have the higher-seeded confident Villanova Wildcats with the theme of “Rocky” playing in the background. In the other corner, the visiting William & Mary Tribe with a vengeful look in their eye. On a night where the temperature at game time will be in the lower 30s, the excitement in the air will warm the stadium. The hits will be monstrous, the plays will be special. The team that wants it the most will be victorious.

In this writer’s opinion, the Tribe cannot afford another slow start. As was proved in week No. 5, the Tribe spotted Nova and could not recover having won almost every statistical battle. While only yielding three points in their previous two games, the Tribe was able to overcome those slow starts. The same will not be true on Friday. The Tribe has a chance if they can keep it close. Villanova will blitz on the pass as well as blitz on the run. The defensive pressure will come from every way imaginable. Turnovers will ultimately decide the victor.

Wildcats 28 – Tribe 20, Upset Meter [—–5—-]

As always, keep the emails coming to CAATODAY@YAHOO.COM, and I’ll get back to them as soon as I can.

CAATODAY signing off.