Villanova Scouting Report - Part 2

I reviewed the tape of the 2000 Rutgers-Villanova matchup. The first article of a three-part scouting report evaluated the Villanova special teams. This second article breaks down the Wildcat defense.


I pulled the 2000 Villanova-Rutgers game out of my tape collection to scout the 2002 Wildcats since Division I-AA Villanova hasn't played a Division I-A opponent since that season-opening 34-21 defeat against Rutgers two years ago.  While the Rutgers coaches, players, and systems have changed in two years, the talent level has not improved appreciably, at least based upon the results of the 2001 season.  Two years ago, Rutgers took a 14-7 late in a sloppy first half.  Two third quarter TDs enabled Rutgers to break the game open and 96-yard, fourth quarter TD drive sealed the outcome. 

Here's a scouting report on Villanova based upon the tape of the 2000 Rutgers game and summaries/stats from last season.  The first article of a three-part scouting report evaluated the Villanova special teams.  This second article evaluates the Villanova defense.  I've charted the Rutgers offensive plays, as illustrated further below.  The play chart shows running plays, shallow passes, and long passes in the inside and on the outsides.  The plays have been sorted sequentially first by down, then by distance, and lastly by chronological sequence (e.g., the 1st-and-10 shallow passes into to the right flat appear in sequence.   



1/10 Smith Wheel Inc

1/10 King Corner Inc

1/10 Smith Wheel

PASS INT (15 yds)


2/10 Johnson Fade Inc



3/8 King Fade Inc

1/10 Lovelace Post 19 yd TD


2/7 King Post Inc


2/17 King Post 38 yds

1/10 King Fade Inc

1/10 Smith Crossing Inc

1/10 Fletcher Wheel Inc


3/7 Johnson Out 19 yds

3/7 Hobbs Wheel 28 yds


3/14 Hobbs Wheel Inc

1/17 King Hitch 25 yds


2/8 King Sideline Inc

2/10 Fletcher Seam 15 yds


3/7 Hobbs Out INT

1/10 Johnson Crossing 11 yds


2/12 Thomas Crossing 5 yds


3/8 Johnson Crossing 17 yd TD

3/10 King Crossing Inc

1/3 Smith Corner 3 yd TD


1/10 Thomas Hitch 3 yds

1/10 Thomas Drag 10 yds

1/10 Thomas Drag Inc

1/10 King Hitch 9 yds

1/10 Smith Crossing Inc


2/5 Johnson Corner 6 yd TD


2/10 Martin Slant Inc


2/15 Thomas Crossing 13 yds

2/16 Lovelace Curl Inc


3/3 Stringer Sideline 13 yds


3/6 Smith Slant 16 yds

3/8 King Slant 15 yd TD

3/9 Martin Slant Inc


3/18 King Slant 17 yds

1/10 Ohene Off-Tackle 3 yds

1/10 Ohene Outside 12 yds

HOLDING (-7 yds)

1/10 McMahon Scramble 6 yds HOLDING (-10 yds)


2/7 Smith Bubble Screen 11 yds

2/7 Stringer Bubble Screen 4 yds

2/8 Smith Bubble Screen 5 yds

2/10 Johnson Bubble Screen 10 yds

2/10 Ohene Outside 3 yds


2/18 Ohene Fly Sweep 4 yds


3/2 Thomas Off-Tackle 4 yds


3/16 McMahon Scramble 15 yds

1/10 Anderson Draw (-2) yds

1/10 McMahon Scramble 8 yds

PER FOUL (14 yds)

1/10 McMahon Draw (-5) yds

1/10 Ohene Inside 9 yds

1/10 Thomas Inside 2 yds

1/10 McMahon Sacked (-6) yds

1/10 Thomas Inside 2 yds

1/10 Thomas Inside 2 yds


1/20 Thomas Inside 3 yds


2/1 Ohene Inside 5 yds

2/1 Ohene Inside 4 yds

2/5 Ohene Inside (-1) yd


2/6 Anderson Inside 4 yds

2/10 Smith Delay 11 yds

2/10 Anderson Inside 2 yds


2/12 McMahon Scramble No Gain


3/3 Thomas Inside 2 yds


3/12 McMahon Sack (-6) yds


4/1 Stanton Inside 6 yds

4/1 Thomas Inside 3 yds

1/6 Anderson Off-Tackle 1 yd

1/10 Anderson Off-Tackle (-1) yd

1/10 Smith Bubble Screen 5 yds

1/10 Anderson Bubble Screen Inc

1/10 Anderson Outside 4 yds

1/10 Johnson Bubble Screen (-2) yds

1/10 Thomas Fly Sweep Option 3 yds


2/8 Thomas Off-Tackle (-1) yd

2/10 Thomas Sweep 20 yds


2/11 McMahon Scramble 3 yds

2/15 Ohene Fly Sweep 19 yd TD

HOLDING (-3 yds)

2/16 Anderson Flare (-2) yds


Note:  Bold black fonts identify 2TE formations.  Blue fonts identify 3WR formations.  Red fonts identify 4WR formations.   Other plays reflect 5WR formations.  Underlined plays identify the Villanova defense in a 3-3 Cover 2 nickel package.  Notice that Rutgers stretched the field vertically with slant, fade, wheel, and post routes, which opened the underneath for crossing routes.   



Villanova defense has been as porous as has their offense been prolific in recent years.  The Wildcat defense ranked #44 of 123 teams in Division I-AA against the run and #112 against the pass.  Villanova allowed 138 yards rushing and 242 yards passing per game last season.  The respectable rushing defense lost both starting DTs and the starting MLB.  A weak secondary returns virtually intact.  The sack output of the LB corps suggests frequent blitzing and would also explain the passage yardage yielded – it's a defense that is forced to gamble, often unsuccessfully.   



·        Rutgers used essentially four base offensive formations – 2TE (15%), 3WR (30%), 4WR (30%), and 5WR formations (25%).  The Scarlet Knights did not once use the standard pro set.   

·        Rutgers had reasonably balanced play-calling from the 3WR formations (10 designed runs and 15 designed passes).  The Scarlet Knights primarily used the 3WR sets in first down situations (13 of 25 3WR plays).  On first downs, Rutgers employed the 3WR sets most frequently (13 of 34 first down plays).  Of these 13 first down plays, the Knights gained only 5 yards on 6 designed runs (including 7 yards lost on a holding penalty) while completing 3 of 7 designed passes for 60 yards (including 8 yards gained on a scramble, 14 yards gained on a personal foul, and 6 yards lost on a sack) and 2 first downs.  For the game, the Knights gained 186 yards on 25 plays from the 3WR formations.  Plays in these formations are highlighted in blue on the play chart.  

·        Rutgers passed much more frequently from the 4WR formations (19 of 23 4WR plays).  The Scarlet Knights primarily used the 4WR sets in long yardage (> 5 yards) situations (14 of 23 4WR plays).  In long yardage situations, Rutgers employed the 4WR sets most frequently (14 of 35 long yardage plays).  Of these 14 2nd/3rd-down-and-long plays, the Scarlet Knights gained 3 yards on the only designed run while completing 6 of 13 designed passes for 68 yards (including 18 yards gained on three scrambles), 2 first downs, and one TD.  For the game, the Knights gained 72 yards on 23 plays from the 4WR formations.  Plays in these formations are highlighted in red on the play chart.   

·        Rutgers passed as frequently from the 5WR formations (18 of 22 5WR plays) as they did from 4WRs.  The Scarlet Knights primarily used the 5WR sets in long yardage situations (10 of 18 5WR plays).  Of these 10 2nd/3rd-down-and-long plays, Rutgers gained 1 net yard on two designed runs (including 3 yards lost on a holding penalty) while completing 5 of 8 designed passes for 72 yards, 3 first downs, and one TD.  For the game, the Knights gained 98 yards on 17 plays from the 5WR formations.  Plays in these formations are not highlighted on the play chart.   

·        The Scarlet Knights ran out of their power running 2TE formations more often than they passed (8 of 13 plays).  The Scarlet Knights primarily used the 2TE sets on first down situations (8 of 13 2TE plays).  Of these 8 first down plays, the Knights gained 11 yards on 3 designed runs while completing 2 of 5 designed passes for 22 yards and 2 TDs.  In short yardage situations (<5 yards), Rutgers employed the 2TE sets most frequently (5 of 10 short yardage plays).  Four designed runs gained 18 yards and the only designed pass was completed for a 3-yard TD.  For the game, the Knights gained 50 yards on 13 plays from the 2TE formations.  Plays in these formations are highlighted in bold black on the play chart.   

·        The Rutgers offense relied primarily upon its passing game to move the ball.  And it needed big plays to do so.  The Knights recorded 20 plays of 10 yards or more.  All but one were designed passes.  These 20 plays earned 345 of Rutgers 400 yards of total offense.  Rutgers gained only 55 yards on the remaining 59 plays, including penalty yardage.   

·        Rutgers stretched the field vertically.  The Scarlet Knights attempted 13 deep passes, completing 4 for 119 yards (including 15 yards on a pass interference penalty), 4 first downs, and one TD.  Targeted routes included 2 deep fade patterns, 3 post patterns, and 5 wheel routes.   

·        Rutgers attacked the short passing area both vertically and horizontally.  Rutgers completed 15 of 23 short passes for 178 yards, 8 first downs, 4 TDs, and an INT.  Crossing routes constituted 6 of 23 attempted short passes.  Slant routes accounted for five pass attempts and hitches for three.  Two sideline, drag, corner routes were also attempted.   

·        Rutgers used screen passes to attack the perimeter of the Wildcat defense.  The Knights completed 8 of 9 screen passes for 42 yards and 3 first downs.  Seven of these screen passes were bubble screens to the WRs.



·        Villanova primarily played a base 4-3 defense (75%).  They also used 3-3 nickel package (25%) in long yardage situations.  Villanova primarily employed Cover 2 (2-deep zone, 85%) but occasionally used Cover 1 (FS in centerfield, 5%) or man-to-man coverage (10%).   

·        Villanova stuffed Rutgers' inside running game, yielding only 36 yards on 15 carries (2.4 yards per carry).  However, Villanova twice allowed Rutgers to convert 4th-and-1 situations.   

·        Villanova also neutralized Rutgers' outside running game, yielding only 27 yards on 11 carries (2.5 yards per carry), including 10 yards lost on two holding penalties.   

·        The Villanova pass defense could not capitalize upon the performance of its run defense.  Villanova had Rutgers in long yardage situations more often than not – 23 of 27 2nd down plays.  Rutgers threw on 16 of those 23 2nd-and-long situations and converted only five.  Rutgers converted only 9 of 27 2nd-down attempts overall (including 2nd-and-short).  Rutgers faced 3rd-and-long situations 13 times.  The Knights passed the ball every time and converted only five.  Rutgers converted only 7 of 16 3rd-down attempts overall (including 3rd-and-short).   

·        In their Cover 2 package, the Wildcats generally played loose (5 to 10 yards off the LOS) man-to-man coverage underneath with their CBs while their LBs covered zones in the short middle.  This left the flats open if the WR cleared the CB.  Rutgers tested the Cover 2 deep 12 times, completing 4 for 104 yards, 3 first downs, and a TD.  For the game, the Cover 2 yielded 24 completions on 47 designed passes for 320 yards (including 26 yards gained on four scrambles, 12 yards lost on two sacks and 2 yards lost on two penalties), 10 first downs, 3 TDs, and one INT.   

·        The Wildcat lined up in their Cover 1 zone only 4 times.  Rutgers completed neither of two designed passes but gained 15 yards on a pass interference penalty and gained no yardage on a McMahon scramble.   

·        Villanova played Cover 0 (pure man-to-man) defense primarily in short yardage situations.  Villanova yielded 2 completions on 3 designed passes for 12 yards (including 3 yards gained on a scramble) and 2 TDs.  Not good.   

·        Villanova employed their nickel package primarily in long yardage situations.  The Wildcats usually played Cover 2 with the nickel.  The nickel package yielded only 4 completions on 14 designed passes for 43 yards (including no yards gained on one scramble plus 12 yards lost on two sacks), 3 first downs, and one INT.  Rutgers rushed only once for 9 yards against the nickel defense.  Pass plays against this defense are underlined in the play chart. 

·        OLB Jamison Young the leading returning tackler on a defense that was not very deep.  Young and DE Jamil Butler are the playmakers up front.   



·        Rutgers gained only 63 yards on 26 designed runs including 10 yards lost on two holding penalties.  The longest gain was 20 yards, on a sweep.   

·        Rutgers completed 26 of 53 passes for 350 yards (including 29 yards gained on 6 scrambles, 12 yards lost on 2 sacks, and 13 yards gained on 3 penalties), 5 TDs, and an INT.  They threw the ball primarily to their WRs (28 attempts) but also spread the ball around to the TE (10 attempts) and RBs (7 attempts).   

·        Villanova recorded 2 sacks for 12 yards.   

·        Rutgers fumbled only once but recovered the ball.   

·        Villanova recorded two INTs.   

·        Villanova's defense committed only two penalties for 29 yards.   



·        Villanova will employ its base 4-3 alignment except for obvious passing situations.  4WR or 5WR formations won't necessarily induce Head Coach Andy Talley to use his 3-3 nickel package.   

·        Villanova will primarily employ a 2-deep (Cover 2) coverage package.  The CBs will play loose man-to-man underneath while the LBs will cover zones in the short middle.  The secondary will be vulnerable on the perimeter against "trips" formations because one CB covers a WR man-to-man, the OLB covers the curl zone, and safety provides deep help.  The DBs will be outnumbered 3-to-2 at the line of scrimmage.   

·        Villanova may deploy its 3-3 Cover 2 nickel scheme more frequently against multiple receiver formations.  This scheme experienced the most success against the Knights' offense.  Granted, that success was in obvious passing situations.  But Rutgers predominantly passed from its 4WR and 5WR formations.   

·        Villanova's interior defense is suspect because they lost the starting DTs and MLB from a defense that wasn't deep.  With Schiano's greater emphasis upon the game (compared to Terry Shea), Rutgers should get better rushing production between the tackles.   

·        Villanova blitzes frequently against both the run and pass.  Last season, their three starting LBs were the leaders in TFL.  Plus, OLB Jamison Young led the team in sacks.   Villanova is likely to blitz Rutgers more this season because the Knights' RBs are inexperienced and the QB is unproven and immobile.   

·        Villanova's lack of speed in the secondary will give their defense major problems.  The passing yardage allowed (242 yards per game) implies the safeties may be something.  The number of big pass plays that Rutgers completed two years ago would support that contention.    



·        Villanova appears to be vulnerable up the middle.  Offensive Coordinator Bill Cubit should hammer the Wildcats between the tackles.  If Rutgers can run successfully between the tackles, especially in multiple receiver formations, then the already weak Villanova secondary will be further compromised with run support responsibilities.   

·        Talley's heavy reliance upon the Cover 2 zone means Rutgers can get the Wildcat DBs outnumbered on the perimeter by using various trips formations – 3WR, 4WR, or 5 WR.  Bubble screens to the slot receiver should pick up 5 yards easily with the third DB – the safety – 10 yards off the line of scrimmage.   

·        The combination man-zone Cover 2 defense that Villanova plays leaves them vulnerable in the flats.  Using multiple receiver formations, Rutgers should run the outside WR deep to clear the CB out of the flat.  If the outside WR runs a post route, the safety is forced to choose between double-covering the deep threat or leaving the flat vulnerable.  The throw-back post route off a half rollout by the QB killed Villanova last game.  Since the OLB will be covering the curl zone, there will be a big hole in the flat.  QB Ryan Cubit should look for slot receivers on drag routes or deep wheel routes in the uncovered flat.  Or wait for the a backside receiver to clear the LBs on a crossing route.  

·        The lack of speed on the Villanova defense will create sizeable holes in their coverage.  Bill Cubit should target these gaps with seam and slant routes.  Rutgers's receivers can break nice gains if the Wildcats are slow closing these gaps.   


Coming Friday:  "Villanova Scouting Report – Offense."  I'll break down the Wildcat offense based upon observations from the 2000 Rutgers game.    

Coming Saturday:  "Keys to the Villanova Game."  Villanova has given Rutgers all it could handle in the first halves of the past two games.  What are the keys for a dominating Rutgers effort? 

Coming Soon:  "Ranking the Big East Offenses."  The first in a two-part series.  I've reassembled my crack panel of fans to evaluate the offensive components of every Big East team.  This article will break it down.   

Coming Soon:  "Big East Conference Predictions."  My crack panel will look at the Big East schedule and offer their predictions on each intra-conference game.   


What do you think about the Villanova defense?  How many points do you think Rutgers will score against them given Rutgers own recent offensive struggles?  What's the minimum number of points that will reflect a satisfactory offensive performance?  Please send any comments to 

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