Villanova Scouting Report - Part 3

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



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 two articles of a three-part scouting report evaluated the Villanova special teams and defense.  This third article evaluates the Villanova offense.  I've charted the Villanova 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 Ward Fly Inc

1/10 White Wheel Inc

1/10 White Out-n-Up Inc


2/10 Sango Skinny Post Inc

3/16 Augustin Seam 27 yds

1/10 Ward Out-n-Up Inc


3/10 Sango Out-n-Up Inc

3/10 Ward Sideline 21 yds


3/18 Sango Seam INT


1/8 Sango Hitch Inc

1/10 Cross Scramble Inc

1/10 Ward Sideline Inc


2/8 Brown Slant 7 yds

2/8 Augustin Drag 8 yd TD

2/8 Ward Sideline Inc

2/10 Sango Hitch Inc


3/5 Westbrook Out 4 yds

1/10 Westbrook Slant 10 yd TD

1/10 Sango Crossing 25 yds

1/10 Westbrook Crossing 5 yds

1/10 Westbrook Crossing 27 yds


2/5 White Hitch 5 yds FUMBLE


2/10 Augustin Crossing Inc


2/12 Augustin Seam Inc


3/7 White Crossing Inc


4/3 Westbrook (Ward) Slant 5 yds

1/10 Sango Hitch 5 yds

1/10 Westbrook Scramble 14 yds

1/10 Sango Curl 11 yds


2/2 Ward Hitch 2 yd TD

2/3 Westbrook Seam Inc


2/9 Westbrook Slant 18 yds

2/10 Ward Slant Inc


3/5 Ward Sideline 11 yds


3/10 Ward Sideline 10 yds

3/10 Ward Hitch 7 yds

1/10 Westbrook Outside 8 yds

1/10 Sango Inside Screen 6 yds

1/10 Augustin Drag (-2) yds


1/15 Sango Inside Screen 8 yds


2/4 Westbrook Off-Tackle 13 yds


2/7 Sango Reverse No Gain

2/10 Augustin Screen 9 yds

1/10 Westbrook Inside No Gain

1/10 Westbrook Inside No Gain

1/10 Westbrook Inside 7 yds


2/5 Westbrook Inside (-2) yds


2/10 Westbrook Draw No Gain

2/10 Westbrook Inside 5 yds

2/10 Westbrook Inside 5 yds


3/1 Westbrook Inside 2 yds

3/1 Augustin Inside (-1) yd

3/2 Westbrook Inside (-2) yds

3/3 Gordon Sacked (-6) yds


3/6 Gordon Sacked (-6) yds

3/7 Augustin Dump 10 yds

3/8 Augustin Inside 7 yds

3/10 Augustin Screen 15 yds

ILL BLOCK (-8 yds)


3/12 Gordon Sacked (-2) yds


4/1 Westbrook Inside 4 yds

1/10 Westbrook Bubble Screen 6 yds

1/10 Westbrook Pitch 2 yds

1/10 Westbrook Bubble Screen 5 yds

1/10 Sango Bubble Screen 7 yds

1/10 Sango Inside Screen 2 yds


2/2 Sango Bubble Screen 19 yds

2/3 Gordon Scramble 1 yd


2/10 Westbrook Screen 4 yds


2/15 Gordon Sacked (-1) yd


4/1 Westbrook Pitch 4 yds

Note:  Blue identifies 3WR formations.   Red identifies 4WR formations.  Bold black identifies pro set formations.  Other plays reflect 5WR formations.  Underlined plays identify the Rutgers defense in a 3-4 Cover 1 scheme.  Notice that Villanova attacked the entire field with both the run and the pass from their 3WR formations but exclusively threw short from the 4WR and 5WR formations.  Also notice that the screen passes from the 3WR formations effectively gave the Wildcats a balance between run and pass. 



Villanova's offense will not be the juggernaut it was last season.  The Wildcat offense ranked #48 of 123 teams in Division I-AA rushing offense and #11 in passing offense.  Villanova averaged 175 yards rushing and 277 yards passing per game.  The Wildcats lost Walter Payton Award winner TB Brian Westbrook and leading receiver WR Murle Sango, plus three starters off the offensive line.  Veteran QB Brett Gordon returns to lead the offense.  Villanova's offense very closely resembles that of Rutgers but is much more proficient.  Head Coach Andy Talley relies heavily upon multiple receiver formations.  Villanova is primarily a passing team that will spread the defense and force it to defend the entire field.   



·        Rutgers employed a 3-4 scheme as its base defense (70%).  The Scarlet Knights used a 3-3 nickel package in long yardage situations (30%).  Rutgers played a mix of Cover 1 zone (60%) and Cover 2 zone (40%) in the secondary.   

·        Rutgers choked Villanova's inside running game, yielding only 25 yards on 12 carries (2.1 yards per carry).  Rutgers twice threw Villanova for losses on 3rd-and-very-short.  

·        Rutgers struggled against Villanova's outside running game.  Villanova gained 27 yards on 5 designed running plays (5.4 yards per carry) and 2 first downs.  I don't know Talley didn't probe the perimeter of the Rutgers defense more frequently.   

·        The Rutgers pass defense bent but didn't break.  Rutgers put Villanova into long yardage (> 5 yards) situations after 16 of 25 first down plays.  The Wildcats threw on 12 of those 16 2nd-and-long situations but converted only two first downs.  Villanova converted 5 of 23 second down attempts overall (including 2nd-and-short) and faced 3rd-and-long situations only 11 times.  The Wildcats passed the ball 10 of those 11 times and converted four.  Villanova converted only 6 of 17 3rd-down attempts overall (including 3rd-and-short).   

·        The Rutgers' Cover 1 was not beaten deep.  Villanova threw 3 of its 9 deep passes against the Cover 1, completing none and having one intercepted.  For the game, the Cover 1 yielded 20 completions on 27 designed passes for 189 yards (including 1 yard gained on a scramble), 6 first downs, one TD, and one INT.  Plays against this coverage in the base 3-4 scheme are underlined in the play chart. 

·        The Rutgers' Cover 2 was beaten deep only once.  Villanova completed 2 of its 6 attempted deep passes against the Cover 2 for 48 yards.  The Knights' Cover 2 yielded 9 completions on 24 designed passes for 77 yards (including 8 yards lost on an illegal block penalty and 15 yards lost on four sacks), 6 first downs, and a TD.  

·        Rutgers primarily employed its 3-3 nickel package in 3rd-and-long situations (6 plays) or against Villanova's 2-minute offense (16 plays).  The nickel defense yielded 19 yards rushing and one first down on 3 carries plus 10 completions on 19 designed passes for 99 yards (including 8 yards lost on an illegal block penalty and 9 yards lost on three sacks) and 8 first downs.           



·        Villanova displayed a broad variety of formations (11 different formations ranging from 2TE to 5WR), using variations of the pro-set (20%), 3WR (50%), 4WR (20%), and 5 WR (10%).   

·        Villanova primarily passed from the 3WR formations (10 designed runs and 25 designed passes).  However, the Wildcats essentially used bubble screens and inside WR screens as outside running plays.  These plays effectively give the Wildcats a balance between pass and run.  Villanova primarily used the 3WR sets in first down situations (15 of 36 3WR plays).  On first downs, the Wildcats deployed the 3WR sets most frequently (15 of 26 first down plays).  Of these 15 first down plays, the Wildcats gained 17 yards on 4 designed runs while completing 7 of 11 designed passes for 73 yards and 3 first downs.  On 3rd-down-and-long situations, the Wildcats deployed the 3WR sets most frequently (9 of 12 3rd-down-and-long plays).  Of these 9 plays, the Wildcats completed 3 of 9 designed passes for 25 yards (including 8 yards lost on an illegal block penalty and 8 yards lost on 2 sacks), 3 first downs, and in INT.  For the game, Villanova gained 166 yards on 36 plays from the 3WR formations.  Plays in these formations are highlighted in blue on the play chart.  

·        Villanova used the 4WR formation without regard to down or distance.  The Wildcats passed almost exclusively from the 4WR formations (11 of 12 4WR plays).  Villanova gained 7 yards on the only designed run while completing 6 of 11 designed passes for only 17 yards (including 6 yards lost on a sack), one first down, and one FUMBLE.  Plays in these formations are highlighted in red on the play chart.   

·        Villanova passed entirely from the 5WR formations (8 plays).  The Wildcats completed 7 of 8 designed passes for 96 yards, 3 first downs, and 2 TDs.  Most of the damage was done in the fourth quarter with Rutgers protecting a lead of at least 14 points.  Nonetheless, I don't know why Talley didn't use this formation more frequently and earlier.  Plays in these formations are the ones not highlighted on the play chart.  

·        Villanova used both I and split backs formations in their pro sets.  The Wildcats primarily ran out of the pro I formations (5 of 8 plays) and threw exclusively from the pro split backs formations (4 plays).  Of these 8 pro I plays, 5 were designed runs gaining only 9 yards and one first down plus 2 of 3 designed passes were completed for 14 yards (including 1 gained on a scramble).  Of the 4 pro split backs passes, 2 were completed for 18 yards and one first down.  For the game, the Wildcats gained 41 yards on 12 plays from the pro sets.  Plays in these formations are highlighted in bold black on the play chart. 

·        Villanova relied primarily upon its short passing game to move the ball.  The Wildcats gained 10 yards or less on 22 of their 30 receptions.  An additional 5 short passes were turned into longer gains with runs after the catch.    

·        Villanova stretched the field vertically.  The Wildcats attempted 9 deep passes but completed only 2 for 48 yards and 2 first downs.  Targeted routes included 3 out-n-up patterns and 2 seam routes.   

·        Villanova primarily attacked the short passing area horizontally.  The Wildcats completed 17 of 28 short passes for 174 yards, 9 first downs, and 3 TDs.  Comeback  routes constituted 11 of 28 attempted short passes.  Slant/seam routes accounted for 7 pass attempts and crossing routes five.   

·        Villanova used screen passes to attack the perimeter of the Rutgers defense.  The Wildcats completed 11 of 12 screen passes for 66 yards and 2 first downs.  Four of these screen passes were bubble screens to the WRs and two more were inside WR screens.   

·        Villanova's FBs are versatile.  Though primarily deployed as blockers, the FBs will touch the football.  They gained 6 yards on only 2 rushing attempts.  Gordon threw 9 passes to his FBs and completed 5 for 44 yards (including 8 yards lost on an illegal block penalty), 2 first downs, and a TD.  Targeted routes included crossing routes, seam patterns, drag routes, and screens.      



·        Villanova gained 52 yards on 17 designed runs.  The longest gain was 13-yard run off-tackle.   

·        Villanova completed 30 of 52 designed passes for 268 yards (including one yard gained on a scramble, 8 yards lost on an illegal block penalty and 15 yards lost on four sacks), 3 TDs, one INT, and one FUMBLE.  Villanova spread the throws around to the WRs (29 attempts) and RBs (20 attempts).  The TE was not a factor in the Wildcat offense.   

·        Villanova's OL yielded 4 sacks for minus 15 yards.   

·        Villanova's offense committed 5 of the 10 Wildcat penalties for 28 yards, consisting of one illegal procedure, three delays of game, and one illegal block.   



·        Villanova will come off the bus throwing the football.  The Wildcats had a 3:1 pass-to-run ratio two years ago with a legitimate NFL prospect at TB.  With Westbrook departed, don't expect the ratio to move towards a more balanced division.   

·        Villanova will employ its "3WR" formations as its base offense (anywhere on the field, in any situation).  The formation gives the Wildcats versatility.  They will pass out of it twice as often as they run.  They will use bubble screens and inside WR screens as surrogates for outside runs and thus give this formation balance.  Villanova will also attack the entire field with this formation – deep passes, short passes, passes behind the line of scrimmage, and runs.   

·        Villanova will almost always pass from its 4WR, 5WR, and pro split backs formations.  And they will throw almost exclusively underneath.   

·        Villanova will primarily run from the I formation.   

·        No longer able to rely upon Westbrook and Sango, Gordon will spread the ball around more evenly.  Talley will also involve the TE in the offense.   

·        Villanova spots their FB very effectively, similar to Virginia Tech.  With Westbrook departed, expect the FB to get more touches on inside runs plus seam, crossing, drag, and screen routes.   

·        Villanova will take the easy yardage available in the flats on bubble screens if the Rutgers secondary gives too large a cushion.  The Wildcats run the bubble screen the slot side of a 3WR formation or the trips side of a 3WR, 4WR, or 5WR formation. The outside WR(s) block the DBs covering them.  The slot WR flares towards the sideline.  If the OLB or DB covering the slot WR loses the race to the sideline or whiffs the open field tackle, the slot WR will get a big gain.  This route kills slower teams because their OLBs and DBs can't make the open field tackle.   

·        Villanova use the inside WR screen against a one-deep zone (Cover 1) from the 3WR formation.  The slot WR will clear out deep.  The FB will fire out of the backfield as if on a seam and then will seal the OLB outside.  The C and play side OG will peel outside.  The play side OT will cut the DE.  The SE will flare inside, catch the pass behind the line of scrimmage, and then run against the grain behind the blocks of the C and OG, who are blocking the LBs.   

·        Poor clock management by rookie QB Brett Gordon cost Villanova 15 yards on 3 delay of game penalties plus a timeout burned to prevent a fourth delay of game.  Don't expect more of the same from the now-experienced Gordon.   

·        Villanova's special teams were twice guilty of costly 12-men penalties, one of which rejuvenated an eventual Rutgers TD drive.  Andy Talley is a widely respected coach.  Don't expect to see his special teams making such boneheaded mistakes again.             



·        Andy Talley will be breaking in three new starters on the OLine.  Plus a new TB.  Schiano should throw a variety of blitz packages at Villanova (including fake blitzes). The blitzes should be mixed up and disguised so that the wily Gordon can't easily recognize and exploit them.   

·        Villanova has only two proven receivers in WR Shaz Brown and WR Brian White.  When not blitzing, Rutgers should bracket them in a 2-deep zone and force the other Wildcat receivers to make plays.  The supporting cast couldn't two years ago.   

·        With a new TB behind an inexperienced OLine, pass-happy Villanova will not be a threat to run the football.  That isn't their culture.  Schiano should open the game in a nickel defense and play his safeties aggressively.  Villanova gave up 3 sacks against the nickel blitzes.  More of the same in the order of the day.   


 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 offense?  How many points do you think the Rutgers will allow them?  What's the maximum number of points that will reflect a satisfactory defensive performance?  Please send any comments to 

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