I promise not to mention Appalachian State or Villanova's 1997 win over WVU as object lessons in how a team has to be ready to play each week. Those sorts of things are almost self-evident at this point. What I will mention is that in 13 tries against FBS teams since the FCS (formerly 1-AA) was formed, Villanova has never played a ranked FBS team. It does own wins over Rutgers (when the Scarlet Knights were barely better than an Atlantic10 team) and woeful Temple in double overtime, and it did play Maryland respectably a year ago. However, it has never faced a team as good as West Virginia during that timeframe.
That doesn't mean that WVU has to win by 40 in order to have played a good game, or accomplished its goals in week one. Other than getting the win, establishing timing and pace on offense, getting experience for the defensive secondary and establishing kick coverage and return teams are the biggest items on this week's agenda.
THE MATCHUP I WANT TO SEE
Mountaineer fans know that kicker Pat McAfee isn't afraid to stick his nose into the action on kickoff coverage. At 6-1 and at least 220 pounds, the senior kicker has made several impressive hits after booting the ball deep, and has save at least a couple of touchdowns for his team. His opposite number, Villanova's Joe Marcous, stands 6-4 and tips the scales at 210 pounds. That's a big pair of kickers. Wouldn't it be great to see them square off in an Oklahoma drill? Maybe we can arrange something for after the game.
One more note on McAfee -- he needs to record just five more tackles to tie former punter/kicker Todd James for most tackles as a punter or kicker with 11. Although you never want to see your kicker, as the last line of defense, have to make a tackle, it is a treat to watch WVU's resident personality tear down the field and blow up the ball carrier.
It has been 28 years since a Wildcat has returned a punt for a touchdown. The last Villanovan to turn the trick was David Martin, who scampered 75 yards against VMI on Oct. 25, 1980.
DROP AND RECOVER
Villanova dropped football after the 1980 season, and went four years without a team before reinstating the squad in 1985 under current head coach Andrew Talley. In that first year back, the Wildcats when 5-0 against Iona, Pace, Catholic, Fordham and the Navy junior varsity.
In spite of that early success, the Wildcats turned down an offer from the Big East for membership if it would upgrade its stadium and move to Division I. UConn did take advantage of that offer, and has built the foundation for a successful program in the league. Villanova, meanwhile, is very competitive in the Football Championship Subdivision, but might be regretting the decision to stay on that level.
While the Wildcats probably won't be intimidated by West Virginia's raucous crowd, they will set a school record when they take the field. The largest crowd that Villanova has ever played in front of on the road was at Air Force in 1999, when the Wildcats dropped a 37-13 decision in front of 50,409 fans. There will likely be 10,000 more in attendance for Saturday's contest.
Villanova did play in front of four larger crowds in the mid-1950s at home, when it packed in as many as 97,803 spectators for a game against Georgia at Philadelphia's Municipal Stadium.
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?
Just like West Virginia, the Wildcats have experience on the offensive line. All five starters from a year ago return. The group, consisting of senior center Michael Sheridan, senior Izzy Bauta and sophomore Ben Ijalana at tackle, and junior Brian Brannigan and sophomore Brant Clouser at the guard, also started all 11 games last year. Brannigan, Ijalana and Clouser have started every game of their careers.
ONE STAT OVER ALL
We have some fun with stats and trends here, pointing out some oddities and interesting anomalies that often don't have much impact on how a game plays out. (For example, WVU is a perfect 9-0 in white jerseys and blue pants, so why aren't they wearing that combo each week?) But there are also some serious numbers to consider, and this one is hard to beat. In its last 44 games in which it had fewer turnovers than its opponent, WVU is 43-1.
Can there be any clearer indicator of the importance of hanging on to the ball and stealing extra possessions from the opposition?
Sat 08/30/08 3:30 PM
Milan Puskar Stadium
Oklahoma W 48-24
FCS : 21
Del W 16-10
Last Meeting: 1977