'Nova faces another challenge at Fordham following FBS loss
(STATS) - No Colonial Athletic Association team is ranked higher than Villanova, and coach Andy Talley seems to think it's too high.
An 0-2 start would prove him right.
That's a very real possibility with Talley's team going on the road Saturday to face Fordham, another FCS-ranked team which knocked off an FBS opponent last week while the Wildcats came up short against one.
"I'm not sure if we are as good as people predicted," Talley said. "We are still somewhat of a work in progress. I think we are coming along, and we are being tested early."
Villanova dropped two spots to sixth in the latest STATS FCS poll after losing 20-15 at Connecticut. The Huskies were coming off a 2-10 season and picked to finish last in the American Athletic Conference.
Reigning FCS offensive player of the year John Robertson threw for one touchdown and ran for another but couldn't get anything going consistently. He rushed for 66 yards on 18 attempts and was held to 153 yards passing, completing 17 of 32 attempts, as the Wildcats totaled 303 yards.
Fordham's offense, on the other hand, was spectacular in a season-opening 37-35 road victory over Army West Point. Chase Edmonds, the FCS freshman of the year in 2014, rushed for 126 yards on 19 carries and scored his third touchdown with 12:04 to play to put the Rams ahead for good. Kevin Anderson, a Marshall transfer making his first collegiate start, threw for 322 yards.
"We played as a family, and we were just so confident," Anderson said. "The whole time we just fought together as a team and it was just a family victory."
The Rams jumped four spots in the STATS poll to No. 16, and the defending Patriot League champions will climb higher if they avenge their ugliest loss from last year.
Villanova, meanwhile, is hoping for a repeat of last season when it opened with a close loss to an FBS opponent - 27-26 in double-overtime at Syracuse - but came back the next week to beat the Rams 50-6 behind Robertson's three touchdown passes.
"When we played them last year, we held them to minus yardage. I don't think that's going to happen," Talley said. "We are just hoping we can slow (Edmonds) down a little bit."
Edmonds, the STATS co-offensive player of the week, had minus-5 yards on nine carries against the Wildcats (he still ran for 1,964 yards in 2014), but that came at Villanova. The Rams have won 14 consecutive home games, and their seven last season were all decided by at least 22 points.
Fans at Jack Coffey Field should be particularly fired up for a home opener which follows such a big victory.
"I'm anticipating that we are going to have a very difficult assignment, but we are coming off a loss just like last year against Syracuse," Talley said. "Our players are very upset, and they really want to get back in and get it going."
A look at all the Week 2 games in the Colonial Athletic Association (all times ET):
This is the only conference game in the season's first two weeks, and both programs are likely relieved to be jumping in early after being annihilated by FBS teams. Rhode Island was held to 64 yards in a 47-0 loss at Syracuse, showing little sign of improvement after scoring the CAA's fewest points and allowing the most in a 1-11 season. Albany fell 51-14 at Buffalo, allowing 255 yards on the ground, but should handle a Rams team which has limited tailback talent and an inexperienced quarterback in Paul Mroz. The Great Danes could have a breakout player on offense in Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who took CAA rookie of the week honors after rushing for 74 yards and a TD on 11 carries. Albany won last year's meeting 37-20 in Rhode Island. The Rams have lost 13 straight on the road.
Though expected to win again - facing a team picked to finish fifth in the seven-team Patriot League - the 13th-ranked Dukes might not dominate as they did in last week's 56-7 rout of Morehead State. Lehigh led James Madison in the fourth quarter last year before losing 31-28 in a game which featured 1,110 total yards, and the Mountain Hawks still appear potent offensively after gaining 445 yards in a win at Central Connecticut State. Though Dukes All-American Vad Lee is the more well-known quarterback - he's the CAA offensive player of the week after throwing for 297 yards and rushing for 105 while totaling three TDs - Lehigh has a big-time dual threat, too. Nick Shafnisky had a combined 346 yards in Week 1 and 335 last year against the Dukes. Lee threw for 284 and two TDs in that win.
Both teams opened with blowout losses to FBS foes, but the Wildcats were expected to put up a better fight. The defending CAA champions fell three spots to 12th in the STATS poll after losing 43-13 at San Jose State, a team which went 3-9 in 2014 and was not expected to be much better this year. Senior Sean Goldrich had possibly the worst performance of his career, going 10 of 22 for 60 yards without a touchdown. Colgate's Jake Melville, meanwhile, also struggled with 127 yards passing and 29 rushing on 11 attempts as the Raiders fell 48-10 at Navy. New Hampshire leads the series 5-1 and won 53-23 in the last meeting in 2013.
It appears Delaware coach Dave Brock is scrapping the platoon he tried at quarterback in last week's 20-14 home loss to Jacksonville, though it's unclear if Blake Rankin or Joe Walker will start after combining for 112 yards through the air. The Blue Hens have now dropped four of their last six home games and are looking to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2001. These former Middle Atlantic Conference rivals haven't met since Delaware's win in the 2004 FCS playoffs pushed its lead in the all-time series to 17-7.
Villanova at Fordham, 6 p.m.
The Wildcats could take extra inspiration from starting offensive tackle Jake Prus, who is missing this game and the next two after donating his bone marrow to a 65-year-old man Thursday. Talley has been a big part of the bone marrow donor program since 1992 and gets all of his players involved, though none had been a match since 2009. Talley is 26-4 against Patriot League foes since taking over the Wildcats, including 11-1 against Fordham. Both teams were also ranked for last year's matchup.
These former South Atlantic Conference rivals are meeting for the first time since 2002, and Elon leads the all-time series 20-9. The Phoenix gave a true freshman the start at quarterback last week for the first time since 2007, but it's unclear if Daniel Thompson will get another one after going 6 of 13 for 44 yards in a 41-3 loss at Wake Forest. He split time with redshirt freshman Connor Christiansen, who wasn't much better through the air (9 of 15 for 56 yards) but provides more of a threat on the ground (four carries, 22 yards).
Stony Brook vs. Central Connecticut State, 6 p.m.
Not even playing a true game last week left Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore "pleased with our performance both physically and mentally." Actually, his team did take the field at Toledo and held its own with the Mid-American Conference favorites, trailing 16-7 at halftime before the game was called due to bad weather - the stats didn't count. It was a promising performance for a Seawolves team which returns 15 starters. The Blue Devils, who opened with a 20-14 loss at Lehigh, are 0-6 all-time at Stony Brook.
The Tigers may have had the most impressive performance of any CAA squad in Week 1 despite losing. They fell 28-20 on the road to FBS foe East Carolina after being stopped inside the Pirates' 20-yard line on their final drive. Reigning CAA rushing champion Darius Victor opened with 137 yards on 28 carries. Stopping the run may be of greater concern to Towson after Saint Francis' Khairi Dickson, the FCS' fifth-leading rusher in 2014, and Marcus Bagley both topped 100 yards in last week's 48-20 win over Georgetown. Towson, which has a 3-0 lead in this all-time series, had won nine straight home openers before losing last year's to Central Connecticut State.
The 22nd-ranked Spiders played Maryland tough for a half or so last week, trailing by eight at the break, but lost 50-21 in College Park as they were shredded for 341 rushing yards. The opponent's passing game is what has to concern coach Danny Rocco this week because Hampton's David Watford, a former starter for Virginia before transferring, threw for 345 yards and five TDs in his victorious Pirates debut. Richmond beat Hampton 42-17 last year behind Jacobi Green's 125 rushing yards and two touchdowns.