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Villanova vs. Lafayette: In return to FCS play, Wildcats host Lafayette in home opener

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Villanova vs. Lafayette: In return to FCS play, Wildcats host Lafayette in home opener

No. 7 Villanova (1-1) vs. Lafayette (0-2)
Villanova Stadium
Saturday, 6 p.m.

Fresh off an impressive showing in a loss to city rival Temple, Villanova returns to FCS play and welcomes Lafayette for its home opener.

Here’s a closer look at the matchup:

Scouting Lafayette
Picked to finish last in the Patriot League after a 2-9 season last year, the Leopards have once again struggled out of the gate. They dropped a 31-12 decision to Monmouth in their opener before falling to Sacred Heart, 38-24, last week. The good news for Lafayette is that its freshman quarterback, Sean O’Malley, threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns in just his second career start. The Leopards are also led by a first-year coach in John Garrett, who was hired to replace longtime head man Frank Tavani, making this something of a rebuilding year for a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2009. But they do have some players Villanova will need to keep an eye on, including all-league linebacker Brandon Bryant and tight end Dylan Wadsworth.

Scouting Villanova
After opening its season with a 38-35 win over Lehigh, Villanova had a valiant effort vs. Temple last week, rallying to tie the game before losing on a late Owls field goal, 16-13. Quarterback Zach Bednarczyk threw for 382 passing yards in the game — the team’s highest single-game total since 2005 — with receivers Ryan Bell, Taurus Phillips and Changa Hodge as his top targets. Jeff Steeb (eight tackles) and the ’Nova defense also had a big performance, although the Wildcats’ rushing attack was mostly bottled up in the loss.

History
Paced by two defensive touchdowns, Villanova rolled to a 31-14 victory over Lafayette last year in the first matchup between the two programs since 1920. Lafayette won that 1920 clash, as it did in 1898, 1899, 1914 and 1920. Saturday’s game marks the first time Villanova has ever hosted Lafayette.

Storyline to watch
Villanova owns a 30-4 record against Patriot League opponents since 1985, and should have little trouble improving that mark Saturday. The biggest thing to watch is how the players handle the emotions of a home opener and how well they can control the game on the ground, led by running backs Matt Gudzak and Aaron Forbes, against an overmatched opponent.

What’s at stake?
Saturday marks the final regular season non-conference game for Villanova, which will then play eight straight CAA contests. A loss would certainly be detrimental for their FCS playoff hopes but the most important part of the Wildcats’ schedule begins next week.

Prediction
It would be a surprise if this one was close.

Villanova 49, Lafayette 10.

Villanova at Temple: The return of the Mayor's Cup

Villanova at Temple: The return of the Mayor's Cup

FCS No. 6 Villanova (1-0, 0-0 CAA) at Temple (0-1, 0-0 AAC)
Lincoln Financial Field
Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ESPN3

The rivalry between Temple and Villanova moves from the hardwood back outside to the gridiron on Saturday afternoon as the Owls and the Wildcats will play for the Mayor’s Cup for the first time in five seasons.

Temple heads into the matchup reeling after a thorough 49-16 defeat at Notre Dame last week in new head coach Geoff Collins’ debut, a game that saw the Owls get handled in every facet by the Fighting Irish.

Villanova, now No. 6 in the FCS rankings, comes into the contest at 1-0 after a hard-fought 38-35 victory at Lehigh in the first game of the post-Andy Talley era.

To get you ready for Saturday’s matchup, CSNPhilly.com reporter Greg Paone and CSNPhilly.com contributor Dave Zeitlin break down all you need to know about the Owls and the Wildcats.

Scouting Temple
The Owls still have plenty of questions after last week’s shellacking at Notre Dame, but one huge one was answered in the form of a starting QB as redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi emerged victorious from the summer’s four-horse race for the starting crown. Marchi, who entered the game with only two career completions on six attempts, had some early jitters but settled in as he went 19 for 35 with two TD passes. He’ll look to keep the confidence growing and take another step forward against the Wildcats. Sophomore WR Isaiah Wright is a player to keep an eye on when the Owls’ offense is on the field. A versatile weapon who can line up all over the field, he made an impact last week when the ball was in his hands with four grabs for a team-high 78 yards. Junior tailback Ryquell Armstead toted the rock 19 times for 68 yards. Look for the Owls to feed him and attempt to get him more involved on Saturday.

To call Temple’s rushing defense last week porous would be doing it an injustice. The Owls were gashed for 422 yards on the ground by the Irish, who had three players with over 100 yards on the ground. Tailback Josh Adams had a game-high 161 yards, while fellow RB Dexter Williams had 124 yards and QB Brandon Wimbush had 106 yards of his own. The Irish had five rushing TDs on the day. Temple held Notre Dame’s passing attack in check, though, as the Irish had only 184 yards and a single score through the air. Redshirt junior safety Delvon Randall led the way with 11 total tackles for the Owls. - Paone

Scouting Villanova
As always, the Wildcats will be a power in the Colonial Athletic Association, arguably the best conference in the FCS, as well as on the national FCS scene. The Wildcats ascended to the No. 6 ranking after opening their season with a 38-35 win over Lehigh in Mark Ferrante’s first game as head coach. Ferrante, a longtime Villanova assistant, took over for Talley, who retired after 32 years on the job.

In the win, Villanova was led by quarterback Zach Bednarczyk, who threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as he looks to come into his own in his third year starting under center. Senior running back Matt Gudzak, who shares carries with Aaron Forbes, ran for a career-high 142 yards and two touchdowns, while tight end Ryan Bell and big-play receiver Taurus Phillips combined for 175 receiving yards. Defensively, Villanova is paced by preseason All-American safety Rob Rolle and senior linebacker Ed Shockley, the latter of whom had a career-high 14 tackles (13 solo) in the opener. - Zeitlin

History
The Wildcats hold a 16-15-2 all-time advantage over the Owls in a series that dates back to 1928.

Temple has won the last three meetings, the most recent of which was a 41-10 decision on Aug. 31, 2012. In those last three meetings, the Owls have outscored the ‘Cats by a 114-41 margin.

Villanova’s last victory came in 2009 when the ‘Cats stunned the Owls, 27-24. The Wildcats are 3-18 all time against FCS foes and two of those three wins have come at the expense of the Owls (2003, 2009).

Storylines to watch
Temple: If one’s a coincidence, is two a trend with the rushing defense?

As noted above, the Owls were absolutely gashed by the Fighting Irish last week to the tune of 422 rushing yards, the most Temple has given up to a non-option team in the last nine years. Not pretty at all, obviously, but Notre Dame is a different animal that features some of the best talent in the nation.

Still, defensive coordinator Taver Johnson’s group needs to rebound against the Wildcats before other teams start to get the book on the Owls’ weaknesses. Especially before AAC play begins in two weeks with a trip to conference darling South Florida.

But just because Villanova is an FCS squad doesn’t mean that will be an easy task for Temple as the Wildcats feature a formidable duo at tailback in Gudzak and Forbes. - Paone

Villanova: Defensive litmus test

After surrendering five touchdowns vs. Lehigh, it’s clear the ’Cats have some work to do to try to match the level of their FCS-leading defense from a year ago. But can they pick up the pace against an FBS opponent that has the kind of offensive weapons they’re not used to seeing? One interesting thing to watch will be to see if their two defensive stars and captains — Shockley and Rolle — can show they belong. Both are from South Jersey and know a lot of guys on Temple, and Rolle in particular is motivated by the Owls passing on him during the recruiting process (see story). - Zeitlin

What’s at stake?
Temple: Pressure of the dreaded 0-2 hole

The last thing Collins and the Owls need as they gear up for conference play in a couple weeks is the added pressure that comes with falling in an 0-2 hole. If they lose Saturday to Villanova the questions will come in a fast and furious manner. That can be an issue for a young team and its new head coach, both of which are trying to smooth out the bumps that come with a new starting QB and replacing seven starters on defense. It’s way too early to call this a “must-win” for Temple, but it will be a long week at 10th and Diamond Streets if the Owls drop this one. - Paone

Villanova: FBS spotlight

A loss would do little to damage the Wildcats’ playoff hopes, but a win over the Owls on Saturday afternoon may give them the kind of national attention they don’t usually get at the FCS level. - Zeitlin

Predictions
Paone: Villanova is very good team and the Owls will have egg on their faces if they think any differently just because the ‘Cats play at the FCS level. But a focused Temple team comes to the Linc on Saturday with just too much firepower in hand for Villanova to handle.

Temple 31, Villanova 20

Zeitlin: Villanova may be able to keep it close as it has vs. FCS programs in the past. But, in the end, the talent and depth differences will be too much to overcome.

Temple 35, Villanova 24

Villanova to host Penn at Jake Nevin Field House

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Villanova to host Penn at Jake Nevin Field House

Villanova men's basketball is returning to the Jake Nevin Field House for the first time in 31 years.

Villanova on Friday announced that their Nov. 29 matchup against Big 5 foe Penn will be played at the Jake Nevin Field House, where they haven't played in since Jan. 4, 1986.

“The tradition of Villanova basketball is one of our program’s greatest strengths,” head coach Jay Wright said. “Many of the players and coaches who built the foundation upon which we stand today called the Field House home. By returning to the Jake for one night, we hope to give today’s Nova Nation a great appreciation for our history."

The Jake Nevin Field House, originally called the Villanova Field House, opened in 1931 and served as the Wildcats' home court until the Pavilion opened in early 1986. The facility was renamed in 1985 after legendary Villanova athletic trainer Jake Nevin.

Some of the school's most prominent teams called the Jake Nevin Field House home, including the 1985 NCAA Championship team coached by the late Rollie Massimino.

As Villanova's current on-campus home court, the Finneran Pavilion, undergoes renovations, the Wells Fargo Center will act as the Wildcats' primary home court for the 2017-18 season.

“We were eager to bring a regular season home game to campus for our students and this presented us an opportunity to do so," Villanova Director of Athletics Mark Jackson said. "The Big 5 and Jake Nevin Field House are a significant part of our basketball heritage and we can’t wait to celebrate that legacy by turning back the clock for one night.”   

The Wildcats are also slated to host Lafayette at Allentown's PPL Center on Nov. 17.

Villanova's full 2017-18 regular season schedule is expected to be released within the next 10 days.