UM returns to gridiron

By Eli Rosenswaike, Collegian Staff

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Michael Phillis/Collegian

The bye week came at the right time for the Massachusetts football team, but it may come one week too late for Villanova, with starting quarterback Antwon Young a question mark for this Saturday’s game at McGuirk Stadium.

Young, who torched William ‘ Mary last weekend in a 63-24 victory, sprained his left knee in the third quarter and his playing status is undetermined. The Minutemen (4-1, 2-0 Colonial Athletic Association) appear healthy at quarterback following a week of rest for Liam Coen, who also has a tender left knee.

“We’re going to prepare for Young, because we think they’ll do more with him, and less with whoever else plays,” UMass coach Don Brown said. “So we’ll be totally prepared for whatever else they’ll do.”

No. 4 UMass sees its first action since the 24-14 loss to Boston College on Sept. 29. The Minutemen used the bye week to integrate some of the younger players to the lineup, including wide receiver Victor Cruz and defensive backs Reshaude Goodwin and Spencer Ridenhour. Coen’s knee is stronger with the week off, and redshirt senior tight end Brad Listorti might see the field for the first time this season.

The 63 points allowed by William ‘ Mary to Villanova (4-2, 2-1 CAA) is the most it’s allowed in 87 years – when it lost 81-0 North Carolina A ‘ E in 1920. The Wildcats finished the contest with 233 rushing yards, six touchdown passes and 505 yards of total offense. Five different players caught a touchdown pass, three players threw a touchdown and the Wildcats converted 9-of-13 third down chances.

Despite leaving the game in the third quarter against the Tribe, Young compiled 254 yards of total offense with four touchdown passes and another on the ground. He has 14 touchdown passes and two touchdown runs in six games this season. Reserve signal-caller Chris Whitney could get the start if Young is unable to play. The only pass in his career went for 25-yard touchdown on Saturday.

“We have an injury situation now with our quarterback,” Villanova coach Andy Talley said on Monday during this week’s CAA teleconference. “I’m not sure where he is at this point. We’ll see where were going to be.

“I can’t quite figure it out,” Talley said later in the teleconference. “We’ve lost seven guys for the year, and all starters. It’s been really frustrating in that respect, because when you can’t play with your best kids, it’s tough enough in this league.”

Villanova’s defense has over come injuries well this season, ranking No. 5 of the 12 teams in the CAA in scoring defense. The Wildcats lead the conference in both turnovers forced (17; five more than any other team) and turnover margin (plus-10).

“There’s a reason they’re 4-2, and it’s improved play on both sides of the ball,” Brown said. “They’ve been very opportunistic. They’ve given their offense several short fields to operate. They start with the premise that they’re going to stop the run first and they go from there.”

Villanova hasn’t been as strong offensively, ranking eighth in scoring offense (28.7), but its taken advantage of both turnovers and red zone opportunities. Its red zone scoring percentage (94.4) is tops in the conference, with a 17-of-18 conversion rate.

The Wildcats have struggled some on the ground, with a 3.3 yard average per rushing attempt – a figure that ranks them near the bottom in the conference. They have six rushing touchdowns this season, and have allowed 11. Young’s versatility (250 rushing yards gained) helps balance their offense.

UMass has won three straight meetings between the schools, evening the all-time series record at 11-11. They met last year at Villanova Stadium, a 31-21 UMass victory in week three following the one-point loss to Navy.

Coen was 21-of-28, for 350 yards and two touchdowns in that matchup, battling back from an early 14-7 deficit in the second quarter. Villanova scored a touchdown just 41 seconds into that game on a 24-yard touchdown run.

Talley knows his team faces a big challenge once again this weekend.

“Everybody knows UMass,” he said. “[They are a] big, fast, strong, and terrific team. Brown’s team is always tough, hard-nosed, come at you, and takes no prisoners. We’ve never beaten UMass at UMass, ever. So it’s never been a friendly environment for Villanova.”

That challenge will likely be even bigger if Young is unable to go.

Eli Rosenswaike can be reached at [email protected]