The Sports Network
By Brett Kahn, FCS Assistant Editor
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 11th, 8 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Villanova Stadium (12,000) -- Villanova, Pennsylvania. Surface: Artificial Turf. Television: ESPN 2. Announcers: Eric Collins, Brock Huard. Home Record: William & Mary 6-0; Villanova 7-0. Away Record: William & Mary 5-2; Villanova 5-1. Series Record: William & Mary (14-12-1). Last Meeting: October 3, 2009 (Villanova, 28-17 at Villanova). Series Streak: Villanova has won the last five meetings. Conference: William & Mary - Colonial Athletic Association; Villanova - Colonial Athletic Association. Sports Network Ranking: William & Mary (6); Villanova (2). Nicknames: William & Mary Tribe; Villanova Wildcats. Coaches: William & Mary - Jimmye Laycock (200-140-2); Villanova - Andy Talley (205-120-2, overall; 177-111-1 at Villanova). Playoff Record: William & Mary (6-7); Villanova (6-7).
GAME NOTES: Two Colonial Athletic Association teams, William & Mary and Villanova, square off in a rematch from the regular season in the semifinal round of the 2009 FCS playoffs, with an eye on their first trip to the national championship game.
Villanova earned a win in the regular season contest, 28-17, at Villanova Stadium. The Wildcats scored on their first play from scrimmage on a reverse pass from wildcat formation, with Chris Whitney hitting Brandyn Harvey on the 57-yard strike.
The Wildcats scored consistently in the red zone, while the Tribe was stifled by Villanova's red zone defense and was forced into two turnovers.
This is the Wildcats' second semifinal appearance. In 2002, Villanova fell to McNeese State, 39-28 in a game marked by a pair of controversial officiating calls.
The Tribe are making their second semifinal appearance. William & Mary hosted one of the 2004 semifinals, but fell to James Madison, 48-34.
The No. 2-seeded Wildcats dominated every facet of the game in a 46-7 snowy quarterfinal rout against New Hampshire last week. UNH had handed Villanova its only loss of the regular season, 28-24 at New Hampshire back in October.
Villanova's offense has revolved around the ground game lately, as the unit racked up a blistering 387 yards in total offense, with 343 on the ground. The fourth-ranked rushing attack has compiled at least 275 yards rushing in four straight games.
Running back Angelo Babbaro (385 yards rushing, six TDs) led the effort against UNH with 148 yards rushing and two scores, both career highs. Aaron Ball (708 yards rushing, six TDs) is another solid threat at running back.
All-CAA quarterback Chris Whitney (2,544 yards of total offense, 22 TDs, three interceptions) passed just five times against UNH in the terrible weather conditions, but ran for 58 yards and a score. Whitney leads the Wildcats in rushing (848 yards rushing, five TDs).
CAA offensive player of the year Matt Szczur (1,836 combined yards, 14 TDs) is the most versatile player on Villanova's multitalented offense. The junior also ranks fourth nationally in kickoff returns (27.7 average, 1 TD).
Harvey (50 catches, 12.6 average, five TDs) leads the Wildcats' receiving corps.
William & Mary took down No. 1-ranked Southern Illinois, 24-3 to advance to the semifinals. The solid offense outgained the Salukis 373 yards to 187, with All-CAA running back Jonathan Grimes (1,235 yards rushing, nine TDs) picking up 133 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Grimes has rushed for at least 130 yards in two straight games and four times this season. He ranks 17th nationally in rushing.
All-CAA quarterback R.J. Archer (2,779 yards of total offense, 20 TDs, eight interceptions) has played well in his first season as the Tribe's starter and has complemented the rushing attack nicely with his consistent passing ability.
Wide receiver D.J. McAulay (50 catches, 11.4 average, three TDs) and tight end Rob Varno (47 catches, 9.6 average, three TDs) provide some solid targets for Archer. McAulay was particularly effective against SIU with several key catches to keep drives alive.
William & Mary's rushing defense has been the most significant reason for the team's 2009 success. The unit ranks first in FCS, holding opponents to just 53 yards per game. In fact, they held Walter Payton Award finalist Deji Karim to just 27 yards on 12 carries. Buck Buchanan Award nominee Adrian Tracy (72 tackles, 11 sacks) paces the defensive line.
The Tribe's second ranked total and scoring defense also features defensive tackle Sean Lissemore (64 tackles, 13 tackles for loss) and cornerback B.W. Webb (22 tackles, eight interceptions, two touchdowns).
On paper, Villanova seems to be the most consistent team in the playoffs right now and has a few more weapons offensively to challenge the Tribe.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Villanova 24, William & Mary 14.
12/08 18:46:14 ET