Before I go into anything about the actual game, remember something: it’s just a game.
No matter what happens this season, it is truly an honor to be a fan of James Conner. I had a chance to talk to him after practice and a few games during my wannabe journalist time and it’ll be one of those things I talk about for the rest of my life. I’ve been choked up following his battle numerous times and his first touchdown was a special moment and vintage James Conner. His stiff arm started at the 6 and continued several yards into the end zone. It was a beautiful symbolism to see him attack a defender with such intensity.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post.
I’ll start with the easy part: defense and special teams. Some quick stats
Yards allowed: 172
Points Allowed: 0
Points scored: 7
Nova Trips to the red zone: 0
Not only did Villanova fail to score, the Wildcats offense barely even threatened to score. Villanova moved the ball at times against the defense, but unless you were expecting zero first downs, five turnovers, and a complete destruction of the suburbs of northwest Philadelphia, the defense and special teams did a phenomenal job. There were some mistakes, but nothing practice and tape sessions can’t fix.
Tyrique Jarrett was a monster in the middle, clogging up running lanes like nobody’s business. Jordan Whitehead had another quiet game full of little plays that don’t show up on the highlight reel but make a huge impact. Ejuan Price and Avonte Maddox picked up where they left off last season. The injuries to Dewayne Hendrix and Eli Zeise are concerning (both were in boots on the sidelines) so news on that will come in the next few days.
Overall, an A game from the defense. The challenge wasn’t high, but they delivered. Special teams, minus Chris Blewitt, were fine. Blewitt had an off game, but he’ll recover.
Offensively, there are some huge question marks. The biggest issue was offensive line play. This is the least expected concern given the depth and experience there. There were botched snaps, missed blocks, and next to no push in the run game. A dominant performance from the OL was expected and they did not deliver. Every miscue and short drive on offense had poor OL play to blame. An optimistic approach is the best bet here though. A unit with that much skill and experience doesn’t degrade dramatically over an offseason. Players have bad games. Units have bad games. Wait a few games more to see if the problems persist. I bet they won’t.
Nate Peterman was up and down and struggled with the deep ball primarily. He seemed to struggle early without the given “throw the ball to Boyd” decision. As time went on, he fared much better. Scott Orndoff was the beneficiary of his calmer presence and that won’t be the last good game we see from him. Peterman also showed some trust early in Quadree Henderson and it’s easy to see why. His speed is impressive as hell and it translates onto offense. We already knew he could return the ball, but he threw in a great touchdown juuuust for good measure. Weah threw in a good game that could’ve been great if Peterman hadn’t overthrown him on a deep ball.
RB struggles were a little rust, primarily from Conner, and a lot of poor blocking. Conner danced a bit much early on but he settled down in the second quarter. There just weren’t the type of holes an experienced OL with NFL caliber players on it should open against a FCS school. To reiterate, I think they had a bad game and that they’ll recover quickly.
One other note on the offense: they were incredibly simple. We did not see much of Matt Canada’s offense. I think part of the OL struggles were a very predictable offense; the Wildcats knew what was coming and could go after it. Next week, the offense can’t be predictable against a very good Penn State defense. To me, this was an OK tune up game. Ignore the first quarter and it looks a lot better.
What say yinz? Concerned, happy, or just thankful it’s over?