Football Ranked 4th in FCS Polls

Junior running back DeeWil Barley ran for 99 yards to lead the ‘Cats over Rhode Island.

After Saturday’s Homecoming 44-0 demolition of 18th ranked Rhode Island, Villanova moved up to fourth in both national FCS polls, the program’s highest ranking since 2015. The Wildcats are 6-1 and currently lead the Colonial Athletic Association with a 4-0 record in conference play.

“I thought our guys came and had a lot of enthusiasm, energy, [in the] beginning of the game, we’re able to pretty much maintain that all four quarters, which we really haven’t been able to do in other games,” head coach Mark Ferrante said in a press conference Monday. “It was a good overall team win with all three phases.”

The Wildcats defeated Rhode Island in all facets of the game. Villanova had 511 yards of total offense and held the Rams to just 165, earning the program’s first shutout since 2017. The Wildcats ran all over the Rams, rushing for 297 yards, while Rhode Island only mustered 107 yards. The Wildcat pass defense held Rhode Island quarterbacks Brandon Robinson and Kasim Hill to just 58 yards through the air.

In both the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 and the Coaches Poll, the Wildcats are ranked behind Sam Houston State, North Dakota State and Southern Illinois. Sam Houston State is the defending national champion and winners of 17 straight games, while North Dakota State is also undefeated. Like the Wildcats, Southern Illinois suffered its only loss to FCS opposition, falling 31-23 to Kansas State in September. However, Ferrante says his team is not getting overconfident from its lofty ranking.

“I like the maturity of this team,” Ferrante said. “We have an older group for sure... and they’re taking that Tap the Rock mentality that we always talk about, the one day at a time mentality, let’s get better every day mentality, the let’s take one rep at a time mentality.” 

“I love the way our guys are, responding and reacting to things when there’s time to respond and react. I had a meeting with our Leadership Council this morning, and they’re saying all the right things as well, so as long as our leaders are communicating those types of things, the whole 1-0 mentality of this week... I think we have good leadership from the top working its way down.”

Possibly the biggest learning experience for the Wildcats was their loss to Penn State earlier this season, as Villanova proved it could be competitive against one of the best FBS teams in the nation.

Ferrante said that many teams would have felt “starstruck” in that type of environment, playing in front of 100,000 people, yet his team never looked out of place. 

“That moment didn’t seem too big for our guys, they [seemed] to just go out there and have that workman-like approach in that game,” Ferrante said. “I think it helped our guys’ belly as much as anything else. We were able to hang in there, we did well against the run in that game on defense, and we got those late couple scores on offense, which I think helped, just keep tapping the rock and good things will happen. So I think it just helped in the mental confidence level if nothing else, and, you know, hopefully we’ll just continue to have that same approach no matter who we’re playing week in and week out.”

After the Penn State game, the Wildcats had a bye week to recover and prepare for a trip to face the reigning Colonial champion, James Madison. Villanova upset the then third-ranked Dukes, snapping a 19-game home winning streak for JMU, and then travelled to Albany and beat the Great Danes, 17-10. The ‘Cats then returned home and dominated Rhode Island, earning the fourth spot in both polls.

The Wildcats next face 5-2 William & Mary at home on Saturday. The Tribe is ranked 26th in the FCS Top 25, and an upset win Saturday would launch them into and up the rankings. The game kicks off at 1:00 p.m.