Villanova will play the University of Rhode Island on March 13 at Villanova Stadium.
The Wildcats will enter the game coming off the momentum of a close 16-13 win against Stony Brook on March 6. Daniel Smith led Villanova, completing 17-of-32 for 253 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. That one touchdown was caught by sophomore wide receiver Rayjoun Pringle, who amassed 171 receiving yards. Rushing yards were mostly gained by committee, with sophomore running back DeeWill Barlee leading the way with 49.
Saturday will be Rhode Island’s season opener. Last season was a lackluster one for the Rams, who finished with an overall record of 2-10 and a winless 0-8 conference performance. They were led by then quarterback Vito Priore, who put up impressive numbers despite Rhode Island’s unimpressive performances. He averaged 272 passing yards per game and finished with 3268 on the season. He threw for 22 total touchdowns with just 12 picks, holding an average passer rating of 130.57. However, after his numbers weren’t able to translate into victories, he transferred to Austin Peay.
Now the Rams will be starting off with their new quarterback, Brandon Robinson, who is a redshirt transfer from Liberty. The sophomore served as a backup at Liberty, but will now get his first start with the Rams. While at Liberty, he saw action in five games and completed two of his three passing attempts with 19 yards and a passing touchdown. He was also third on the team in rushing yards with 183 and three touchdowns.
The Rams will be bringing back wide receivers Isaiah Coulter and Ahmere Dorsey, who together totaled for 12 touchdowns and over 2,200 yards last season. Their rushing attack will be spearheaded by senior running back Naim Jones, who average 55 yards per contest.
The key to securing a win is for Smith to do more than just facilitate. An aggressive style of offense with a high tempo based on shorter routes, will help the ‘Cats. The Rams like to play high coverage defenses, often utilizing Cloud concepts to disguise certain looks. They would show two high safeties and then slide one down into the middle in order to create a post snap cover one. They would also shoot a hard press corner into the back to go from cover two to cover three on third and long looks.
The Wildcats should use a few tactics in order to help them counter these high safeties schemes from the Rams. First, quicker slants to get the ball out of Smith’s hands will limit the effectiveness of their secondary. Second, having a tandem backfield with multiple running backs will attract the corners and defensive backs closer to the line of scrimmage. This way, they can either let Smith throw it down field, or they can utilize wheel routes for safer, shorter options. Third, if Smith does throw it down field, utilization of option routes would be able to counter the disguised schemes of Rhode Island.