Liberty at #6 Villanova FCS Football 2014 Playoffs 2nd Round Game Breakdown

George Hammond


Liberty at #6 Villanova, Saturday, 4:30

They’re all interesting matchups at this juncture, but this one really has some juice. Can the upstart from the Big South – Liberty - coached by former Nebraska standout Turner Gill knock off sixth seeded Villanova (10-2) from the CAA? The Flames (9-4) upset James Madison, 26-21, in the first round of the playoffs one week after handing previously unbeaten Coastal Carolina its first loss, 15-14.

In years’ past, the Big South might have been looked down upon from some of the more prestigious conferences, but Liberty is showing it can play with the big boys and it’s certain the Flames have Villanova’s attention. Liberty and Villanova played two common opponents this season – Liberty lost to Richmond 46-39 in double overtime while it beat JMU. Meanwhile, Villanova lost to Richmond, 10-9, and it beat JMU, 49-31. The Wildcats were just two points away from a perfect season (they also lost to Syracuse, 27-26, in two OTs).

Liberty led 10-0 against JMU, then fell behind 21-10 at halftime before rallying in the second half. The Flames didn’t help themselves as they had four turnovers in the first half, but they held the ball for more than 39 minutes, including 21 minutes in the second half. Liberty’s winning drive was a 17-play, 85-yard drive that ate up 11 minutes. Because of that time possession advantage, Liberty was able to keep outstanding JMU quarterback Vad Lee off the field. Lee, who entered the contest averaging 276.9 yards passing, was held to 139 yards.

But Villanova will present its own challenge. Fifteen starters returned this season as Villanova is making its fifth playoff appearance in seven seasons. The Wildcats finished with a 6-0 home record with a +25.0 scoring margin in those contests. They scored more than 40 points in all six home games.

Junior quarterback John Robertson is closing in on becoming the all-time career yardage leader for the Wildcats. He’s second now and could become first during the playoffs. Besides Robertson, running back Kevin Monangai is a rushing threat as the senior is in the top ten for career rushers at Villanova. The top receiving threat is senior Poppy Livers, who has 59 receptions

If Liberty can keep it close, the Flames will have a big advantage in the kicking game. Liberty kicker John Lunsford booted a 56-yarder in the JMU contest, and he has the three longest field goals in the FCS this season. Meanwhile, Villanova has made just four field goals all year and is just 4-of-9 in field-goal attempts. The Wildcats are just 1-of-5 from 30 yards or longer.

Still, you have to wonder how much Liberty has left in its tank. It has had two emotional contests (on the road) in the past two weeks and now the Flames are facing a third. The crowd shouldn’t be a factor as Villanova doesn’t draw well, but Villanova is a balanced team that could make a long run in this playoff. It wouldn’t be a shock for Liberty to win, but the Wildcats have to be favored.

Projected Score: Villanova 31, Liberty 16


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