Sam Houston State at #6 Villanova FCS Football 2014 Playoffs Quarterfinals Game Breakdown

George Hammond


Sam Houston State at #6 Villanova, Saturday, 1:00

Sam Houston State might not know much about its next opponent Villanova, but Bearkats coach KC Keeler sure does. Keeler, in his first year at Sam Houston, coached against Villanova many times when he was head man at the University of Delaware from 2002-12. Now, Keeler will get to square off against longtime Wildcats’ coach Andy Talley when these two meet on Philadelphia’s Main Line Saturday in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs.

“I’m glad to see him back,” said Talley, referring to Keeler. “He’s a good friend of mine.”

It’s no surprise No. 6-seeded Villanova (11-2) made it this far. The Wildcats have a veteran team led by Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year John Robertson. The Wildcats beat upset-minded Liberty 29-22 Saturday in the wind and rain to make the final eight (for the first time since 2010), although it wasn’t easy. Robertson scored from one yard out with 1:12 remaining for the winning touchdown. The score capped an 18-play drive (all runs) that gave the Wildcats their only lead. Villanova trailed 19-14 at halftime and 22-14 in the second half.

But it is a surprise for the Bearkats (10-4), who started 1-3 (although two of the losses were to Eastern Washington and LSU). The Bearkats are the only first-round participant to make the Final Eight after beating Southeastern Louisiana and No. 3 Jacksonville State in the first two rounds. They had to replace a quarterback and top running back this season, but the Bearkats have gotten better as the season progressed as evidenced by their seven straight wins.

Of the eight teams remaining, Sam Houston State is the only one with four running backs who have gained at least 600 yards on the ground this season, so it’s easy to see what the Bearkats like to do. Stopping them is another story. Quarterback Jared Johnson accounted for four touchdowns in Saturday’s win over Jacksonville State as he threw for 161 yards and three scores and rushed for 85 yards on 18 carries.

Sam Houston State trailed 26-24 against Jacksonville State and was outgained 513-402 in total yards, but they still managed to win. It will be a tough task Saturday as Villanova is capable of making the championship game despite Saturday’s scare against Liberty.  The Wildcats are 7-0 at home and will present a tough task for Sam Houston’s defense. In addition to Robertson, Villanova features running back Kevin Monangai, who rushed for 102 yards on 20 carries against Liberty to move into third place in school history with 3,001 rushing yards.

Although Keeler is familiar with the Wildcats, he never had much success against them. He was only 4-7 against Villanova when he was at Delaware. Make that 4-8. Sam Houston’s speed might be a challenge, but Villanova’s Robertson and company will be too much for the Bearkats.

Projected Score: Villanova 31, Sam Houston State 20


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