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David Coulson

Villanova @ Delaware

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NEWARK, De. When I first began covering the Football Championship Subdivision back in 1993, I quickly learned about the fantastic rivalries that make FCS special.

Primarily working in the southeast, I longed for the opportunity to cover one particular rivalry someday.

While games such as Lafayette-Lehigh, or Harvard-Yale held interest, no game caught my imagination like the yearly matchup between Delaware and Villanova.

Being quite familiar with southern rivalries, like the annual battles between Appalachian State, Furman and Georgia Southern, I became enamored with the fantastic finishes these teams would come up with each year.

And as I observed from afar, few other FCS rivalries seemed to feature such crazy and close finishes as the Delaware-Villanova series.

Fans of the two teams still talk about some of the heroics that All-American wide receiver and future Oakland Raider Mike Siani turned in for Villanova during the early 1970s.

In 1979, future Delaware coach K.C. Keeler was part of a Blue Hen team that came back and beat Villanova late, 21-20, on a TD pass from New York Giant quarterback-to-be Scott Brunner.

In 2000, Delaware fell behind big as Villanova's Brian Westbrook went off for more than 400 all-purpose yards, but the Blue Hens rallied for a 59-42 victory.

That win was coming off two Villanova overtime victories in the season.

In 2001, the Wildcats came from behind late to win 19-14 and forge a four-way tie for first place in the Atlantic 10.

But it wasn't enough to keep Villanova from being snubbed by the NCAA Division I Football Committee the next day when the playoff field was announced.

A year later, Villanova's playoff hopes were on the line again when quarterback Brett Gordon took the Wildcats the length of the field for a winning touchdown in a 38-34 game.

That was the start of a Wildcat run to the NCAA semifinals.

Delaware may have dominated the field on the way to the national championship in 2003, but it took all that QB Andy Hall and company had to down Villanova 20-17 at the end of the regular season.

There were more fantastic finishes in 2004 (Delaware won 41-35) and 2006 (Villanova held on for a 28-27 win).

Moving to the Philadelphia area three years ago, has finally afforded me the chance to view the game that is referred to as the Battle of the Blue.

My first Delaware-Villanova game looked like a mismatch with QB Joe Flacco, running back Omar Cuff and the Blue Hen gang trying to clinch a share of the CAA title in 2006.

But Villanova's blitzing, stunting defense confused Flacco throughout the game and pulled off a stunning 16-10 win over a Blue Hen team that went on to the NCAA championship game.

The past two years have witnessed blowout victories by Villanova, but today's contest at Tubby Raymond Field has the hope of a classic game.

Delaware (9-1, 6-1) is trying to wrap up not only a CAA title, but the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Giving the Blue Hens extra motivation is senior day festivities for quarterback Pat Devlin, linebacker Matt Marcorelle and others.

Villanova (6-4, 4-3) maybe be the defending national champion, but the Wildcats are fighting for their lives in the midst of a two-game losing streak and need a victory to make the playoffs.

The Wildcats should get an emotional lift from senior all-purpose player Matt Szczur, who has been out since the first few plays of the Penn game (seven weeks ago) with injuries to both ankles.

The dynamic MVP of the 2009 FCS playoffs had his left ankle heavily braced and taped, but looked crisp on his cuts as he prepared before the game.

Whether it will be Devlin, Szczur, or someone else who provides the heroics in this game, you know that this is a matchup that has all of the ingredients present for another classic in this fantastic series.

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  1. dcoulson's Avatar
    Matt Szczur is one of the four Villanova captains on the field for the pre-game coin toss. The Wildcats will receive the ball on the opening kickoff.
  2. dcoulson's Avatar
    Angelo Babbaro went 85 yards with the opening kickoff for a Villanova touchdown. It just took 13 seconds for Babbaro to record his second career kickoff return for a TD. He went up the middle and cut to the left sideline, untouched for the score. And the game is on.
  3. dcoulson's Avatar
    A nervous first series for the Delaware offense. A dropped pass by the tight end, a pressured incompletion on a screen from Pat Devlin and a sack of Devlin by a blitzing linebacker Marquis Kirkland and the Blue Hens were forced to punt.
  4. dcoulson's Avatar
    Matt Szczur went 19 yards on a sweep for a first down on his first carry to the Delaware 32.
    Updated 11-20-2010 at 11:22 AM by dcoulson
  5. dcoulson's Avatar
    Norman White followed with a pair of catches for 29 yards to bring the ball to first and goal for Villanova at the six.
    Updated 11-20-2010 at 11:47 AM by dcoulson
  6. dcoulson's Avatar
    A little razzle-dazzle for the Wildcats makes it 14-0. Villanova ran a reverse, with Chris Whitney finally throwing a four-yard TD pass to Lawrence Doss. It's Delaware's largest deficit of the season.
  7. dcoulson's Avatar
    It took just over four minutes for Villanova to go 53 yards in seven plays. Delaware's special teams have put the Blue Hens in a big hole early.
  8. dcoulson's Avatar
    A Devlin to Crosby completion on the sideline finally gives Delaware a first down at its own 41 with 8:53 left in the first quarter.
  9. dcoulson's Avatar
    Like most teams, Delaware seems to be having trouble running on the tough Villanova defense.
  10. dcoulson's Avatar
    Villanova forced another punt by dropping NINE men into coverage on third and long. The Wildcats will get the ball again at their own 20 after stopping Delaware near midfield.
  11. dcoulson's Avatar
    A double pass from Whitney to Norman White to Dorian Wells gave the Wildcats a completion to the Delaware 29, but the Wildcats were called for an illegal block on center Dan Shirey.
    Updated 11-20-2010 at 01:41 PM by dcoulson
  12. dcoulson's Avatar
    The penalty was followed by a near interception, as three Delaware players tipped the Whitney pass.

    On the punt, Angelo Babbaro recovered a Rob Jones fumble after a Craig James hit to give the Wildcats the ball at the Delaware 32.

    But on fourth and one, the Blue Hen defense stopped a Chris Whitney run to keep Delaware in the game as the first quarter came near an end.

    Delaware was held scoreless in the first quarter for only the second time all year.
    Updated 11-20-2010 at 11:43 AM by dcoulson
  13. dcoulson's Avatar
    First Quarter Stats:

    Villanova 17 plays, 92 yards, 105 kick return yards. 10:32 possession time.

    Delaware 9 plays, 23 yards, 30 return yards, 4:28 possession time.
  14. dcoulson's Avatar
    On a first down at the Villanova 20, Fred Maldonado made a perfect turn and appeared to intercept a Devlin pass in the end zone on a fade route. But the ball was ruled incomplete and Maldonado came down with an injury.
  15. dcoulson's Avatar
    Devlin showed his skill with a nice in route throw to Nihja White for an 18-yard TD pass to make it 14-7 with 12:31 left in the second quarter. The Blue Hens immediately attacked Maldonado's replacement, sophomore Ronnie Akins.
  16. dcoulson's Avatar
    Delaware got a sack to force a Villanova punt with 10:33 left in the half. The Blue Hens took over at their own 20.
  17. dcoulson's Avatar
    A big hit by Terence Thomas on a third-down pass completion forced Delaware to punt. Villanova took advantage of a poor punt to earn a first down at the Wildcat 45 with 8:39 in the half.
  18. dcoulson's Avatar
    Delaware stopped Matt Szczur a yard short out of Wildcat formation on his first effort in his signature play near the Blue Hen 45. Delaware started the next drive again at the 20 with under seven minutes left in the second quarter.
  19. dcoulson's Avatar
    Martel Moody misplayed a potential interception for Villanova and Delaware came up with a key pass reception at the Wildcat 30.
  20. dcoulson's Avatar
    Devlin made a series of nice throws to set up his four-yard TD pass to Rob Jones to tie the game at 14 with 1:15 left in the half.
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