Villanova @ Delaware
by, 11-20-2010 at 10:59 AM (2481 Views)
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.