VILLANOVA, Pa. - In its final road game of the 2017 season, Villanova (4-5, 2-4 CAA Football) heads to Rhode Island (2-7, 1-5) for a 12 p.m. kickoff on Saturday afternoon. The game can be seen online with a College Sports Live subscription and can also be heard on the radio at 610 Sports WTEL-AM.
This week marks the first time since October 14 that the Wildcats will head out on the road. Villanova followed that trip to top-ranked James Madison with a bye week and then consecutive home games in a stretch that came after the team played five of its first seven contests on the road.
With the 2017 regular season down to its final two weeks, the Wildcats will be hoping to continue their historical success against the Rams and at Meade Stadium. Villanova is 19-3 all-time versus Rhode Island and has won five straight meetings, and the Wildcats are also 7-2 all-time in road games during the series. Dating back to the 1996 season, Villanova has won 13 of the last 15 games in the series and has a +20.4 scoring margin during that span.
“No matter who you are playing it’s going to be a tough opponent in the CAA,” Wildcats head coach Mark Ferrante said. [Rhode Island] is playing everyone really tough and you can’t worry about who you’re playing or what their record is. They have a good running back in Harold Cooper and they are throwing the ball really well. We are in a position where if we can win the game it would bring us back to .500 and give us a chance to have a winning season, so we are still playing for something.”
Villanova is coming off a 22-0 loss at home to Richmond last week, only the second shutout against the Wildcats over 164 games dating to midway through the 2004 season. The team had a season-low 163 total yards versus the Spiders.
Despite last week’s final outcome, Villanova hung in the game most of the way thanks to the continued strong play of its defense. Senior linebacker Ed Shockley (Millville, N.J.) and junior Jeff Steeb (Sweetwater, N.J.) each reached double figures in tackles against Richmond, with Shockley making 10-plus total stops for the fourth time this season and the seventh time in his career.
Shockley has registered 53 of his team-high 80 tackles this season on rushing attempts, and the Wildcats rank third in FCS in rushing defense with an average of just 70.8 yards allowed per game. Villanova also ranks eighth nationally in scoring defense by holding its opponents to 16.7 points per contest. As a whole, the Wildcats defense has given up just 14 offensive touchdowns to the opposition this year.
Among the Wildcats who will be trying to continue their strong play of late is senior punter John Hinchen (Saddle River, N.J.). Through the first nine games of the season, Hinchen ranks fourth in the nation and leads CAA Football with a 44.5-yard punting average. He has punted for 1,026 yards in the last three weeks alone, and in the three-game stretch has blasted 14 of his 22 attempts for over 50 yards.
Following this week’s game against Rhode Island, the Wildcats will return home for the regular season finale against Delaware on November 18 at 1 p.m.