Dec. 17, 2009
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Junior Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) was one of three Villanova players named to the Associated Press FCS All-America Teams announced yesterday. Szczur earned a spot on the first team as an all-purpose returner and was joined by junior offensive tackle Ben Ijalana (Hainesport, N.J.) and senior defensive end Tim Kukucka (Wall, N.J.) as All-America selections from the Wildcats. Ijalana was a second team honoree and Kukucka earned a spot on the third team.
"It is quite an honor to be selected along with so many other great players to the All-America first team," Szczur said. "I do not view this as an individual award. It is a true team award because if it were not for our offensive line, quarterback, running backs, receivers and other special teams players I never would have had the opportunity to win such a prestigious award."
As Villanova prepares to face Montana on Friday night in the FCS national championship game, Szczur ranks fourth in the country in average yards per kickoff return. He has returned 28 kickoffs for 773 yards and a touchdown this season while averaging 27.6 yards per return. In a game against Penn on September 19, Szczur recorded an 87-yard return for his second career touchdown as a returner.
Szczur has been an all-purpose star for the Wildcats this season and averages 140.6 yards per game. In addition to his return stats, he has rushed for 654 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns, while making 47 receptions for 542 yards and four scores. Szczur is also the only Division I player in the country (FBS or FCS) to register touchdowns as a passer, rusher, receiving and returner. He is 4-of-4 for 22 yards and two scores passing.
A big part of the success for Szczur and the rest of the Villanova offense this season is a result of the consistent play of the offensive line. Ijalana is the leader of that line and has started all 38 games of his collegiate career entering play versus Montana on Friday night. The play of the offensive line has allowed the Wildcats to establish a new school record for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in a season. The team averages 32.0 points and 377.9 yards of total offense per game.
In addition to its dominant rushing attack and overall strong play on offense and special teams, Villanova has showcased a defense this season that has played at just as high a level. The Wildcats are allowing just 13.6 points per game and head into Friday night's championship game ranked third in the country in fewest rushing yards allowed per game. In addition, Villanova has a +14 turnover margin on the year. The Wildcats have forced 26 turnovers (18 interceptions, eight fumble recoveries) while committing just 12 miscues of their own.
Kukucka has been one of the leaders of the defensive unit not just as a senior this season but as a starter for the last three years. He is leading the team with 18.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 quarterback sacks. Villanova is averaging nearly 6.5 tackles for loss and nearly three sacks per game. Kukucka also ranks second on the team with three forced fumbles, has one interception and has blocked a kick. He has 63 tackles overall, including 37 solo stops and 26 assisted tackles. He is one of eight players on the team with 60 or more tackles for the season and one of seven who have at least 5.5 tackles for loss.
The Wildcats kick off their first-ever championship game experience at 8 p.m. on Friday night live on ESPN2 against the undefeated Grizzlies, who were last year's national runner-up to Richmond.