(10) New Hampshire (10-2) at (2) Villanova (11-1)
The Sports Network
By Brett Kahn, FCS Assistant Editor
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 5th, 3:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Villanova Stadium (12,000) -- Villanova, Pennsylvania. Surface: Artificial Turf. Television: ESPN Game Plan/ESPN360.com, Comcast (New England). Announcers: Bob Picozzi and Jeremy Bloom. Home Record: New Hampshire 6-0; Villanova 6-0. Away Record: New Hampshire 4-2; Villanova 5-1. Series Record: Villanova (10-9). Last Meeting: October 10, 2009 (New Hampshire, 28-24 at New Hampshire). Series Streak: New Hampshire has won three of the last four meetings. Conference: New Hampshire - Colonial Athletic Association; Villanova - Colonial Athletic Association. Sports Network Ranking: New Hampshire (10); Villanova (2). Nicknames: New Hampshire Wildcats; Villanova Wildcats. Coaches: New Hampshire - Sean McDonnell (80-52); Villanova - Andy Talley (204-120-2, overall; 176-111-1 at Villanova). Playoff Record: New Hampshire (5-7); Villanova (5-7).
GAME NOTES: Villanova and New Hampshire will meet in a rematch from the regular season in the quarterfinal round of the 2009 FCS playoffs.
UNH handed Villanova its lone loss this season, taking down the VU Wildcats 28-24. On an extremely windy day at UNH's Cowell Stadium, New Hampshire took advantage of VU's miscues to build a 23-7 first-half lead, fell behind 24-23 and then won it on a pair of Tom Manning field goals in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback R.J. Toman completed 15-of-28 passes for 292 yards and tight end Scott Sicko caught three passes for 135 yards and a 32-yard touchdown for New Hampshire.
Villanova, however, won the last time the teams played in the Philadelphia area, 24-13 last season behind 222 rushing yards overall and 150 yards of total offense from quarterback Chris Whitney.
New Hampshire is making its second straight quarterfinal appearance and third in the past four seasons, but the team has never advanced to the semifinals in seven previous FCS postseason appearances. Last season, UNH fell to Northern Iowa, 36-34 in the second round.
New Hampshire took down McNeese State, 49-13 to advance last week. The nation's ninth-ranked scoring offense racked up 460 yards of total offense, with Toman (2,135 yards of total offense, 19 TDs) throwing for 204 yards and scoring a season-high four times.
UNH's rushing attack ranks 37th in FCS and compiled 183 yards against the Cowboys. Running back Chad Kackert (790 yards rushing, 10 TDs) leads the attack and carried 14 times for 63 yards and a score against MSU.
Sicko (53 catches, 13.1 average, nine TDs) is the team's best receiver and hauled in two Toman touchdown passes against the Cowboys. Wide receiver J.T. Wright (34 catches, 11.4 average) is another capable pass catcher for New Hampshire.
UNH's defense got off to a very strong start in 2009, but fell off late, surrendering 42 points to a poor Rhode Island team. The looked to get back to form, surrendering just 326 yards against a formidable McNeese State offense.
New Hampshire's defense features linebackers Devon Jackson (97 tackles, eight tackles for loss), Sean Ware (93 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss) and Terrence Klein (75 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions) and All-CAA cornerback Dino Vasso (70 tackles, six pass breakups, five interceptions).
Villanova, the No. 2 seed and the auto-bid winner from the CAA, took care of business against Holy Cross, 38-28 to advance to its second straight quarterfinal round.
CAA offensive player of the year Matt Szczur (1,716 combined yards, 13 TDs) led the offensive effort, compiling 238 all-purpose yards and a touchdown run. Szczur ranks fourth nationally in kickoff returns, averaging 27.3 yards and is always a threat to break one.
Whitney (2,442 yards of total offense, 21 TDs, three interceptions), the first-team All-CAA quarterback, has been solid all season for Villanova's versatile offense which ranks 14th nationally in scoring.
Running back Aaron Ball (662 yards rushing, six TDs) racked up 99 yards and a touchdown against the Crusaders and is the team's leading running back. Finally healthy after battling with a turf toe most of the season, Angelo Babbaro (237 yards rushing, four TDs) is another rushing threat and ran for 75 yards and a touchdown in the first round win.
Wide receiver Brandyn Harvey (50 catches, 12.6 average, five TDs) poses a size advantage in Villanova's receiving corps, but has hauled in just seven balls in his last three games.
Villanova's defense settled down after the first quarter against Holy Cross and started pressuring quarterback Dominic Randolph. After surrendering 14 points to the high-octane offense in the first quarter, the defense kept Holy Cross' offense to just 14 points in the final three frames.
Buchanan Award nominee Tim Kukucka (51 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss) paces Villanova's defense, with help from fellow linebackers Terence Thomas (97 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss) and Osayi Osunde (74 tackles, seven tackles for loss) and safeties Ross Ventrone (62 tackles, five pass breakups) and John Dempsey (59 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss).
Villanova could be the most well-balanced team in FCS this season and with the decline of UNH's defense, should be able to make its first semifinal appearance since 2002.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Villanova 28, New Hampshire 20.
12/02 18:46:02 ET