We are on the cusp of another year of Pitt football, the beast we both love and fear. This season has an aura of excitement around it that I don’t believe I have witnessed since back in 2008 when we were coming off an injury riddled 2007 that saw us rally to beat rival school WVU and crush their championship hopes.
Going into 2008 we were sky high because we had an injury delayed starting QB return in Bill Stull and we had the return of the star RB LeSean McCoy… lots of similarities to this season.
But the big difference is that we aren’t going to start the 2016 season with a loss to a lesser out of conference opponent like we did against Bowling Green back then. That just isn’t going to happen.
I rarely make concrete predictions like I just did – maybe never actually when writing about Pitt football. But I am that sure we will not come out of the starting gate looking like wilted lettuce like we did against both YSU in 2008 and then again against Akron in 2012.
So – who is this team that I am so sure we’ll win win against on Saturday? The Villanova Wildcats.
They have a hybrid type existence going on. They are in the Big East for all sports except football because the Big East doesn’t have a football conference. So they are members of the Colonial Athletic Association for FBS division football.
This is a great article to read to familiarize yourselves on Villanova football. It talks about their (rather extensive) history and some of the players who have gone through the school’s football program. They actually used to be in D-1 football until 1981.
In the 1940s and 50s, as college football was getting bigger and more important across the country, Villanova began moving games from campus to larger stadiums in Philadelphia. These included games at the Shibe Park baseball stadium as well as the notorious “grocery bowls” that former Nova AD Bud Dudley arranged at Municipal Stadium, against the likes of Georgia and Mississippi. Those games attracted big crowds, thanks to creative promotion.
Villanova also had a heated and long-running rivalry with Boston College that started in 1922. Though that series ended after 1980 (and was revived in 2013 as a one-off), the Eagles remained Villanova’s most often played opponent until the University of Delaware overtook them a few years ago.
The ‘Cats appeared in five bowl games, winning the 1948 Harbor Bowl and 1961 Sun Bowl, and have finished as high as 6th overall in the AP College Football poll during their I-A era. Wildcat graduates regularly ended up in the NFL draft, including first round picks Ralph Pasquariello (Rams), Rich Moore (Packers) and Mike Siani (Raiders), and one alum (we’ll get to that later) made it to the NFL’s Hall of Fame.
Tragedy struck in 1981 when the school cancelled the program. Football was reinstated as a Division 1-AA program in 1984 and was taken over by Andy Talley, who is still the head coach today.
And just as we have James Conner’s great off the field works for medical charities, Villanova’s legendary HC Andy Talley does the same with his long-standing 25 year association with the National Bone Marrow Foundation.
As to the football game on Saturday. This is the complete Villanova Game notes they send out to the media in preparation for their game against Pitt. Also, here are some stats and some player info on the Wildcats:
Here is the latest news out if Philly regarding this game.
Villanova released their depth chart for their season opening game against Pittsburgh Panthers today, and there are a few surprises. Andy Talley revealed on Monday that he’ll likely be without three starters against the Panthers with SR LB Corey Majors and JR RB Matt Gudzak definitely out, and JR DB Malik Reaves questionable to contribute major minutes.
Those missing players will hurt the Wildcats especially on defense as Majors is a good LB and Reaves was a 2nd team All-CAA player last season.
Gudzak played in 10 games and had 41 carries for 289 yards (7.0 avg!!) and three touchdowns, five catches for 29 yards and a touchdown, and 10 kickoff returns for 195 yards and was counted upon as being a key offensive player this season.
Consider that we Panthers are countering with zero starters injuries and coming off a FBS eight win season things look pretty heavily in our favor. But here is the wildcard for the Wildcats… their long time and beloved HC is retiring after this season and I am sure his players want nothing more than to get a big win right away to give him as a send off.
Games have been lost on lesser issues.
But not this one. We’ll do a predictions thread on Thursday but for now I’m saying use a fountain pen to put a “W” in the books for this game. It has to be a fountain or the magic doesn’t work.