Villanova vs. Youngstown State Preview | FCS Playoffs 2nd Round
Written by David Szczepanski on December 1, 2023
In their first playoff game in almost two years, Villanova battles Youngstown State in the second round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday at 12pm. The Wildcats come into this game with a regular season record of 9-2, which lead the CAA with the tiebreaker. Villanova is undefeated at home this season. Youngstown State played Duquesne last Saturday, in which they confidently defeated the Dukes, 40-7. The Penguins finished third in the MVFC with an 8-4 regular season record.
All-Time Series Info
Villanova and Youngstown State have matched up nine times in the past with the Penguins winning 7 of the 9 games. Their last meeting was in 1999 where Youngstown State defeated Villanova, 28-21. The Wildcats will be making their 20th playoff appearance in program history and their 15th appearance in the FCS playoffs.
Prior to the start of the playoffs last weekend, 12 Villanova players were honored on CAA All-Conference teams. Michael Corbi and Rayjuon Pringle were named to the CAA first team. Coach Mark Ferrante was also named a finalist for the 2023 Eddie Robinson Award, which is presented every year to the national FCS coach of the year. The Wildcats have won their last six games. All six wins have been by at least 12 points and the Wildcats have outscored their opponents in that span by 142 points. It’s their longest winning streak since 2014.
The Wildcats offense led by Connor Watkins has excelled this season. Since becoming starting quarterback for Villanova last season, Connor Watkins has 31 completions for 40 yards or more. Watkins is averaging 16.57 yards per completion and 9.52 yards per pass attempt. He has six passes for 75 yards or more this season. His main target has been Rayjuon Pringle. Pringle is averaging almost 20 yards per reception, and he has four receptions for 75 yards or more. Watkins also rushed for 272 yards this year and eight touchdowns.
Villanova’s rushing attack has been one of the best in the CAA all season. The Wildcats have rushed for 2,453 yards and 28 touchdowns. They average 223 rushing yards per game. Jalen Jackson leads Villanova with 112 carries for 833 yards and six touchdowns. DeeWil Barlee has 96 carries for 596 yards and five touchdowns. TD Ayo-Durojaiye is tied for the lead on the team in rushing touchdowns with eight.
Penguins’ Run Defense
However, the Penguins have limited the run this season, especially in conference games. Youngstown State is holding opponents to just 94.8 rushing yards per game. The Wildcats should still run the ball effectively on Saturday with the amount of rushing options, but Villanova and Connor Watkins will most likely depend on the pass this weekend. The Penguins have allowed 26 passing touchdowns, and they allow about 237 passing yards per game on average.
Youngstown State Stats
YSU History for Mitch Davidson
Penguins’ QB, Mitch Davidson, is closing in on Youngstown history. He is just 199 yards away from being the 1st YSU quarterback to pass for more than 3,000 yards in a season. Davidson is 229-324 for 2,801 passing yards and 21 touchdowns this season. He has four 300-yard passing games in his career.
The Penguins are averaging 32.3 points per game. Davidson has three major targets in the passing game: Bryce Oliver, Max Tomczak, and CJ Charleston. Oliver leads the Penguins with 61 receptions for 940 yards and eight touchdowns. Tomczak has 47 receptions for 564 yards. Charleston averages 15.2 yards per catch with four touchdowns this season.
Although Villanova has the advantage in the running game, the Penguins also have a solid rushing attack. Tyshon King has 179 carries for 995 yards and nine touchdowns. Dra Rushton has 150 carries for 616 yards and nine touchdowns. King and Rushton have seen most of the snaps at running back. However, Mitch Davidson also has 95 rushing yards this season and five rushing touchdowns. The Penguins will also use backup quarterback, Beau Brungard, in rushing situations.
Villanova’s Defense + Game Prediction
Villanova’s defense is holding opponents to just 113 rushing yards on average per game. The Wildcats are also limiting opponents to just 177 passing yards on average. They have 11 interceptions this season. The defense is led by Brendan Bell, who has 73 total tackles, and Shane Hartzell, who has 68 total tackles. Jake Reichwein has four sacks this season. Villanova’s secondary has been fantastic, especially against Delaware in the final game of the regular season.
The Wildcats are favored to win this game, but I do believe the game will be close. Youngstown and Villanova have fairly similar offensive numbers, and although Villanova leads more defensive categories, the Penguins’ great run defense could affect Villanova’s usual offensive rhythm.
The winner of this game will take on the winner of Mercer and South Dakota State on either December 8th or 9th. South Dakota State is the #1 seed with an 11-0 record. They defeated Youngstown State, 34-0, on November 11th. Stay tuned to WXVU social media about broadcast information for Saturday’s game.