Villanova and Montana are in Chattanooga, making their final preparations for Friday’s NCAA FCS (formerly1-AA) championship game. And when the Wildcats and Grizzlies meet, it will be a a showdown between the top two seeds in this year’s playoff bracket.
Villanova and Montana are in Chattanooga, making their final preparations for Friday’s NCAA FCS (formerly1-AA) championship game. And when the Wildcats and Grizzlies meet, it will be a showdown between the top two seeds in this year’s playoff bracket.
Montana (14-0) entered the playoffs as the top seed. The Wildcats (13-1) were the two seed.
Which team is able to run the ball best could be critical to deciding the outcome in Friday night’s final (8pm, ESPN2) in Chattanooga.
Montana’s offense is led by running back Chase Reynolds, who is 8th in the nation in rushing with 102 yards per game and 22 touchdowns this season.
“He is one of the top four or five running backs in the country. What I see from him is a guy with great vision. He really plays a lot bigger than he is,” said Villanova head coach Andy Talley. “He’s a strong runner and is a guy that knows where to make cuts. Sometimes these guys maybe aren’t the fastest backs in the country, but they have great vision and they’re the guys that really kill you because they take advantage of every seam, every opening.”
But Reynolds will see one of the top rushing defenses in the country in Villanova. Senior linebacker Osayi Osunde and the Wildcats rank fourth in the nation against the run, allowing just 67 yards on the ground per game.
“They’re someone we’re really going to work to scheme against to hopefully stop their offensive attack and get some three and out and get our offense on the field to make some big plays, ” said Osunde.
That Villanova offense has made the most of its big plays on the ground this season. The Wildcats rank fourth in FCS, averaging 232 yards per game behind running backs Aaron Ball and Angelo Babbaro, along with wide-out Matt Szczur running out of the wildcat formation.
Those yards may be harder to come by this week against Montana. The Grizzlies are also tough against the run, allowing just 91 rushing yards per game, 9th in all of FCS.
In the end though, Talley says its not about yards allowed. It’s the number of points on the scoreboard, and both teams excel at limiting opponents there as well. Villanova allows only 13 points per game and Montana just 18.
“We’re the same way. We give up a lot of yards at times, but we’re good in the red zone and they’re real good in the red zone,” Talley said. “You can give up some yards, and keep people in front of you, as long as you’re getting turnovers and playing good in the red zone.”
Villanova is listed as a four point underdog in its first championship game appearance. Montana is in its seventh title game , and second in a row. The Grizzlies are looking for their third championship.
This is the first ever meeting between Villanova and Montana.