With so much focus on No. 5 Villanova’s outstanding offense led by quarterback John Robertson prior to the Saturday FCS quarterfinal matchup with Sam Houston, attention needs to go to the Wildcats’ defense as well.
No one knows that more than Bearkat junior wide receiver Gerald Thomas.
“Villanova has a really good defense,” the former standout from The Colony High School in Plano said. “They are very disciplined. They don’t make mistakes and they’re solid. We have to come out and play well not only physically but mentally,”
Thomas has caught 15 passes for 194 yards including five touchdowns. He also returns punts for the Kats on special teams. The Sam Houston offense ranks 24th in FCS football in total yards and is the rated among the top six in rushing offense.
“We have to come out and execute our game plan,” Thomas said. “We have to play fast, play our game and wear them down.”
Linebacker Don Cherry leads the Wildcats with 118 tackles including 73 solo stops. He has posted 19 tackles for losses including nine quarterback sacks this fall.
Villanova has forced 27 turnovers this year and has allowed opponents only a 32 percent success rate on third down conversions (59-of-185).
As a punt returner for the Bearkats, Thomas also knows the value of strong special teams play.
“Special teams play can set the tone for the whole team,” Thomas said. “We need a big week this week.”
Sam Houston and Villanova are one of four quarterfinal matches this weekend. The games match No. 5 Illinois State at No. 4 Eastern Washington, No. 7 Coastal Carolina at No. 2 North Dakota State and No. 8 Chattanooga at No. 1 New Hampshire.
“It feels really good to still be playing,” Thomas said. “There’s only seven other teams in FCS still playing football right now.”
Kickoff Saturday at Villanova Stadium is 12:03 p.m. Huntsville time. The game will be telecast by ESPN3. KSAM 101.7FM will carry the game live on radio in the Walker County area.
The Sam Houston-Villanova winner advances to meet the winner of the North Dakota State vs. Coastal Carolina matchup next weekend.