You can’t do anything about the schedule. Sometimes, it can work for you; other times, maybe not so much. And there are those times when you’re either so good or not-so-good that it doesn’t really matter much.
Villanova has six road games this season, which is what happens when you annually play an up-level opponent. But this year, the Wildcats are the away team for four of their first five. The only time they’ll be wearing their blue jerseys before October is Saturday night, when Lafayette visits the Main Line for the first time ever.
The Wildcats won in Easton a year ago, 31-14, in the teams’ first meeting since 1920. They scored two defensive touchdowns, and another was called back because of a penalty.
The seventh-ranked team in FCS is 1-1, having won at then-No. 17 Lehigh (38-35) before losing last week to FBS Temple in South Philly on a late field goal after rallying from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit to draw even with 3 1/2 minutes to go.
So it’s not as if the Wildcats have ventured that far. Still, it will be a nice change not having to get on a bus.
“We’re only like 40 miles from Lehigh, and 20-some from Temple,” first-year coach Mark Ferrante pointed out. “They were day trips. They felt almost like home games. So it’s nothing we’ve even talked about. It’s not like we had to stay in a hotel or do all those travel things.
“We practiced at home on Friday. So really our routine the first three weeks will be the same. We’ll have a little later pregame dinner, as opposed to an afternoon game. The difference is we can walk to the stadium.
“It should be a nice crowd, with Parents Weekend. We’re excited about that.”
The Leopards (0-2) also have a new coach, John Garrett. He’s the brother of Jason, the Dallas Cowboys coach. Most recently, he was the offensive coordinator at Richmond, which beat the Wildcats last October, 23-0, down there.
After this, the Wildcats will have two more night games to begin their Colonial Athletic Association journey, at Albany and then at Towson. Both those teams are 1-1, having each beaten Morgan State. Towson’s loss was to Maryland.
After that, they’ll have two trips left: at No. 1 James Madison, the defending national champion, on Oct. 14, and at Rhode Island, picked to finish last in the preseason poll, on Nov. 11.
The Wildcats dropped their last game on Lancaster Avenue, last November to JMU (20-7). They beat Albany and Towson here the month before that.
“Hopefully, we’re not looking at Temple as a moral-victory kind of thing,” Ferrante said of his players. “They left the field thinking they could have won. I hope we are mature enough to take a pretty good approach. We’re hoping there won’t be a letdown. I think they’re hungry to put on a good show for everybody.”
When you play an FBS team, the one thing you want to do is come out of it relatively healthy. But the Wildcats saw two wide receivers go down: starter Alex Padovani and sophomore Changa Hodge, who missed most of last season with injuries. Padovani is gone for the year after undergoing surgery on his Achilles tendon, and Hodge (foot) will miss at least a few games and maybe more. Ferrante had already lost two wideouts in training camp. Fortunately for him, Taurus Phillips and tight end Ryan Bell already have combined for 20 catches, 357 yards, and three touchdowns. But Hodge did have four receptions for a career-best 100 yards against Temple. And Zach Bednarczyk threw for a career-high 382 yards, the most by a Wildcat in 12 years.
This would seem like a good time for junior Jarrett McClenton (Archbishop Wood), who has been slowed by injuries throughout his career as well, to finally turn into the type of difference-maker he was projected to be coming out of high school. He hasn’t done much this season. Now he’ll be asked to do more. Maybe even a lot more.
“We always talk about next guy up,” Ferrante said. “Really, what else can you do?”
It’s kind of like the schedule. They just have to keep reminding themselves that three of the last four are at their place.
Of course, they have to get there in relatively good shape first to make that matter at all.