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Young running backs tasked with bringing balance back to Villanova’s offense

Villanoa will face Stony Brook after suffering its first loss of the season against James Madison.

Villanova running back DeeWil Barlee vs Maine. LOU RABITO / Staff
Villanova running back DeeWil Barlee vs Maine. LOU RABITO / StaffRead moreLOU RABITO / Staff

DeeWil Barlee and TD Ayo-Durojaiye are listed as freshmen running backs on the Villanova roster.

But that’s where them being treated as such ends.

“They are not freshmen anymore,” head coach Mark Ferrante says. “We’re into Week 8, and really this is Week 9 for us, because of that Week 0 game" at Colgate in August, " so we’ve been at it a little longer.”

Barlee and Ayo-Durojaiye are two of the running backs tasked with replacing Justin Covington, who suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 5 against William & Mary.

In their first full game without Covington, Barlee and Ayo-Durojaiye struggled. They combined to rush for 42 yards on 18 attempts in a 38-24 loss against James Madison.

“We gotta do a better job of establishing the run this week, which I know we’ll do,” Ferrante said.

A balanced offensive attack is a big reason for the Wildcats’ success. Covington routinely churned out 100-yard games, which made the offense difficult to prepare for. Against the Dukes, Villanova had 387 passing yards and 44 rushing yards in its least-balanced game of the season.

That’s one of the reasons Ferrante said that the Wildcats’ bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.

Another is that it gave the running backs time to adjust to their different roles.

“There’s a few tweaks here and there, but really our scheme is our scheme and our plan is our plan,” Ferrante said. “Those freshmen are going to have to go in there and run the offense.”

The Wildcats (6-1, 3-1) will face Stony Brook (4-3, 1-2) in their homecoming game at 3:30 p.m., Saturday, at Villanova Stadium.

Stony Brook received the second-most votes of teams not in the STATS FCS Top 25 poll, and have been ranked this season. The Wildcats are ranked seventh.

“It’s going to be a dogfight," Ferrante said. “You gotta be ready to play when you’re playing a CAA opponent, and this week will be no different.”

Saturday’s game will start a streak of four out of five home games to close out the regular season.

Ferrante said that playing at home will bring a comfort level to the team, but the results on the road weren’t bad, so he doesn’t know how to feel about the change of scenery.

“I’ll let you know in four to five weeks,” Ferrante said. “I know our guys are excited to get back into the home stadium.”