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Villanova and Southeastern Louisiana could put up big points in first-round FCS playoff game

Villanova will face an unfamiliar opponent in the first round of the FCS playoffs.

Quarterback Daniel Smith and Villanova's high-powered offense will clash with Southeastern Louisiana for the first time on Saturday.
Quarterback Daniel Smith and Villanova's high-powered offense will clash with Southeastern Louisiana for the first time on Saturday.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Saturday, 4 p.m., Strawberry Stadium, Hammond, La.

TV/radio: ESPN3

Records: Villanova, 9-3 overall, 5-3 Colonial Athletic Association; Southeastern Louisiana, 7-4 overall, 6-3 Southland Conference.

Coaches: Villanova, Mike Ferrante (20-15, third season); Southeastern Louisiana, Frank Scelfo, (11-11, 2nd season).

Series: First meeting.

The big question in this matchup is whether both offenses can continue their high-scoring ways in the first-round Football Championship Subdivision playoff game?

Southeastern Louisiana and Villanova each average more than 36 points per game, and they are 10th and seventh in the FCS in scoring, respectively. The Wildcats are led by quarterback Daniel Smith and wide receiver Changa Hodge. They lost starting running back Justin Covington earlier this season but have two freshmen running backs who have proven to be capable of balancing the offense.

“Our team right now, it seems like we’re getting back on track,” Villanova coach Mark Ferrante said. “I think right now our offense is clicking. We’re pretty dangerous offensively as long as we protect the football.”

SELU has weapons, too. Arkansas-transfer Cole Kelley is a big 6-foot-7, 260-pound quarterback, and he’s not the starter. Chason Virgil has been the top quarterback for the Lions, but both players have played well. Kelley has thrown 10 touchdowns and one interception, and Virgil has thrown for 2,881 yards and 18 touchdowns. Virgil provides the better opportunity for a big play, but he is also mistake-prone, with 10 interceptions this season. Running back Devonte Williams has 929 total yards of offense and is a dangerous threat on the ground and receiving.

The Wildcats’ defense is getting healthy. Linebacker Drew Wiley will return Saturday to help shore up a defense that gave up more than 500 yards last Saturday against Delaware. Defensive back Julian Williams is also healthier, according to Ferrante. Although the Lions are seventh in the FCS in scoring, there is a common theme in their losses. The Lions are 1-4 when they score 34 or less. They are 6-0 when scoring 35 or more. The Wildcats have held nine-of-12 opponents under 35 points.

“They’re not going to be very familiar with our personnel, and we’re not going to be very familiar with their personnel,” Ferrante said. “You just have to do the best job with your film study and when the game starts, let’s go out there and play ball.”