Brandyn Harvey could play a big role in the biggest game of his life as second-ranked Villanova (12-1) hosts sixth-ranked William and Mary (11-2) in tonight's Football Championship Subdivision semifinal at Villanova Stadium at 8 p.m.

The game will be televised on ESPN2 and broadcast on ESPN-AM 950. A victory would send the Wildcats to their first NCAA championship game against the winner of tomorrow's Appalachian State-Montana game.

At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, the wideout almost always has the edge over smaller defensive backs. When he's not outleaping opponents, Harvey routinely runs past them.

"Having him, you know that if you throw it up, he is definitely going to come down with it, even if there are two guys," Villanova quarterback Chris Whitney said. "So he's reliable like that."

Reliable, yes. First option, no.

Harvey's playmaking ability often is limited in the Wildcats' balanced attack.

But to his credit, the fifth-year senior hasn't complained, at least not publicly.

"Of course, you think about it," said Harvey, whose team-leading 50 receptions, 629 receiving yards and 5 touchdown catches provide just a glimpse of what he can do.

The second-team all-Colonial Athletic Association selection routinely works to get open, while the ball is distributed to others.

"But it's not really a big deal, because of the success my team is having," Harvey said. "All I want to do is keep winning."

Through two postseason games, Harvey has only three receptions for 25 yards. Those catches came in the playoff opener against Holy Cross. His would-be touchdown reception Saturday against New Hampshire was wiped out by offensive pass interference. Villanova attempted just five passes in that game because of the snow.

Wildcats coach Andy Talley hopes Harvey has a big impact tonight.

"Brandyn is the best receiver in our league," Talley said. "He suffers right now from the fact that we have other weapons that you try to get the ball to. I would like to see us go to Brandyn more, especially in the red zone."

The versatile Whitney has the ability to plow into the end zone in those situations. He also tries to get the ball to wideout Matt Szczur, Harvey and running backs Aaron Ball and Angelo Babbaro.

Talley isn't opposed to shrinking Whitney's options.

"If I were the quarterback, I'd be looking for Szczur and Harvey," the coach said. "I like to see that more. Brandyn is such a threat around the goal line."

William and Mary at Villanova

Tonight at 8,

Villanova Stadium.

Football Championship Subdivision semifinal

TV/Radio: ESPN2; ESPN-AM (950).

Record: William and Mary, 11-2, ranked sixth in the FCS; Villanova, 12-1, ranked second.

Coaches: Jimmye Laycock (30th season, 200-140-2); Villanova, Andy Talley (25th season, 177-111-1).

Series: Villanova has won the last five meetings, including a 28-17 victory on Oct. 3. William and Mary, however, holds a 14-12-1 series edge.

Villanova update: The Wildcats averaged 39.2 points in their last nine games against the Tribe. Look for Villanova to try to establish a running game. The Wildcats have rushed for a school-record 3,085 yards this season. They are holding opponents to 13.6 points per game.

William and Mary update: The Tribe won seven of eight games after losing to Villanova. The loss was a 13-10 heartbreaker against Richmond in the closing seconds. William and Mary boasts the nation's top rushing defense, holding opponents to 52.9 yards per game. It is ranked second nationally in scoring defense (11.9 ppg.).

- Keith PompeyEndText

Contact staff writer Keith Pompey
at 610-313-8029