Make no mistake: Villanova got punched in the mouth hard during Saturday's 45-35 loss to Towson.
With a win over Temple and a dismantling of Lehigh, the Wildcats were feeling good about themselves going into their Colonial Athletic Association opener at home.
The issue now is how the Wildcats get back up.
"Yeah, I mean honestly, I think we needed that, and I'm glad that it happened early," senior linebacker Jeff Steeb said of the loss. "I think we needed to get humbled a little bit.
"We can't really pout about it. We've got to move on. Hopefully, the younger guys, the older guys realize the CAA is a good league with good players. We're going to have to bounce back."
It does not matter that Bucknell, the Cats' next opponent, Saturday, at Villanova Stadium , is from the Patriot League and not the CAA. Cleaning up the mistakes that led to Villanova giving up 35 consecutive points, allowing 528 yards of offense, and committing two turnovers that led to touchdowns applies no matter the opponent.
"We're going to see how our team responds," Villanova coach Mark Ferrante said. "That was a tough loss and a very physical game, and we'll have a good chance to find out what kind of team we have this weekend. I assume we have good leadership. I'm assuming we have a good, mature team. I know we have a talented team. Hopefully, the leadership and maturity will carry us through this week's game in a good way."
Building on positives shouldn't be difficult, because Villanova (2-1) did jump out to a 14-0 lead, score a season-high 35 points, and produce a season-high 490 yards of offense in the loss.
Senior quarterback Zach Bednarczyk continued his hot start by completing 26 of 35 passes for 389 yards with four touchdowns. In three games, he has passed for 858 yards and completed 70.2 percent of his attempts. He has thrown 10 touchdowns.
The offense has rushed for 471 yards, making it balanced and difficult to defend against.
The defense gave up more yards against Towson than it had in the first two games combined, which is a serious concern. Did Towson expose the Wildcats, or was it a momentary hiccup?
That's what Villanova will start to see in the game against Bucknell (0-3).
Bucknell will be a test of how the Wildcats respond to adversity, Bednarczyk said.
"I think the seniors on our team will be able to lead the younger guys this week in practice," he said. "We are mature enough to bounce back from something like this."
Bucknell at Villanova
6 p.m. Saturday, at Villanova Stadium
Records: Villanova, 2-1; Bucknell, 0-3.
Coaches: Villanova, Mark Ferrante, 7-7 in second season; Bucknell, Joe Susan, 47-54 overall, 37-54 in ninth season at Bucknell.
TV/radio: 610 ESPN.
History vs. team: Villanova leads the series, 12-11-2.
Three things to watch
The Wildcats defense got blitzed by Towson and needs to shake off any lingering effects. Villanova's woes were primarily because of missed tackles. Bucknell has averaged just 208 yards of offense through three games. The Bison surrendered 10 sacks in Saturday's 34-17 loss at Penn.
Villanova quarterback Zach Bednarczyk passed for a career-high 389 yards and tied a career high with four touchdown passes in the loss to Towson. Bednarczyk is second in FCS with 10 touchdown passes. He has moved up to seventh on the Villanova all-time list with 5,091 passing yards.
Since becoming a member of the FCS in 1985, Villanova is 32-4 against teams from the Patriot League, including a 31-9 win at Lehigh this season. The Bison and Wildcats last played in 2005, with 'Nova winning, 38-10. Bucknell last beat Villanova in 1944, and this will be just the seventh meeting since then.