Villanova's Mark Ferrante has been coaching football for a long time. He knows how to recognize the signs of a struggling team that is ready to pack it in for the season.
He does not see that in his Wildcats.
Despite riding a four-game losing streak, Ferrante said he hasn't seen fighting in the locker room or players blaming each other for mistakes and bad plays.
Despite losing the last two games by a combined 71-0, Ferrante said he has not detected hanging heads, disinterest, or a lack determination to improve, so the team can make something out of the last three games of the regular season.
"The things that you worry about as a coach are: are they still giving effort, still have a positive attitude, those kinds of things," Ferrante said, "or are they pointing fingers in the locker room and all that stuff?
"So, we've had good days of practice. I'm not seeing that guys have quit. … I'm seeing some pretty good spirit in practice – guys coming out on the field and competing.
"As long as that is still there, you've got a fighting chance. We've just got to play better. Don't try to do too much, but just do your job better, tackle better. All the fundamental things I said we weren't doing a few weeks ago, we're still getting bit by."
The Wildcats are a long way from the team that upset FBS Temple in the season opener and began 2-0. Since then, 'Nova has lost five of six, including all five games in the Colonial Athletic Association.
How much of that can be attributed to the loss of quarterback Zach Bednarczyk to injury against Stony Brook can be debated, but the Cats have not won without him healthy.
'Nova still has a chance for a winning season, if it can win its last three games, starting at Richmond on Saturday.
"We're going to go down to Richmond and try to put together a better game plan, and hopefully, execute better.
"I think when you get to this point, some of the guys, instead of just doing their base fundamental job, they sometimes try to do too much. … I think that comes from the frustration of the players," Ferrante said. "We've got to get back to doing your base fundamental job – hold your gap on defense, catch the ball if you are a receiver, hang onto the ball if you're a running back, deliver the snap as a center, catch the snap if you're the quarterback."
3 p.m. Saturday.
Records: Villanova (3-5; 0-5 in CAA); Richmond (3-5, 1-4).
Coaches: Mark Ferrante, 9-10, in second season at Villanova; Russ Huesman, 68-4 6 overall, 9-10 in second season at Richmond.
TV/radio: 610 ESPN; Live audio: www.villanova.com
History vs. team: Richmond won, 22-0, last year, but Villanova leads all time, 22-13.
Three things to watch:
- Freshman quarterback Qadir Ismail moved up to second on the depth chart. He made his college debut last week, when Zach Bednarczyk reinjured his shoulder. Ismail completed for passes for 48 yards against New Hampshire.
2. Senior running back Aaron Forges needs 71 yards to eclipse the 2,000 career-yards mark. The Wildcats' rushing attack produced at least 100 yards in the first five games but has not rushed for 100 yards in the last three. 'Nova has 76 rushing yards in the last two games combined.