Villanova well-rested and healthy again for homecoming game vs. New Hampshire
The Wildcats are looking for a fresh start coming off a bye week.
Many colleges have fall breaks, but Villanova is one of just a handful that gives its students a full week off.
Last week was fall break for Villanova, and no group needed to get away from the Main Line more than the Wildcats football team.
With his team having lost three consecutive games and four of the last five, Villanova coach Mark Ferrante gave his players several days off and urged them to get off campus while leaving thoughts of football there.
The Wildcats had a bye last Saturday, and Ferrante felt his team needed a break to recover physically and mentally from a stretch of the season that had spun out of control.
"The bye came at a good time for us," Ferrante said. "It coincided with our fall break. A lot of guys got off campus, and then we came back to practice last Wednesday, did Thursday and Friday morning, then gave them off until Sunday.
"I think a lot of guys went to watch their siblings at high school football games."
Villanova then got back to its routine to prepare for Saturday's homecoming game against New Hampshire.
"We've had a good few days of practice," Ferrante said.
The Wildcats (3-4) cannot erase the losses at Stony Brook and Maine and then the punishing, 23-0 beatdown by James Madison, but with four games remaining, there's a chance of a winning season and sneaking into the FCS playoffs if they run the table.
Their chances should be bolstered by the return of several key starters who missed games because of injuries. Right tackle Brandon Hitner, defensive back Christian Benford, safety Terrell Vassel, and linebacker Jeff Steeb are cleared to play against New Hampshire.
What the Wildcats need most, however, is the return of quarterback Zach Bednarczyk, who has missed the last 2½ games with a deep bone bruise in his throwing shoulder.
Bednarczyk "is throwing the ball, and it looks like he has his full range of motion back," Ferrante said. "We have to have him take a little bit of contact to see how the pain threshold is.
"We're very optimistic that Zach will be able to go this week, and that would be huge for us."
With Bednarczyk, Villanova's offense was as dynamic and potent as any in FCS. Before getting injured against Stony Brook, he completed 97 of 144 passes for 1,319 yards, with 12 touchdowns.
The Wildcats scored at least 30 points in three straight games going into Stony Brook.
"With our guys coming back from injury, the hope is that we get back to the style of play we had in the first part of the season," Ferrante said.
New Hampshire at Villanova
2 p.m. Saturday at Villanova Stadium.
Records: Villanova, 3-4, 0-4 in Colonial Athletic Association; New Hampshire, 1-5, 0-4.
Coaches: Mark Ferrante, 8-10, in second season; Sean McDonnell, 151-94, in 20th season.
TV/radio: 610 ESPN; Live audio: www.villanova.com
History vs. team: New Hampshire leads the series, 12-11.
Three things to watch
Through quirks in the CAA scheduling, Villanova and New Hampshire are meeting for the first time since 2013 and the first time on the Main Line since 2010. No player on the Villanova roster has ever squared off against the Wildcats from New England.
2. If quarterback Zach Bednarczyk plays, Villanova will be a different offense. In the four games before Bednarczyk got hurt, the 'Nova offense was averaging around 400 yards and produced 20 touchdowns.
3. New Hampshire was picked to finish second in the CAA preseason poll, but that was before quarterback Trevor Knight, who was chosen as preseason Offensive Player of the Year, got hurt in the first game. Knight missed the first four games, all losses, but returned to throw four touchdowns in a win over Holy Cross. He has passed for 483 yards, with five touchdowns, in his two games.