Liberty coach Turner Gill knows all about quarterback play and he is the latest to show his appreciation for Villanova's John Robertson after studying him on film all week.
After a first-round bye, Villanova (10-2) will host Liberty (9-4) in a Football Championship Subdivision playoffs at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Gill was a Heisman finalist and three-time all-Big Eight quarterback at Nebraska. His Liberty team earned the trip to Villanova Stadium after last week's 26-21 win over yet another Colonial Athletic Association team, James Madison. That was the first FCS playoff game in Liberty history.
When asked to compare Robertson to himself, Gill didn't hesitate.
"He is probably better than me," Gill said during a conference call earlier this week. "This guy can play, man."
Robertson, among three finalists for the Walter Payton Award, presented to the top FCS player, has thrown 34 touchdown passes and just three interceptions, while completing 67 percent of his passes for 2,629 yards. He has rushed for 978 yards (4.7 avg.) and nine touchdowns.
"He makes everybody around him better," Gill said. "And it carries all the way over to the defensive side of the ball."
Robertson is making his second playoff appearance. As a redshirt freshman, Villanova lost a first-round game at Stony Brook, 20-10.. Robertson feels his second time in the postseason will be different, especially after earning the bye.
"Two years ago we didn't have a week off and the other team did and they seemed well rested and we didn't," he said.
Based off that 2012 season, Villanova was ranked as high as No. 5 nationally entering last year but the Wildcats went 6-5 and didn't qualify for the postseason.
"Last year, being No. 5 coming into the season everybody thought it would be a piece of cake to get in the playoffs and it wasn't," Robertson said.
The Wildcats face a Liberty team led by running back D.J. Abnar, who has rushed for 1,235 yards (4.6 avg.) and 15 touchdowns. Two Liberty offensive linemen, junior Jonathan Burgess (6-2, 305) and redshirt senior Mitch Hanson (6-5, 300) were first-team all-Big South Conference selections.
Quarterback Josh Woodrum has thrown for 2,765 yards, 19 touchdowns with nine interceptions.
Liberty at Villanova
What: Second round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoff tournament.
When: Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Where: Villanova Stadium
Records: Liberty (9-4); Villanova (10-2).
TV/Radio: ESPN3; 610-AM.
Coaches: Liberty, Turner Gill (3d season, 23-13; 48-62 overall; Villanova, Andy Talley (30th season, 214-127-1; 242-145-2 overall).
Series: Villanova leads, 3-1. In the last meeting Villanova won, 16-13, on Sept. 9, 1994, at home.
Three Things to Watch
Turnover battle: Villanova QB John Robertson has thrown 34 TD passes and just 3 INTs. Liberty has intercepted 17 passes, with safety Jacob Hagen having eight and the Flames have 28 sacks.
Liberty's D.J. Abnar has rushed for 1,235 yards (4.6 avg.) and 15 TDs and the Flames will try to use a ball- control offense to keep Robertson off the field. Villanova is ninth in FCS in rushing defense (106.6 ypg.)
Liberty will have a big kicking edge with John Lunsford (4 of 5 FG from 50+ yards, including a 60-yarder. 'Nova has hit just 4 of 9 FGs and 56 of 64 PATs.
Three Things You Might Not Know
Robertson needs just 22 yards rushing to join Brian Westbrook as the only player in school history with three 1,000-yard seasons.
During its first six games of the year, Liberty's third-down conversion rate was 27.0 percent (17 of 63), which resulted in a 3-3 record. In the last seven games, the Flames have converted 50.9 percent (52 of 102) and the team is 6-1.
This is Villanova's 11th overall playoff appearance and fifth in the last seven years. The Wildcats have a career 10-9 FCS playoff record. - Marc Narducci