Villanova Eyes Bounce Back Season With Injury Bug Behind It

Villanova Eyes Bounce Back Season With Injury Bug Behind It

Mark Ferrante is looking ahead to his third season at the helm of the Villanova football program, hoping that this time will be the charm.

Jul 29, 2019 by Eugene Rapay
1-On-1 With Nova's Mark Ferrante

Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante is looking ahead to his third season at the helm of the Wildcats' football program, hoping that this time will be the charm.

The longtime right-hand man of the legendary Andy Talley first took over his mentor's post in 2017. So far, his first two years have had their fair share of highs and lows—with the lows marred by an unfortunate series of seemingly never-ending injuries.

With a fresh start and a roster full of healthy, rested players, he and his team are excited to get to work for the 2019 season.

"We're always pretty good health-wise this time of year," Ferrante said. "Guys have been off for May and June, and then they're all back working with our strength staff for the month of July. We've always been pretty healthy. We were healthy for the last two years, but unfortunately the injury bug hit us a little bit. I don't know the answer to preventing injuries. If anyone here has insight to that, I'd love to have them share that with us."

Ferrante has become well acquainted with the injury bug ever since he was promoted to the head coaching position. 

In his first season, after an exciting 59-0 rout of Lafayette in Week 3, the Wildcats were dealt three crushing season-ending injuries in its CAA opener at Albany. It was an evenly contested game, until the 'Cats saw star safety Rob Rolle suffer a season-ending knee injury. Running back Matt Gudzak also suffered a similar injury, while top receiving target and tight end Ryan Bell would also get his season cut short. Villanova would lose that game, 19-10, in overtime.

The 'Cats bounced back in a resounding 24-9 road victory the following week, but lost quarterback Zach Bednarczyk in the process. With four key players getting injured in just a two-week span, the Wildcats' season outlook drastically changed.

Last year, with those players back for the start of the season, there was optimism once again. Combine that with an upset over Philadelphia-area rival and FBS school, Temple, the 'Cats were ready to take on their FCS slate of foes by storm. But, after a 3-0 start to the year, the momentum came to a screeching halt as injuries mounted up once again. 

Although the 'Cats missed the FCS playoffs, they ended the season on a high note—just as they did in Ferrante's first year—by spoiling rival Delaware's playoff hopes with a victory in the 'Battle of the Blue.'

In both years, the 'Cats finished the season with a 5-6 record.

"It's one of those things," Ferrante said of the injuries. "Right now, we're excited about getting started … We have the first kickoff of the season—college football—with a noon start up there against Colgate with the Week 0 start on the 24th of August. 

“We start camp on Friday. Hopefully the health of the team will continue through the preseason and into the season, and be able to carry it throughout the duration of the year, but it's a physical game, physical sport. Those things happen. Hopefully, it doesn't happen to our starters and premier players."

The Wildcats were selected to finish ninth in the CAA preseason poll, but they aren't fazed by it at all.

They have good reason to be confident. Although the preseason poll is an interesting look at how teams are viewed going into the start of the season, there have been a number of recent surprises.

In Ferrante's first year at head coach, 2017, Stony Brook (eighth) and Elon (11th) didn't have a great showing on the preseason polls. However, Stony Brook finished the season as the CAA title runner-up, with Elon right behind in third.

Last season, Maine was selected to finish eighth in the preseason, but went on to shock the FCS with a strong regular season campaign. The Black Bears unseated the back-to-back CAA defending champion, James Madison, taking their spot atop the conference and going on to enjoy a deep FCS playoff run that ended in the Final Four.

With the team healthy, Villanova is excited to show what it is fully capable of. Injuries derailed the Wildcats' last few seasons, but before the unfortunate stroke of bad luck on the field, the 'Cats looked like CAA title contenders.

Led by players like tight end Simon Bingelis, linebacker Drew Wiley, and cornerback Jaquan Amos—three players who earned preseason All-CAA honorable mention honors—the 'Nova appear ready to make their mark.

They'll get their chance to make a first impression against defending Patriot League champion Colgate, on Aug. 24, at 12 PM ET. It will be the first game in all of Division I and will commemorate the 150th anniversary of college football—quite the stage for Villanova's first step into its journey for redemption.