(20) Liberty (9-4) at (5) Villanova (10-2) (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Villanova Stadium (12,500) – Villanova, Pennsylvania.
Surface: Astroplay, artificial grass. Television: ESPN3.com. Announcers: Jim
Barbar, Dustin Fox. Home Record: Liberty 4-2; Villanova 6-0. Away Record:
Liberty 5-2; Villanova 4-2. Conference: Liberty – Big South; Villanova –
Colonial Athletic Association. Nicknames: Liberty Flames; Villanova Wildcats.
FCS Playoffs Seeds: Liberty (not ranked); Villanova (6th). Series Record:
Villanova (3-1). Last Meeting: Sept. 9, 1994 (Villanova, 16-13 at Villanova).
Series Streak: Villanova has won three of the four meetings. Head Coaches:
Liberty – Turner Gill (3rd season, 23-13 at Liberty; 9th season, 48-62
overall); Villanova – Andy Talley (30th season, 214-127-1 at Villanova; 35th
season, 242-145-2 overall). FCS Playoff Records: Liberty (1-0); Villanova
(10-9). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Liberty 0 (None); Villanova 10 (1989,
1991-92, 1996-97, 2002, 2008-10, 2012); National Champion, 2009). Current
Playoff Streak: Liberty has won its only FCS playoff appearance; Villanova has
won six of its last eight FCS playoff games.

GAME NOTES: After taking down James Madison, 26-21, on the road in the first
round, Liberty goes after another CAA team, albeit a stronger one. In fact,
Villanova’s only two losses (at Syracuse and at Richmond) are by one point
each.

Against JMU, coach Turner Gill’s Flames went back to veteran quarterback Josh
Woodrum after he missed two games with an injury, and he responded with 244
yards on 18-of-27 passing. He had played on an extremely high level in the
first half of the season, especially with the Flames possessing one of the
better wide receivers in the FCS in Darrin Peterson (80 receptions for 1,276
yards and 12 touchdowns).

But Liberty has steadily become more run-oriented behind junior D.J. Abnar,
who has totaled 1,235 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground.

The defense came up big in the wins over James Madison and then-unbeaten
Coastal Carolina to end the regular season. Safety Jacob Hagen leads the
nation with eight interceptions. It would be big to get at least one against
‘Nova because quarterback John Robertson has only thrown three picks in 12
games.

Liberty also features the best long-range kicker in the FCS, John Lunsford,
has the three longest field goals (60, 57 and 56 yards) this season.
Conversely, Villanova is 4-for-9 on field goal attempts.

The Wildcats have to contend with Liberty’s strong defensive line. In past
seasons, their wide receivers often looked to become blockers when Robertson
would roll out of the pocket. This season, they have continued to try to get
open, and that has benefited the passing game. Robertson has completed 67
percent of his passes and fired 34 touchdowns.

The dual-threat Robertson also has been helped by resurgent running back Kevin
Monangai as the two have combined for 1,848 yards and 20 touchdowns on the
ground. Running back Gary Underwood is another important cog, but he has been
banged up and might be unavailable for the game.

Linebackers Don Cherry (112 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks)
and Dillon Lucas lead the ‘Nova defense. It’s a hard-hitting, steady unit
whose job is to get off the field and put the ball back in Robertson’s hands.

The winner will advance to play either Sam Houston State or No. 3 seed
Jacksonville State in the national quarterfinals.

PREDICTION: Making their first-ever playoff appearance, the Flames are playing
with house money after last week’s win. But they might find themselves to be a
tired team (three road games in 15 days against nationally ranked opponents)
when Robertson is moving the ‘Nova offense. Villanova, 29-20.