Dec. 12, 2009

By Gordie Jones
Special to NCAA.com


VILLANOVA, Pa. –– The pronunciation is as elusive as the player.

For the record, Villanova wide receiver/running back/kick returner Matt Szczur pronounces his last name “Caesar.”

As in: “Hail, Caesar.”

There was ample reason to do that once again Friday night as Szczur scored one touchdown and set up another in the Wildcats’ 14-13 victory over William & Mary in a Football Championship Subdivision semifinal.

Szczur had generated 1,815 all-purpose yards entering the game, and the Colonial Athletic Association’s coaches had honored him not only as the offensive player of the year but the special-teams player of the year as well.

On Friday night, the Wildcats were facing a familiar CAA foe –– one they had beaten five straight times, most recently 28-17 on Oct. 3. Tribe wide receiver D.J. McAulay had told the Newport News Daily Press in the days leading up to the rematch that it was “a revenge thing,” and offensive lineman Keith Hill had said he too was eager for another crack at the Wildcats.

The regular-season game had left Hill and his teammates with “the feeling of not doing what you know you can do,” he told the Daily Press.

Villanova failed to match the Tribe’s intensity in the first half, falling behind 10-0 when R.J. Archer threw a 98-yard bomb to Cameron Dohse and Brian Pate kicked a 46-yard field goal at the second-quarter gun.

“I did rip the team when they came off the field,” coach Andy Talley said, “because I did feel we hit the field without any energy –– which was beyond me.”

Maybe, he said, it was the weather. The temperature was just 28 degrees at game time. Certainly the Wildcats needed a jump-start, and Szczur, as usual, provided it.

Villanova had a first down at its own 38 on its second possession of the third quarter when he took a snap in the Wildcat formation and, finding a hole off left guard, broke free. Only safety David Caldwell, coming from the other side of the field, had a chance to catch him. But Szczur outran him to complete the 62-yard scoring play, and now it was 10-7.

Szczur said he had a feeling the play was going to pop wide open, that because of the way the Tribe plays its defense, with the backside cornerback near the line of scrimmage, there would be a lane for him.

And there was.

“He hit the crease,” William & Mary defensive end Adrian Tracy said, “and he was gone.”

Talley thought the game turned on that play, but the Tribe did answer with a 15-play, 55-yard drive that consumed 6:45 and resulted in Pate’s second field goal, with 2:13 left in the third.

No matter. Szczur was on the case. He returned the kickoff 31 yards, to the William & Mary 48. And with the Wildcats lined up in punt formation on fourth-and-8 from the 46, he took a pitch from punter Dominic Scarnecchia and skirted left end for a gain of 9 yards.

That led to the game-winning 1-yard TD run by quarterback Chris Whitney with 10:57 left.

The fake punt, Talley said, was “a dual read;” Szczur could either throw the ball to wide receiver Brandyn Harvey or keep it.

“Watching film all week, I knew it was going to work,” Szczur said. “The guy over Harvey was trying to jam him and trailing down the field. I knew it was going to be a run. (The defender) wasn’t checking for a fake. His back was to me the whole time.”

Szczur finished with eight rushes for 92 yards, two kickoff returns for 54 and two catches for 8.

“He’s a playmaker,” Tracy said.

All hail.