VILLANOVA, Pa.—The quarterfinal round of the Division I Football Championship is next up for No. 6 Villanova (10-2) as the fifth-seeded Wildcats host No. 11 South Dakota State (10-3) for a 2 p.m. kickoff on Saturday afternoon. Tickets are available for the game and can be purchased via the link in this release. The game will be televised live on ESPN+ and fans can also tune in to the Villanova Sports Radio Network which can be heard locally on FM 102.5 and AM 1480 as well as FM 104.1 in the Trenton area.
This season marks the 14th appearance all-time in the FCS playoffs for the Wildcats, who reached the quarterfinal round for the seventh time with their 21-16 win over No. 24 Holy Cross in the second round last Friday night. Villanova improved to 13-12 (.520) all-time in the FCS playoffs with the win and has now won at least one game in eight of its last 10 playoff appearances. It has been a storybook season thus far for the Wildcats, who won at least a share of their first CAA Football title since 2012 and carried the league’s automatic bid and a #5 national seed into the playoffs. Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante has been a part of all 25 games the Wildcats have played in the FCS playoffs over the years, including 12 postseason appearances as an assistant coach and two (2019, 2021) as a head coach.
Villanova and South Dakota State have met on one previous occasion and it came during the 2016 season when the Wildcats traveled to Brookings, S.D. for a second round playoff contest. The Jackrabbits won a close game by a final score of 10-7, with the difference in the contest a 40-yard field goal made by South Dakota State with 1:21 to play in the game. Of note is that the game was the final contest as head coach for legendary Villanova mentor Andy Talley, who had previously announced his retirement as of the end of the 2016 season. This week feels like a coming-full-circle of sorts as Talley became the first person from Villanova to be inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday night in Las Vegas.
South Dakota State is 10-3 this season and is back in the FCS playoff field after reaching the national championship game for the first time in program history during the Spring season earlier in the year. The Jackrabbits defeated UC Davis (56-14) at home in the first round of the playoffs and traveled to #4 seed Sacramento State last weekend where they posted a 24-19 victory. Notable wins for South Dakota State this season include a 42-23 victory over FBS opponent Colorado State in the season opener and a 27-19 triumph at home over North Dakota State. The final regular season Stats Perform FCS Top 25 and AFCA FCS national polls each had the Jackrabbits ranked No. 11, while both polls had South Dakota State at No. 2 in the nation for five straight weeks earlier in the year.
In the win over Holy Cross last week the Wildcats offense was led by graduate student running back Justin Covington (Bronx, N.Y.) and senior Jalen Jackson (Richmond, Va.) who combined to rush for 107 yards and three touchdowns. Covington found the end zone twice in the second quarter as Villanova built a 14-0 lead in a tight defensive contest, while Jackson’s 14-yard rumble for a score in the third quarter ultimately proved to be the difference in the game.
Another supreme defensive effort by the Wildcats featured graduate student linebacker Forrest Rhyne (Waynesboro, Pa.) and sophomore safety Jalen Goodman (Narberth, Pa.) each posting double figures in tackles. Rhyne had a career-high 21 tackles which are the most in a single game any Villanova player is known to have had based on available records. It is the third game with 19 or more total stops this year for Rhyne, who is averaging 11.1 tackles per game and is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award. Goodman had a season-high 12 tackles against Holy Cross last week.
On the other side of the quarterfinal bracket, top-seeded Sam Houston State will host #8 seed Montana State at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night. The winner of that game will face the winner of the Villanova-South Dakota State contest in the semifinal round on either December 17 or December 18.
COURTESY VILLANOVA ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS