Holy Cross Prepares To Face Villanova In NCAA Playoffs

Marcus Rodriguez

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Game Day Quick Facts
NCAA Championship First Round
The Teams: #17 Holy Cross (9-2, 5-1 PL) vs. #2 Villanova (10-1, 7-1 CAA)
Date: November 28, 2009
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Place: Villanova Stadium (12,000), Villanova, Pa.
Live Statistics: Gametracker
Holy Cross Radio: WWFX 100.1 FM, Worcester; Bob Fouracre, play-by-play; Tom Kelleher, color; Click Here for Internet Broadcast
Villanova Radio: WPEN 950 AM, Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
Series Record: Villanova leads, 12-9
Last Meeting: Holy Cross 38, Villanova 17; September 9, 1989; Worcester, Mass.

The Series With Villanova
This will be the 22nd meeting between the Crusaders and the Wildcats on the gridiron, with Villanova leading the all-time series 12-9. The teams have not met since the 1989 season, when Holy Cross posted a 38-17 victory at Fitton Field. The Crusaders have won the last two meetings overall, but prior to that the Wildcats were victorious in five straight and 10 of the previous 12 games between the schools. For games played at Villanova, the Wildcats hold a 4-2 advantage. The schools first met on October 15, 1922, with Holy Cross posting a 14-0 victory at Fitton Field.

Series Quick Facts
Overall: Villanova leads, 12-9
In Villanova: Villanova leads, 4-2
At Villanova: Stadium Villanova leads, 4-2
Current Win Streak: Holy Cross, two games
Tom Gilmore vs. Villanova: 0-0
Andy Talley vs. Holy Cross: 0-2

Crusaders In The Postseason
Holy Cross will be playing in the postseason for only the third time in school history, while advancing to the NCAA playoffs for just the second time. The first postseason appearance for the Crusaders came in Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1946. In that contest, Holy Cross suffered a 13-6 loss to Miami (Fla.), as the Hurricanes' Al Hudson returned an interception 89 yards for a touchdown after time had expired to break a 6-6 tie and give Miami the victory. The only previous NCAA appearance for the Crusaders came in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs on Dec. 3, 1983, when Western Carolina defeated Holy Cross 28-21 in the quarterfinals at Fitton Field. That contest was tied at 21-21 in the fourth quarter, before Jeff Gilbert threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Eric Rasheed, giving the Catamounts the victory.

Holy Cross Claims Patriot League Title For First Time Since 1991
With the Nov. 14 victory over Lafayette, the Crusaders clinched the Patriot League title and the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs. Holy Cross has now won six Patriot League championships (all of them outright), but this is its first conference title since 1991. The Crusaders also won league titles in 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1990. This season, Holy Cross also won five Patriot League games for just the fourth time in school history. The Crusaders previously went 5-1 in 2008, while posting 5-0 conference records in 1990 and 1991. Now in its 24th season of play in the Patriot League, Holy Cross owns an all-time record of 74-59 (.556) in conference action.

Randolph Attacks Record Book
Over the course of his collegiate career, senior quarterback Dominic Randolph (Amelia, Ohio) has completed 1,100 of 1,735 passes for 13,108 yards and 114 scores, while amassing 13,887 yards of total offense. During the Georgetown game, he broke the Holy Cross and Patriot League records for career passing yards, while becoming the first player in school or conference history to throw for over 10,000 career yards. Last season, Randolph broke the Holy Cross career records for completions, pass attempts, touchdown passes and yards of total offense. In addition, his career completion percentage of .634 is the best in school history, while his 23 career 300-yard passing games and seven 400-yard passing games are both the most-ever by a Crusader. Randolph enters this week's game ranked fourth all-time in NCAA football championship subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) history in passing yards and yards of total offense, while standing fifth in touchdown passes. He also owns the all-time FCS records with his current streaks of 40 straight games in which he has thrown for at least 200 yards and 41 consecutive games in which he has thrown a touchdown pass. This week, Randolph needs to throw for 105 yards to break the New England collegiate record of 13,212 career passing yards, currently held by New Hampshire's Ricky Santos.

Holy Cross vs. Ranked Opponents
When the Crusaders face No. 2 Villanova this week, it will mark their fourth game of the season against a ranked opponent. So far this year, Holy Cross has a perfect 3-0 record against ranked foes, with all three of those contests coming at home. The Crusaders defeated No. 25 Harvard 27-20 on Sept. 19, downed No. 17 Colgate 42-28 on Oct. 24, and then beat No. 20 Lafayette 28-26 on Nov. 14. During Tom Gilmore's tenure as head coach, Holy Cross now has an overall mark of 4-8 when facing a ranked opponent.

Randolph Leads Crusader Offense
Senior Dominic Randolph has been chosen as the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year for the third straight season, and is one of the favorites to win the Walter Payton Award, presented annually to the top player in the NCAA football championship subdivision. In 11 games this year, he has completed 279 of 434 attempts for 3,429 yards and 31 touchdowns, in addition to leading the team in rushing with 474 yards and six scores on 111 carries. Randolph currently stands second on the Holy Cross single-season lists for yards of total offense, pass efficiency rating and touchdowns responsible for; third for touchdown passes, completions, pass attempts and completion percentage; and fourth for passing yards. During the victory over Lafayette, he connected on 23 of 37 passes for 348 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to rushing for a score. Previously against Fordham, Randolph completed 23 of 35 attempts for 314 yards and four scores, while rushing for 75 yards on 16 carries. Earlier in the season against Colgate, he hit on 20 of 31 passes for 288 yards and four touchdowns, in addition to rushing 14 times for a career-high 116 yards and two scores. Randolph also played well against Georgetown (36 of 56 for 414 yards and two touchdowns), Brown (38 of 53 attempts for 411 yards and four scores), Northeastern (16 of 24 for 305 yards and five touchdowns), Harvard (25 of 39 for 293 yards and two scores, 41 rushing yards and a touchdown), Sacred Heart (274 passing yards and two touchdowns, 64 rushing yards and two scores), Bucknell (29 of 48 for 271 yards and a touchdown), Dartmouth (26 of 36 for 264 yards and three scores) and Lehigh (23 of 37 for 247 yards and two touchdowns). In 2008, Randolph threw for at least 300 yards in each of his last eight games, including three 400-yard performances. In 11 games played last season, he hit on 340 of 520 passes for 3,838 yards and 34 touchdowns. Randolph set new Holy Cross single-season records for passing yards, total offense (3,917 yards), completions and pass attempts in 2008.

Smith Keeps Starting At Center
Senior Chris Smith (Buffalo, N.Y.) enters the Villanova contest having started 44 consecutive games at center for the Crusaders. During the Lehigh game, he broke the all-time school record for consecutive games started, which had been held by Casey Gough (41 straight starts) from 2004-2007. Against Bucknell, he then eclipsed the all-time Holy Cross mark for total games started, which had belonged to Gough and Patrick Quay (1997-2000) with 43 starts each. Smith started all 11 of the Crusaders' games in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and has started all 11 contests so far in 2009.

Starters Shine In Secondary
All four of the starters in the Holy Cross defensive backfield have been playing well during the 2009 season. Senior cornerback John Myrick (Dayton, Ohio) ranks fourth on the team with 66 total tackles, to go along with seven pass breakups and three forced fumbles. During his career as a Crusader, he has now recorded 85 total tackles and eight pass breakups. Junior strong safety Anthony DiMichele (McKees Rocks, Pa.) stands second on the squad with 75 total tackles this year, in addition to posting five tackles for loss, five pass breakups and two interceptions. Over the course of his collegiate career, he has now totaled 147 tackles, 15 pass breakups and four interceptions. Junior free safety Alex Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind.) has recorded 50 total tackles so far in 2009, in addition to posting five pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble. His three-year career totals at Holy Cross now include 100 tackles and 11 pass breakups. Senior cornerback Michael Wright (Fort Washington, Md.) has recorded 49 total tackles, a team-high 13 pass breakups and three interceptions on the season. A second team All-Patriot League selection in 2008, he has now totaled 92 tackles, 26 pass breakups and four interceptions during his collegiate career. This season, DiMichele and Wright both earned first team All-Patriot League honors, while Johnson was a second team all-conference selection.

Gilmore Named Coach Of The Year
Tom Gilmore has been selected as the 2009 Patriot League Coach of the Year, marking the second time he has earned the honor in the last four seasons (he was previously chosen in 2006). Also a finalist for the 2009 Eddie Robinson Award, he is now in his sixth season as head coach at Holy Cross. Gilmore currently owns an overall record of 39-27, including a 36-19 mark since the beginning of the 2005 campaign. He has led Holy Cross to winning records in five straight seasons, including 7-4 marks in 2006, 2007 and 2008, along with winning streaks of six games (in 2008) and five games (in 2006 and 2009). Two of Gilmore’s players, Dominic Randolph (2007, 2008 and 2009) and Steve Silva (2005), have been named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, with Silva also earning first team All-America honors. Gilmore has also led the Crusaders to four victories over ranked opponents, three of which have come in 2009. Prior to his time at Holy Cross, Gilmore served as an assistant coach at Lehigh (2000-2003), Dartmouth (1992-1999), Pennsylvania (1986, 1990-1991) and Columbia (1987-1989). An Academic All-American at Pennsylvania, Gilmore graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in computer mathematics. He was the Ivy League Player of the Year as a senior and helped lead the Quakers to four consecutive Ivy League titles.

Offensive Line Paves The Way For Success
Holy Cross has a number of experienced players along the offensive line, where it has one of the most dominating units in the Patriot League in 2009. This season the line has paved the way for the Crusaders to average 32.5 points and 437.3 total yards per contest. The line has allowed Holy Cross to throw for 312.0 yards per game in 2009, and has given up only 16 sacks while the team has attempted 437 passes (just one sack for every 28.3 times the team has dropped back to pass). Starters on the Holy Cross line include senior Chris Smith at center, senior Chris Poole (Scituate, Mass.) at guard, senior Aaron Jones (Springfield, Ohio) at tackle and junior Mike McCabe (Watertown, Conn.) at tackle. Junior Mike Bernazzani (Whitman, Mass.) and senior Rob Petrosino (Bogota, N.J.) have both started games at the other guard spot. All told, those six offensive linemen have combined for 144 career starts. This season, Poole was selected first team All-Patriot League, while Jones, McCabe and Smith were all second team All-Patriot League selections. A year ago, Jones was named first team all-conference and Poole earned second team all-league honors.

Receivers Shine In Passing Game
Holy Cross once again has a number of outstanding weapons in the passing game, as six different wide receivers have caught at least 14 passes so far this season. Junior wide out Luke Chmielinski (Walpole, Mass.) leads the way with 56 catches for 722 yards and four touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Freddie Santana (Staten Island, N.Y.) is also enjoying a strong year, catching 42 passes for 575 yards and eight scores. Both Chmielinski and Santana have been named second team All-Patriot League for their performances. In addition, senior wide out Bill Edger (Hainesport, N.J.) has totaled 42 receptions for 714 yards and four touchdowns, senior wide receiver Nick Cole (Tucson, Ariz.) has posted 23 catches for 240 yards and five scores, junior wide receiver Rob Koster (Bellerose, N.Y.) has caught 19 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns, and sophomore wide out Charles McCall (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) has added 14 receptions for 124 yards and a score. Overall, the Crusaders have 11 wide receivers and 17 total players with at least one reception on the season.

Crusaders Look For 10th Victory
With a 9-2 mark so far in 2009, the Crusaders have reached nine victories for only the ninth time in school history and the first time since going 11-0 in 1991. If Holy Cross can defeat Villanova this week, it will reach double-figure wins for just the fifth time in the history of the program. Previous 10-win seasons have come in 1986 (10-1), 1987 (11-0), 1989 (10-1) and 1991 (11-0). The Crusaders have also guaranteed themselves a winning record for the fifth straight year, after going 7-4 in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and 6-5 in 2005. This marks the first time the Crusaders have posted five straight winning seasons since finishing with a winning mark in seven straight years from 1986-1992.

Offense Puts Up Big Numbers
The Holy Cross offense has put up some impressive numbers during the 2009 season. The Crusaders have averaged 32.5 points and 437.3 yards of total offense per game on the year. Holy Cross has thrown for 312.0 yards per game this season, while averaging 125.3 yards per contest on the ground. The Crusaders have hit the 40-point mark four times this season, scoring 52 points against Sacred Heart, 42 points against both Colgate and Northeastern, and 41 points against Fordham. The 52 points against Sacred Heart were Holy Cross' highest total since scoring 59 points at Lehigh in 2007. In 2008, the Crusaders averaged 34.4 points and 455.4 total yards per game. Holy Cross also totaled 348.9 passing yards per game a year ago, the second-most in school history behind only the 1987 team which averaged 358.4 yards through the air.

Bellomo & Houghton Provide Solid Combination At Tailback
Sophomore tailback Matt Bellomo (Holliston, Mass.) and freshman tailback Eddie Houghton (Toronto, Ontario) have both played well during the 2009 season. Bellomo ranks second on the team in rushing with 436 yards and four touchdowns on 88 carries, in addition to catching 32 passes for 251 yards. He has rushed for over 50 yards five times this year, including a career-high 91 yards against Dartmouth. Last season, Bellomo ran for 150 yards on 39 attempts, while catching four passes for 37 yards. Houghton ranks third on the team with 363 rushing yards and five scores on 63 carries this year, and also has eight catches for 61 yards. Houghton's 52 rushing yards in the season opener against Georgetown were the most by a Holy Cross player in his collegiate debut since Gideon Akande ran for 87 yards on eight carries against Georgetown in 2002.

Defending The Home Turf
Holy Cross has enjoyed great success at Fitton Field over the years. The Crusaders, who played their first game at Fitton Field in 1903, have posted an all-time home mark of 359-166-27 (.675). Fitton Field is the second-oldest stadium still used for Division I college football, behind only Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania (opened in 1895). Holy Cross' best decade at home occurred from 1980-1989, when the Crusaders recorded a 41-12-1 mark. In the current decade, the Crusaders have posted a record of 31-24 at home, with a 6-0 mark in 2009. Holy Cross posted a winning record at home for the fourth straight season, and has a chance to finish with a perfect record at Fitton Field for the first time since 1991 (when it went 4-0). The Crusaders last won six games at home in 1988, when they also went 6-0.

The Last Meeting With Villanova
Tom Ciaccio completed 31 of 43 passes for a school-record 449 yards and two touchdowns, to lead Holy Cross to a 38-17 victory over Villanova at Fitton Field on September 9, 1989. Ciaccio also rushed for 42 yards and a score on eight carries, to finish the game with a school-record 491 yards of total offense. The Wildcats opened the scoring at the 7:19-mark of the first quarter on a 34-yard field goal by Tom Withka. The Crusaders came back with a 10-yard touchdown run by Ciaccio, and on the next offensive play Dave Murphy intercepted a pass by Villanova's Kirk Schulz to give Holy Cross the ball at the Wildcats' 35-yard line. Ciaccio then tossed a 35-yard scoring strike to Tim Donovan, and the Crusaders led 14-3 at the end of the first quarter. After a 21-yard field goal by Scott Kania, Jerome Fuller scored on a 72-yard touchdown run. Joe Segreti added a three-yard scoring rush later in the quarter, to put Holy Cross up 31-3 at halftime. Villanova clawed its way back into the game in the third quarter, scoring on a 32-yard pass from Schulz to Robert Brady and a 38-yard interception return by Daryl Stewart. But the Wildcats would not find the end zone again, as the Crusaders closed out the scoring on a 19-yard pass from Ciaccio to Michael Lewis early in the fourth quarter. Holy Cross finished the game with 710 yards of total offense. Fuller led all rushers with 98 yards on nine carries, while Lewis had a game-high five receptions for 102 yards. Schulz completed 14 of 28 passes for 187 yards to lead Villanova, but was intercepted four times. Defensively, the Crusaders were led by Chris Maruca with eight tackles and an interception.

Rodriguez Racks Up Tackles
Senior linebacker Marcus Rodriguez (Peoria, Ariz.) has been one of the top players on the Holy Cross defense over the last few years. He has earned first team All-Patriot League honors this year, after being named second team all-conference in 2008. This season, Rodriguez leads the team with 97 total tackles through 11 games, in addition to posting six pass breakups. During the victory over Lafayette, he made eight tackles and had a key forced fumble late in the fourth quarter. Previously at Lehigh, Rodriguez ranked second on the team with 12 total tackles. Earlier in the season at Fordham, he led the team with 16 total tackles, including a tackle for loss. Some of Rodriguez’s other top games this season have come against Colgate (12 total tackles with one tackle for loss), Brown (12 total tackles and a pass breakup), Bucknell (nine tackles), Georgetown (team-high eight solo tackles and two pass breakups), Dartmouth (six tackles and a pass breakup), Harvard (five tackles) and Northeastern (five tackles). Over the course of his Holy Cross career, Rodriguez has now totaled 235 total tackles with 12 tackles for loss.

Crusaders Bring In Honors For Their Work In The Classroom
Two Holy Cross players have been honored this season for their performance both in the classroom and on the football field. Senior center Chris Smith was selected as a semifinalist for the 2009 William V. Campbell Trophy, which is presented to the top scholar-athlete in the nation by the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame. Smith and junior offensive tackle Mike McCabe also earned ESPN The Magazine first team Academic All-District honors from the College Sports Information Directors of America, with Smith being honored for the third straight year.

Crusaders Among League Leaders
Several Holy Cross players rank at or near the top of the Patriot League standings in a number of statistical categories, through games of Nov. 21. Senior quarterback Dominic Randolph leads the league in total offense (354.8 yards/game), while standing second in passing yards (311.7 yards/game) and fourth in pass efficiency (147.3 rating). Junior placekicker Rob Dornfried (Berlin, Conn.) ranks second in field goals (0.8 made/game) and second in scoring (6.3 points/game), while junior wide out Luke Chmielinski stands fourth in the league in receiving yards (65.6 yards/game) and fifth in receptions (5.1 catches/game). In addition, junior wide out Freddie Santana ranks second in punt returns (7.5 yards/return); junior free safety Alex Johnson stands third in kickoff returns (22.4 yards/return); senior cornerback Michael Wright is third in interceptions (0.3 picks/game); and senior wide receiver Bill Edger ranks fifth in receiving yards (64.9 yards/game). As a team, Holy Cross leads the league in scoring offense (32.5 points/game), pass efficiency defense (121.6 rating), punt returns (9.5 yards/return) and net punting (35.2 yards/punt); while standing second in total offense (437.3 yards/game) and passing offense (312.0 yards/game); and ranking third in scoring defense (21.9 points/game).

Tradition Of Excellence
The 2009 campaign marks the 114th season of Holy Cross football. The Crusaders enter this week's game with an overall record of 592-468-54, good for a .556 winning percentage. Prior to the start of the 2009 season, Holy Cross' 583 all-time victories ranked as the 15th most among all Division I-AA schools. Holy Cross has had 31 first team All-America selections, sent 69 players on to professional football, won five Lambert Cups, claimed five Patriot League championships, and was named the Division I-AA Team of the Year in 1987. The Crusaders also played in the 1946 Orange Bowl, losing to host Miami on the game's final play.

Senior Salute
The Holy Cross football program has 33 seniors who will be closing out their collegiate career at the end of the 2009 season. These 31 players and two team managers have helped lead the team to a 30-14 record over the last four seasons, good for the school's most victories in a four-year period since 1989-1992.

Randolph Named Team Captain
Senior quarterback Dominic Randolph is serving as Holy Cross' team captain during the 2009 football season, as announced by head coach Tom Gilmore following the conclusion of spring practice. Randolph, who was one of three captains during the 2007 campaign and one of two captains in 2008, becomes the first player in school history to serve as a team captain for three seasons. Only 10 other players in the history of Holy Cross football had previously served as a captain for two years. This will also mark the first time since the 1967 season that the Crusaders will have just one player serving as team captain.

Scouting The Wildcats
Villanova stands 10-1 overall and 7-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association this year, and is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation by the Sports Network. The Wildcats have won their last five games, since suffering their only loss of the season at New Hampshire (28-24) on Oct. 10. The Villanova offense is led by junior quarterback Chris Whitney, who has completed 123 of 185 passes for 1,413 yards and 16 touchdowns with just three interceptions, in addition to leading the team in rushing with 728 yards and three scores on 146 carries. Senior wide out Brandyn Harvey leads the Wildcats in receiving with 47 catches for 604 yards and five touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, junior linebacker Terence Thomas has a team-best 88 total tackles, including seven quarterback sacks. Andy Talley is now in his 25th season as Villanova's head coach, and has posted an overall record of 175-102-1. Talley owns a 203-120-2 overall mark in 30 years as a head coach at the collegiate level, including five seasons at Division III St. Lawrence.

Crusaders On The Radio
All of Holy Cross' games in 2009 will air on The Pike, WWFX 100.1 FM in Worcester. Holy Cross Hall of Famer Bob Fouracre is in his 40th season calling the play-by-play for Holy Cross football, and his 24th year covering the Crusaders on the radio. Former Holy Cross standout Tom Kelleher, who earned first team All-New England honors while leading the undefeated 1987 team in rushing, is in his 10th year as the color commentator. All of the Crusaders' games will also be available free of charge over the internet through the Worcester Pike website. In addition, WCHC 88.1 FM, the Holy Cross student station, will carry a number of games this year.

Holy Cross On Television
The Crusaders are scheduled to have four games shown on live television during the 2009 season. Here is a look at Holy Cross' television schedule for the 2009 campaign:

Sept. 19 vs. Harvard: WCTR-TV3
Oct. 24 vs. Colgate: WCTR-TV3
Nov. 7 at Lehigh: Service Electric
Nov. 14 vs. Lafayette: WCTR-TV3 / Lafayette Sports Network

The Holy Cross Football Show
Every Tuesday during the season, head coach Tom Gilmore will be joined by Bob Fouracre for the Holy Cross Football Show. The show airs live from 1:00-1:30 p.m. exclusively on the internet, with archives of all the shows available to those who can not listen in live. The show is carried free of charge through SportsJuice.

Crusader Vision
Live video streaming of all 2009 Holy Cross regular season home football games will be available over the internet through Crusader Vision. The package, done in association with Stretch Internet, is available for $6.95 per game. For details on how to view games through Crusader Vision, click here.

Quick Hits
The Crusaders are ranked sixth in the latest Lambert Cup poll, through games of Nov. 21 ... During the Oct. 24 victory over Colgate, the Crusaders wore pink shoelaces as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month ... Holy Cross won its first four games of the 2009 season, marking the 20th time in school history the Crusaders have opening with at least four straight victories ... Junior defensive end Mude Ohimor (Stoughton, Mass.) leads the team with nine tackles for loss and seven quarterback sacks this year. He posted two sacks against both Northeastern and Dartmouth ... Sophomore tight end Alex Schneider (Inner Grove Heights, Minn.) has become a key part of the Holy Cross passing game, catching 26 passes for 223 yards and four touchdowns this year. He has been selected second team All-Patriot League for his performance ... Junior kicker Rob Dornfried leads the team in scoring this season with 57 points, making 36 of 37 extra point attempts and seven of nine field goals. A first team All-Patriot League selection, Dornfried has also averaged 40.8 yards on 13 punts this year ... Junior punter Don Lemieux (Gardner, Mass.) was named second team All-Patriot League, after averaging 39.7 yards on 20 and 61.1 yards on 66 kickoffs so far this season ... Holy Cross was picked to finish in first place in a preseason poll of the Patriot League’s head coaches and sports information directors, while senior quarterback Dominic Randolph was named the preseason Offensive Player of the Year ... The Crusaders were picked as the No. 13 team in the nation and the top team in the Patriot League by Phil Steele’s 2009 College Football Preview. Holy Cross was also ranked No. 18 in the nation by Athlon and No. 21 by Lindy’s ... For only the third time since joining the Patriot League in 1986, Holy Cross played all of its non-conference games against opponents from New England (Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard, Northeastern and Sacred Heart).