By David Coulson
College Sports Journal
PHILADELPHIA, PA. — Lost by many in the midst of last week’s record haul of Football Bowl Subdivision scalps by Football Championship Subdivision teams was the fact that it could have been much worse for some of those Bowl Championship Series squads.
“When you play those kind of games, you know going in that everything has to go right for you to win,” veteran Villanova coach Andy Talley said Wednesday at his weekly press luncheon.
While enough went right for North Dakota State to beat Associated Press No. 26 Kansas State, Eastern Washington to topple No. 25 Oregon State, Towson to drill Connecticut, McNeese State to destroy South Florida, Northern Iowa to outlast Iowa State, Eastern Illinois to grind down San Diego State, Southern Utah to squeeze by South Alabama and Samford to hold off Georgia State, we could have easily seen double-digit victories by FCS teams in the opening week of the season.
It wasn’t just about collecting a pay check for William & Mary against Virginia, Liberty at Kent State, Southern Illinois matched up against Illinois, or Howard after doing battle with Eastern Michigan. These teams walked away thinking they should have won.
Talley and Villanova can feel their pain after a loss at Boston College that was much closer than the 24-14 final score.
“We had a chance to win,” said Talley.
As he looked around the room at the Connelly Center at the Division II and III coaches awaiting their first games this weekend, Talley came to a conclusion.
“Everybody is undefeated but me.”
Talley was also quick to realize how close Villanova had come to making him the only coach in the room with a 2013 win.
The Wildcats showed they meant business early on when they unleashed a fake punt that has been the talk of YouTube this week. Most people had to watch the play several times to figure out what hit the Boston College Eagles.
Here is the link for those who haven’t seen it:
Villanova short-snapped the ball to Jamal-Abdur Rahman and as his teammates carried out a series of elaborate fakes. Rahman waited momentarily for traffic to clear and took off for the goal line.
All but a couple of the Boston College defenders fell for the fake. Even the television broadcasters and film crew fell for the fake.
Suddenly, Rahman was running for the end zone, with one man to beat. He outraced the coverage and completed a 47-yard jaunt into the end zone to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
Believe it, or not, the play is called Talley-Ho, Away We Go. At least that’s what the ESPN commentators told us on Saturday.
“We were going to take our chances,” said Talley, as he went up against first-year BC coach Steve Addazio — an opponent he had beaten when Addazio was at Temple in 2009, Villanova’s national championship season. “You really have nothing to lose in these games.”
A 27-yard scoring strike from quarterback John Robertson to Rahman made it 14-7 Villanova on the second drive and the Wildcats had a chance to go up by even more.
Robertson misfired on a fourth and goal post pattern from the one with Joe Price wide open in the end zone.
“If we could have gone up 21-7, we would have been tough to beat,” said Talley.
The loss left Talley two wins shy of 200 career triumphs in his Villanova coaching career.
The second half turned into a bit of a nightmare as the Wildcats suffered several severe injuries and were also hurt by four turnovers as the Eagles eventually wore them down.
Boston College scored twice through the air in the third period to take the lead and a 39-yard Nate Freeze field goal with 5:18 left in the fourth quarter sealed the win for the Eagles.
“You’ve got to play a clean game to, which we didn’t do,” Talley said. “We have the ability to do it.”
One of the costliest turnovers came late in the first half when running back Gary Underwood attempted to improvise on one of the favorite trick plays in the Wildcat playbook.
Vilanova loves running a throwback pass from various formations. The running back starts to run and then throws a lateral to the quarterback, who tries to hit a hopefully-open receiver deep downfield.
But Underwood didn’t think Robertson was open and attempted to throw a pass, instead of securing the ball and running. Underwood tried to become a passer himself and tossed an interception.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats had Price open again for a potential touchdown on the play
“Those turnovers gave us no chance to win the game,” Talley said.
But there were positives, even in the midst of the loss.
“Our defense played much better than I thought we could,” said Talley, who watched linebacker Joey Harmon lead the defense with 15 tackles, 11 of them solo stops.
All-American nose guard Antoine Lewis shut down the inside with eight tackles, including one tackle for loss.
Villanova doesn’t have much time to lick its wounds as the Wildcats travel to The Bronx to meet Fordham on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Fordham put up 51 points in its victory over VU’s Colonial Athletic Association rival Rhode Island last week and is making strides under second-year coach Joe Moorhead.
The Rams pushed Villanova nearly to the limit last year on the road, forcing the Wildcats to come back for a 28-13 victory.
“It’s not the team we would like to be playing in the second game,” Talley admitted. “They can’t wait to get their hands on us.”