Three years after winning it all — and two years since going to the Final Four — Andy Talley and Villanova are back in the FCS version of the Big Dance. They'll travel to Stony Brook Saturday afternoon to take on the Seawolves (9-2), a team averaging 36.1 a game while surrendering just 16.0.
But considering the Wildcats were coming off a 2-9 season in which the bottom fell out, just being in the field for the 10th time in Talley's illustrious 28-year career is saying something.
"I knew we had a very young team last year and we just couldn't get the quarterback position right," said Talley, whose 8-3 club wound up in a four-way tie for the CAA title after routing Delaware 41-10 this past Saturday. Villanova was awarded an automatic bid through a tiebreaker formula. "In any league you're in, if you can't get that right, you're gonna struggle. It just took a combination of getting a quarterback groomed and having some of those 11 freshman get a little bigger stronger and more experienced. "
By midseason redshirt freshman John Robertson had established himself as the quarterback, with sophomore Kevin Monangai the workhorse back on a team that led the CAA in rushing (263.4 yards a game). Still, it doesn't appear the FCS Selection Committee has done them any favors.
"I'd say it’s a tough seed," said Talley, knowing Stony Brook has won 12 straight at home and that the winner of this one will face No. 3 seed Montana State. "It's not one of those easy play-in games. They're as tough as any CAA opponent. They’re like an upper level CAA team, who likes to run the ball. In fact they'll be in our league next season. But we're okay with it.'"
Especially considering how far the Wildcats have come in such a short time.
"It's the playoffs, man,'' he replied when asked what advice he'd pass on. "Let's go! Simple as that."
For Villanova, back at the ball after a year away, it's time to dance.