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Villanova Repeat Won't Come Easy

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By Paul Najjar, CatholicSportsNet
8/10/2010 (9 years ago)
CatholicSportsNet.com (CatholicSportsNet.com)

Defending FCS champs have tough road ahead

Villanova Head Coach Andy Talley, heading into his 26th season at the helm of the Wildcats and one of the most successful college coaches in America, is in the unenviable position to repeat his championship season from 2009. And to do so from the power packed and tradition rich Colonial Athletic Association - from where four of the last seven FCS champions have been crowned - it is a daunting task.

Highlights

By Paul Najjar, CatholicSportsNet
CatholicSportsNet.com (CatholicSportsNet.com)
8/10/2010 (9 years ago)

Published in Sports


LOS ANGELES, CA (CatholicSportsNet) - Winning back-to-back championships in football is tough - a feat that is reserved for the best of the best. Ask Alabama, Notre Dame, USC, and Ohio State. Every one of them will tell you that it's never easy.

But in the Football Championship Subdivision, repeat - and even three-peat - champions have been the rule. Here's a quick look at teams who have found recent repeat successes in the FCS:

Appalachain State won titles every year between 2005-2007.

Georgia Southern has won back-to-back titles three times: 1985-86, 1989-90, and 1999-2000.

Youngstown State triumphed in 1993 and 1994.

Villanova Head Coach Andy Talley, heading into his 26th season at the helm of the Wildcats and one of the most successful college coaches in America, is in the unenviable position to repeat his championship season from 2009. And to do so from the power packed and tradition rich Colonial Athletic Association - from where four of the last seven FCS champions have been crowned - it is a daunting task.

"Last season was a very long season. We played 15 games so it was almost like an NFL season," said Talley. "With games going far into December we struggled a little bit academically so we had to get the guys back on track in the classroom. We had a lot of guys banged up so our spring practice was limited as we tried to get our guys healthy again. And we know that any one of the teams in the CAA is capable of winning it all."

Talley firmly believes that three major factors contributed to the team's championship last season.

"We were relatively injury-free, we had good luck when we needed it and we had a terrific group of players, and that's what allowed us to hoist our first championship trophy," said Talley.

One team breathing down the necks of the Wildcats and hoping to regain its own championship prowess is William & Mary. Their coach, Jimmye Laycock, does not believe that Villanova's 2009-10 championship was a flash in the pan. He spoke recently with the Newport News, Virginia Daily Press' Melinda Waldrop and said the following:

"They're good. It's no fluke with them," said Laycock. "We had good games with them, and we had our chances. That game we had up there was kind of like a national championship game. If we had had that one in Williamsburg, or this or that had happened differently, it could have been a whole different outcome, but it didn't. They got it, and they deserved it. We'll see."

Nova's coach Talley admits that the games (in the regular season and in the FCS semi-finals) with William and Mary last year were a tossup and this year's game will be no different. Last season, Villanova used a fake punt, and touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters in a comeback 14-13 win over W&M, which allowed Villanova to advance to the FCS title game.

"We've beaten them six times in a row," said Talley. "The numbers are with them and I know they can't wait to get us down there this season."

Producing the highest end competition of any FCS Conference is what the Colonial Athletic Association is all about and is something the CAA takes pride in; so much so that some have deemed the conference "the little SEC," which refers to the perennially dominant BCS football conference, the Southwestern Conference.

The teams in this conference (CAA) have dominated the Football Championship Subdivision's (FCS) upper echelon since 2003. Teams currently in the CAA have won championships in 2003 (Delaware), 2004 (James Madison), 2008 (Richmond) and last year's Villanova squad. 2006 and 2007 featured runner-up performances from Massachusetts (2006) and Delaware (2007). About what you'd expect from the conference nicknamed "the little SEC."

"We're going to struggle to replace some guys, especially on defense," commented Talley. "Jimmye's always had a high-powered offense. We've always had a pretty high-powered offense. The way to get a great team is to get that balance on offense and defense, and he has enough athletes now on both sides of the ball."

Regarding Villanova's preseason No. 1 ranking and them being the overwhelming preseason choice as the top team in the CAA, Talley says his team will have to work hard to back that up.

"With 15 starters coming back, I think a lot of the people who vote on these things just plugged us in as the No. 1 team," said Talley. "But we'll have to earn that on the field."

William & Mary's junior linebacker Jake Trantin, a preseason All-CAA selection, also spoke with the Daily Press and Waldrop recently, and it feels like this could be their year to get past Villanova.

"We lost to them twice, and they ended up winning the national championship, so we lost to the best team in the country," he said. "They've got a good team and they've got good players coming back. It should make for a good game this year."

Sounds like Villanova and William & Mary, to paraphrase a quote from legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger while at the University of Louisville, "Are on a collision course (for) the national championship. The only variable is time."

Coach Talley and his staff welcome the challenge.

"We're still looking to build chemistry in the team and find the leadership on this squad," he said. "We just gotta find a way to win eight games. We know our early, non-conference schedule will be tough. Temple will be gunning for us because we upset them last year. And Penn and Lehigh are big-time local rivalries. And our conference schedule will be a grind every week."

No small feat, this repeat business. But in "the little SEC," it's an annual competition.
To listen to an audio interview with Villanova coach Andy Talley, please visit the CSN Radio section found at www.catholicsportsnet.com.


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