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W&M, Villanova to play Friday night in FCS semifinal
For Andy Talley, familiarity has bred, if not contempt, then a definite unease.
Talley’s Villanova Wildcats (12-1) take on fellow Colonial Athletic Association member William and Mary (11-2) in Friday night’s FCS semifinal at Villanova, and Talley’s not overjoyed to be facing the Tribe for the second time this season.
“I would prefer to play a nonconference team, not anybody in the CAA, and most definitely not William and Mary,” Talley said. “It’s not the team that I want to see. They know us very well.”
A CAA team couldn’t go far in the postseason without bumping into a familiar foe. Four conference teams made the 16-team playoff field — five made it in each of the past two seasons — and this year will mark the sixth time in the past seven years that a CAA team will play for a national title.
“You gotta go through the CAA to get to the national championship, and that’s the way it is,” Talley said. “It’s just a shame that we have to go against each other.”
A shame, maybe, but no fluke. In 2003, Delaware won the national championship and played for it again in 2007. In 2004, James Madison won the crown, while Massachusetts played for it in 2006. Richmond, eliminated along with New Hampshire in quarterfinal play last weekend, won the title last season.
Montana and Appalachian State play in Saturday’s second semifinal.
“You talk about the idea of playing big games once you’re in the playoffs. Well, in our league, every game’s a big game,” William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said. “You better come ready to play, or you’re not gonna do too well.”
The Tribe was unfazed by Southern Illinois’ 11-game win streak or its No. 1 national ranking in a 24-3 quarterfinal victory in Carbondale, Ill. William and Mary already had faced three top-10 teams — Villanova, New Hampshire and Richmond — in its final six regular-season games.
“They went in there (to Southern Illinois) knowing that they were a good football team,” said New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell, whose team fell 46-7 to Villanova in another quarterfinal. “They knew they were playing a good football team, but they had utmost confidence. … That’s what happens when you play against good competition week in and week out.”
McDonnell’s Wildcats handed Villanova its only loss, a 28-24 setback at New Hampshire, on Oct. 10. A key to that win, McDonnell said, was containing Villanova’s dual-threat quarterback Chris Whitney, and he said that he thinks the Tribe, which lost 28-17 at Villanova on Oct. 3, is well-equipped to follow suit.
“Their front seven guys at William and Mary are the best in the league at what they do, stopping the run and getting after the quarterback,” McDonnell said. “I’d love to see that game in person. I think it’s just going to be a battle down there, a helluva game, a war between two really good football teams.”
Two really good teams from one really good conference.
“We know how competitive and how tough our league is, and I think the postseason only serves to emphasize that,” Laycock said.
CAA shows off its postseason strengths
By Melinda Waldrop, The Hampton Roads Daily Press