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Talley right back to work after season-ending loss
Andy Talley was back in his office Sunday, less than 48 hours after Villanova’s season came to an end in a turnover-marred 41-31 loss to No. 1-ranked Eastern Washington in the FCS semifinals.
It was a disappointing end to a season that began with high expectations. The Wildcats opened the season ranked No. 1 in both polls and the favorite to win a second straight national championship. It ended with six turnovers on the hideous red rug at Roos Field.
Eastern Washington turned four of those turnovers into 20 points to advance to the national championship for the first time in program history.
It was Villanova’s third straight playoff game on the road and the Wildcats had a short week to prepare for the Eagles and were in finals. While Talley did say the combination of those three factors played a role in the outcome, he did not use it as an excuse for the loss.
“You have to give Eastern Washington credit,” Talley said. “They played well. Their quarterback, Bo Levi Mitchell, threw the ball well. Their defense did a good job and they capitalized on our mistakes. They’re a good football team and you can’t turn the ball over five times against anybody and expect to win.”
With that, it was time to put the 2010 season in the books and move on, which is why Talley was back in his office Sunday afternoon.
“We have to find a way to win another national championship,” Talley said.
Those words tell you all you need to know about the state of Villanova football. Times have changed on the Main Line.
The school is thinking about making the move to the Big East and the FBS. A decision on that is expected in the spring.
If Villanova decides to stay in the FCS, merely making the playoffs is no longer acceptable. The Wildcats expect to be in the championship hunt.
That is the legacy established by the Classes of 2009, 2010 and 2011. They built the foundation for three straight trips to the NCAA playoffs, a first in program history.
Villanova’s return to national prominence began in 2005 when Talley and his staff brought in the likes of linebacker Osayi Osunde, nose guard Phil Matusz and safety Martell Moody. It continued a year later with the signings of defensive end Tim Kukucka, wide receiver Brandyn Harvey, offensive lineman Brian Brannigan and running backs Aaron Ball and Angelo Babbaro.
The championship legacy took off in 2007 when Talley landed the likes of wide receiver Matt Szczur, quarterback Chris Whitney, offensive linemen Ben Ijalana and Brant Clouser, linebackers Marquis Kirkland and Terrence Thomas, and defensive backs John Dempsey and Fred Maldonado.
The Class of 2011 has to go down as one of the best in program history. It certainly was the most successful class since football was restored in 1985.
This senior class recorded the most wins (40) and had the top playoff record (7-2) of any four-year class in program history. The class won 75.4 percent of its games, second only to the class of 1939 (30-4-3, 85.1 percent).
Talley signed 17 players in 2007, 13 made it through all four years.
Of that Baker’s dozen, 11 went on to become starters. Ijalana and Szczur went on to earn All-America honors and are expected to be taken in the 2011 NFL draft. Szczur was the Most Outstanding Player of the 2009 national championship game.
Whitney closed out his career with a 34-10 record as a starter, 7-2 in the playoffs. He also finished fourth in program history in passing yards (6,241) and rushing (2,450). Ball ended up second in rushing (2,916).
Nine members of that class earned first-, second- or third-team All-CAA honors as seniors and changed the direction of the program forever. They reached the quarterfinals as sophomores, won the national title and juniors and advanced to the semifinals as seniors to become the first class in program history to reach the playoffs three straight years.
It’s not a bad legacy.
“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Dempsey said.
“We were 7-4 my freshman year and just missed making the playoffs. I remember how excited people were about that. This year, we went 7-4 (in the regular season) this year and people were wondering what was wrong. That’s how much the thinking around here has changed in the last four years. We expect to win and we expect to compete for the national championship.”
That mentality was forged before last year’s title run. The captains from that championship team, Brannigan, Osunde and Matusz, gave each player a wristband with the words “Whatever it takes” on it.
That has become the motto for future Villanova teams to follow.
“I hope so,” Whitney said. “We were just a bunch of unselfish kids who were willing to do whatever it took to win and I hope that continues. I hope the younger guys carry on the legacy that we established.”
It won’t be easy. The Wildcats have a lot of holes to fill. Quarterback, running back and the left side of the offensive line are the chief concerns on offense. Replacing Szczur is like replacing Brian Westbrook. It’s impossible. Defensively, linebacker and the secondary are the most pressing needs.
The biggest void, though, is leadership. Who will step up to take those reigns and carry on the legacy established by the Classes of 2009, 2010 and 2011?
It’s why Talley was back in his office Sunday.
“They’ve set the bar high,” Talley said. “It’s going to be tough because we don’t recycle the way other teams do. We don’t take J.C. (junior college) transfers and we rarely take transfers from other schools. We build from the ground up, through recruiting. We’ve been fortunate to have several good recruiting classes and we hope the younger players and the classes in the future continue that legacy.”
Talley right back to work after season-ending loss
By TERRY TOOHEY, The Montgomery County Times-Herald (PA)