"We do not feel we're even close to what we were in '91," said Talley, whose Wildcats were 10-2 in 1991. "We felt with 17 starters back, we'd have an opportunity to be as good or better. At this point, we are not.
"The biggest thing is we're a football team which doesn't know a whole lot about ourselves."
Because of injuries, Talley said, he avoided having the first-team offense and first-team defense hit each other in the preseason. Superb outside linebacker Andy Cobaugh is out at least six weeks because of a knee sprain. Starting offensive tackle Sean Downes is out because of a foot problem. Wide receiver Pat Friend is supposed to miss several games because of a pulled hamstring. And tailback Vern Smith has not returned to school this year.
But the fact is, some awfully weird things would have to happen for any of that to matter tonight. West Chester coach Rick Daniels said one rating index had his team a 35-point underdog. Talley has more starters back from a squad that lost by one point in the Division I-AA playoffs to the eventual national champions than Daniels has returning from a 6-5 Division II team that failed to make the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference playoffs.
"Our goal is to play well and to win the game," Daniels said. "If I didn't expect to win the game, I'd just call Coach (Talley) up and we'd get the coaching staffs together and we'd go out and play golf."
But Daniels, who has fewer than 10 full scholarships to parcel out, also said the No. 1 reason the Golden Rams agreed to play Villanova was, of course, money. West Chester will get a guarantee from the gate. And it's a bus ride,
Daniels said. Twenty minutes and they're there.
"If we played Iowa State, it would be a bus ride," Daniels pointed out.
West Chester plays Delaware every year for the same reasons. No hotel expenses, and a guarantee. Last season, Delaware won the game, 28-0. But the final score in 1990 was Delaware 13, West Chester 12. And in 1988, West Chester won the game, 33-13. So Villanova isn't quite putting the game in the books yet.
Villanova and West Chester, which haven't played since 1973, both feel this is a nice game for local football fans. Talley said Penn doesn't want to play Villanova. He also said that unless Villanova were to move to Division I-A - which is being studied, although Talley, a hearty advocate of the upgrade, doesn't sound all that optimistic - Villanova doesn't want to play Temple.
On display tonight for Villanova will be a new starting tailback, junior Kevin Mosley, from Lower Merion High. Talley calls Mosley a punishing runner. Starting fullback Jeff Johnson will be Mosley's backup because redshirt freshman speedster Eric Hunt is sitting out with an ankle injury.
West Chester fans will see a new quarterback, Dave MacDonald, a sophomore
from Lincoln High. The most notable change on defense is the move of junior Lee Woodall from strong safety to linebacker. Woodall was the star of West Chester's defense last year, and a PSAC-East all-star, but Daniels said teams were able to aim their offenses away from him.
"We're going to use him like Lawrence Taylor," Daniels said. "We're going to put him in position where we think he can make the play."
His team's goal is to make the conference playoffs, Daniels said. A loss to Villanova would not affect that.
"To beat a team like Villanova, we have to play a perfect game," Daniels said. "We're going to use the game as a measurement of how we are right now."
As for Villanova, "we're just anxious to get out there and start hitting," senior tight end Scott Donald said. "Get a game under our belts."