Villanova heads into Colonial action

'Nova's Norman White has sights set on playoffs.
'Nova's Norman White has sights set on playoffs. (FILE PHOTO)
Posted: September 14, 2012

THE PRESEASON is almost behind them. The Villanova Wildcats still have to go to Penn next week, but other than that it's all Colonial Athletic Association from here on out. Which is just the way coach Andy Talley prefers it.

"That's a good place to be," he said. "It was good to get a win, for sure. Now we're excited to be back in our conference."

The win was over visiting Fordham, 28-13. That followed an opening, 41-10 loss to Temple. Next up is 0-1 Rhode Island, Saturday on the Main Line. The schedule looks much more user-friendly in the season's first half. The Wildcats were picked to finish eighth, out of 11 teams, coming off a 2-9 transition season. Now they have almost everything back, but are still pretty young. The good news is, the CAA has a history of producing some surprises. Last year, Towson was picked to finish last and wound up lifting a trophy. So . . .

"It does put kind of a chip on your shoulder," said fifth-year senior wideout Norman White, one of the best in FCS, who missed last season with a foot injury. "We want to get back near the top. If we can do well in our conference, it means we have a chance to get back to the playoffs and maybe make another run there. We've seen other teams do it. We know it's possible. Maybe it's good that we're kind of being overlooked a little. We have to make that work to our advantage. We know what we're capable of."

This looks like a game Villanova needs to win and should win. But that's why they line up. The next two are on the road, including a trip to Maine that's rarely been easy even when Maine's been down. This year the Black Bears are supposed to be good. But Villanova's probably not good enough, at least not at this point, to look at anything as a given.

"We'll start to find out what we have," Talley said. "We still haven't solved some of our issues yet. I think we're looking in the right direction. It's another measuring point for us. We didn't have a lot of confidence after Temple. Seriously, [last week] we weren't playing Temple. That confidence factor is critically important.

"We haven't really looked that far ahead, because we haven't had that much success [lately]. A lot of things can happen along the way. We had some luck [last week]. We've taken that old stand of one at a time and let's see where we are."

Penn: Finally opening

The Quakers will be the second-to-last Division I team to actually play a game. Only Dartmouth, which kicks off against Butler at 7, starts later.

An hour earlier, the Quakers are at Lafayette, which opened with a win over a William & Mary club that nearly won at Maryland the previous week. And Maryland, of course, just beat Temple.

As much as the opponent, it's dealing with the circumstances.

"It's not equal," said coach Al Bagnoli. "[Lafayette's] already done it. We feel pretty good about what this team can do. But how they react to a game scenario will be interesting. We'll see if our evaluations are accurate. But the young kids, especially on defense, will have to grow up.

"They understand the intensity and speed of the real game is different. You try like heck to simulate it [in practice]. But it's never quite the same. You might have gotten away with something during an intrasquad scrimmage, but now you won't. Plus there's a little nervousness, especially in Week 1. You know they're talented, and have the ability to be good. But until they do it under the pressure of a game, you don't really know [for sure]. The first time they see something, what are they going to do? And you know something bad's going to happen. That's inevitable. There's a laundry list of things we've got to overcome . . .

"From a kid's perspective, they've been watching other people play since late August. They don't want to be hitting each other anymore. But there's an awful lot of variables that are very difficult to predict, and control."

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