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Lehigh At Villanova Game Preview: The Cherry On Top For Andy Talley

Villanova is listed as No. 22 in the STATS Top 25 poll this week, and No. 19 in the Coaches' poll.  Lehigh, as has been the case since 2014, is unranked.

Additionally, since resuming play against the Wildcats in the modern era in 2004, Lehigh is 1-4 against Villanova.

So, simple matter for Lehigh to put the Monmouth loss behind them and kick off the rest of the 2016 football season with a win, right?

Not exactly.

That the Villanova game this Saturday will be a big challenge appears to be something head coach Andy Coen, junior OL Tim O'Hara and the rest of the Mountain Hawks are quite aware, but that doesn't mean that anyone will be backing down.

"The message we're going to have is don't get on the bus unless you think you're going to win the game," Coen said.  "So, we're looking forward to it."


Last week, Andy Talley kicked off his final season at the helm of the Villanova Wildcats with a 28-7 defeat to an ACC school, Pitt.

His final game coaching against an FBS opponent had a familiar outcome - a loss - but also, judging by the teleconference this week of the CAA, lots of hope for the upcoming season.

"Our offense played pretty well under trying conditions," Talley said, not sugarcoating the plays that happened that lost Villanova the game.  "Make no mistake about it, we were overmatched.  We're still growing.  I feel like this is a Villanova football team that each week will continue to be better and better and better, as long as we can keep away from the injury bug."

Though Villanova football has been around since 1894,  since an ill-fated dead-of-night attempt to drop football in the early 1980s, Andy Talley has defined Villanova football.

National Champions, 2010
"It seems weird to say when you consider that Villanova played its first football game 122 years ago, but Andy Talley really is Villanova Football,"  Brian Ewart at VUHoops.com told me this week.  "He came in after the program took a 'break' in the early 80s, they were looking to get things going again and needed a head coach to build the program back up -- there were literally only three football players on campus in 1985, and none of them had played a snap in college."

(Brian Ewart over at VUHoops.com and I had an intelligence swap over Lehigh football and Villanova football this week.  You can read what I provided him here over at VUHoops.com.  There will be more of his content in my previews today and tomorrow.)

"People don't know it now, but Larry Glueck, a Villanova alum who had played for the Chicago Bears, was the prohibitive favorite to take over that job," Ewart continued.  "He was a 1963 graduate of the University, and he played in one of the school's more successful football eras, on teams that won the Sun Bowl, and played a close game with Oregon State in the Liberty Bowl. He had been coaching as an assistant at Harvard at the time. Talley came in to interview with Ted Aceto -- who played QB on some of those 1960s teams with Glueck -- and the Board of Trustees, and earned their backing over Glueck."

Taking over a program that had to start over from scratch, the football coach out of D-III St. Lawrence (NY) won the battle, and started a career that would see the program built from the ground up at Villanova to one that competes for national championships on a regular basis.

"He solved the puzzle at Villanova," Ewart contines.  "He wasn't the first coach to do that, but he was the only one to stick around for over 30 years. This is his program, built according to his plan, and it has been a tremendous positive for the athletic program during that time."

Talley's plans haven't always involved playing Lehigh, but when they have, generally Villanova has asserted themselves.

Best game as a Mountain Hawk came against Nova
The one exception is 2006, when a young quarterback (now actor) called Sedale Threatt guided the Mountain Hawks to a stunning 31-28 win over the Wildcats.

"What a huge win. The whole Lehigh family needed this," I wrote after sort-of live blogging the game and is about the only readable piece of my sorry recap of the epic win.  "After the misstep versus Albany, there were serious doubts about the year. I wasn't sure they could do it - I picked them to lose this week. I couldn't be happier to be proved wrong."

Down 14-0, Threatt, WR Frank "Al Del Greco" Trovato and S Ernie Moore all had standout games to allow Lehigh to climb back into the contest and escape from the main line with the victory.

"Coach Coen talked about the Delaware game last year when we should have won," Trovato said afterwards.  "He also mentioned the last time we played Villanova and were up 16-0, but lost. He said 'This was the night we win' and we went out there expecting it to happen."

"Yeah, even down 14, we expected to win," chimed in quarterback Sedale Threatt afterwards.

The Only Way Matt Szczur Cooled Off Vs. Lehigh Last Time
The 2006 victory, however, was more of an aberration than an indicator of future performance.  More in line with most of the games contested between the two was the last meeting a 2010, a 35-0 drubbing on a hot day a Murray Goodman that featured future Chicago Cub Matt Sczcur, who was playing wide receiver for the Wildcats.  (In a bizarre twist of fate, Szczur's manager on the Cubs is the most famous Lafayette athletics grad of all, Joe Maddon.)

"You play teams like this, you see them as a great opportunity.  I think when we look at the film we'll find we made too many mistakes, " said coach Coen after the game.  "We talked a lot about limiting big plays, and make a team go the length of the field, and unfortunately we gave up three really big plays that led to scores for them.  When you play a team like Villanova, you have to contain those things, an three's too many in that respect."

"I am still confident we can throw the ball," then-starting QB Chris Lum said after that game. "It was just a mental mistake here, [lack of] execution there. That's what constantly stopped us. Yeah, Villanova's a great team. But it doesn't matter who you're playing. You have to execute. A lot of it is on our shoulders, not on who you're playing."

Overall, the Lehigh games with Villanova have been pretty enjoyable for everyone on both sides.

"This first homestand is not a cakewalk for the Wildcats," Ewart told me.  "Lehigh is the toughest non-conference FCS opponent that the 'Cats have lined up this season and it is a game that (I THINK) Andy Talley likes to have on his schedule. Talley is always a fan of playing against regional schools like Lehigh and Lafayette."

"I think it's a good barometer game for Villanova," he continued.   "They should get a good competitive effort from the Mountain Hawks and the result will allow us to learn a lot about the team we have this year and how it should fare against good FCS opponents."

Don't get on the bus, fans, unless you think we can win the game.

Game Notes, Injuries, And Media Roundup

Lehigh's game notes reveal two big additions to the defense that didn't start last week.

Sophomore DE Julian Lynn
Sophomore DE Julian Lynn, who was suspended for the 1st half of the Monmouth game, returns to start of the defensive line.

But even better for Lehigh fans might be the return of senior LB Colton Caslow, who has finally recovered from a broken hand.  He slides into the top part of the depth chart at middle linebacker, taking the spot that senior LB Evan Kauffman had last week.

"Colton broke his hand in the second week of training, so he has probably been out five weeks," Coen told Keith Groller of The Morning Call. "And these hand specialists are so conservative and it took awhile for them to clear him. His return is huge for our defense just in terms of personality. I just want to make sure he's steady and ready to go."

With Kauffman having such a solid start last week, one wonders if we might see more situations with both Evan and Caslow on the field at the same time.  We'll see on Saturday.

Morning Call: Lehigh football team wants to clean things up in time for the nationally ranked Wildcats
"I had two trains of thought on how to handle it with the guys," Coen said. "One was, 'Hey, don't worry about it.' And then the other was to tell them what I really wanted to say. I chose that approach.
"I told them that if you lose the game, you lose the game. But you can't lose a game because you had 13 missed tackles, you put the ball on the ground three times. You're not going to beat anybody that way. So we got on them pretty hard."
Weather Report

Some people really like 12:30 kickoffs for football, but this weekend it's certain that many, many football fans headed to the Main Line will be grateful that this weekend's game has a 6:00 PM kickoff time.

That's because the tail end of this hazy, hot, and humid heat wave is fully expected to drag on into Saturday, with a high of 91.  With the late kickoff, mercifully, the temperature should go down during the game and end with a comfortable mid-70s temperature.

Special Stuff Happening

The Lehigh Football Partnership is sponsoring a tailgate at the home of a former player.  The cost is $25, and there is shuttle service to Villanova Stadium, so you won't need to worry about the rough parking situation there.  For information on this event, you can click this link.

Getting to Villanova Stadium isn't hard - it's right off of Route 30, Lancaster Avenue - but getting parking can be a great challenge, so it is LFN's suggestion that, if you are driving to the game, get there early.  There's more: the rules for tailgating at Villanova lots are particularly restrictive.

• Kegs, bottles and funnels designed for “drinking games” are not permitted.
• Charcoal grills are not permitted. Only grills with small propane tanks (less than 2 lb.)
are allowed.
• Patrons are not permitted to save spaces for future arrivers or park in driveways, exits
or fire lanes.
• Pedestrians are not permitted to carry alcohol into the tailgating lot. To prevent
underage drinking pedestrians entering a tailgating lot may be subject to an ID check
and/or denial of entry.
• A reasonable amount of alcohol may be brought into the tailgate lot via the permit
purchaser’s vehicle. Vehicles suspected of carrying excessive amounts of alcohol are
subject to search.
• Tailgating is not permitted during the game. Fans that do not enter the stadium area at
the start of the game will be asked to leave.
• Underage drinking and providing alcohol to minors is illegal. Anyone found consuming
alcohol must show a valid drivers license or state issued ID upon request. Underage
drinkers will be prosecuted and removed.
• Villanova reserves the right to remove any fan who does not comply with the Villanova
with tailgating rules or instructions of an authorized official.
• Tailgating may not resume after the game ends.

Famous Villanova Person You've Never Heard Of

"99 Problems But Beyonce Ain't One"
Maybe he only spent one year on the Main Line, but certainly Villanova people will take it.

Bradley Cooper, star, actor, and whatnot, went to Villanova one year before apparently thinking better of it and transferring to Georgetown.

Currently, the 41 year old Cooper is directing and co-starring in the remake of "A Star Is Born," which recently made some news when Beyonce left the production and Lady Gaga took her place.

"On Sunday, Cooper rode shotgun as Gaga drove him and two other pals to Vintage Grocers in Malibu for some afternoon grocery shopping," in some hard-hitting breathless reporting from Page Six.  Sometimes, you don't need to write punchlines to real situations.

LFN's Drink of the Week #DOTW

With the tailgate rules as they are at Villanova, this makes the choice of this week's #DOTW particularly tough.  It has to be small, and not "excessive", lest Villanova police give your tailgate problems.  It has to accompany food grilled, at most, on a grill with a small, 2 lb or less weighed propane talk.

#DOTW
Of course, LFN is up to this challenge.

Since the amount of alchohol needs to be "small", ideally the alcohol would be able to be carried in a hip flask, meaning whiskey seems like the most logical choice here.  Also, with temperatures in the 90s, hydration will be critical.  Hydration and whiskey.  Hmmm...

This led me to this: Blackberry Whiskey Lemonade.

The key here is to either buy, or make yourself, some Blackberry simple syrup at home.  Put that in a flask, or a cooler, and when you're at Villanova, to your cocktail shaker add add 2 parts lemon juice, 2 parts blackberry syrup, and one part whiskey from your handy flash.  (You want lemon juice here, as the syrup should provide plenty of sweetness.)  Finally, garnish with rosemary if that's your thing,  Serving it in a ball jar, too, seems to fit with tailgating at Villanova as well.

Voila!  It fits all of the rules.

As always, Drinks of the Week have a place in responsible tailgates, but only if you behave yourself, don't get behind the wheel while impaired (or worse), and are over 21. Please do that.

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