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Lehigh At Villanova Narrative Street: "Holy Cow. Villanova's Defensive Line."

Lehigh fans's reaction to the big task ahead of them this weekend seemed to echo what head coach Andy Coen said in this week's Lehigh Football Report from LehighSports.com.

"Their defensive line.  Holy Cow," he said.  "Their technique, their defensive end - ready for these numbers?  He's 295 lbs, 6'7, and he's got an arm span that you can't believe and he just wreacks havoc.  It's not just him.  It's a defensive philosophy that Villanova has had for the last 10, 12 years, and they've always played great defense."

When look at Lehigh's #NarrativeStreet this week, we can start there - the Mountain Hawks will be going up against "an FBS-level defense," as Andy said.




In last week's game versus Pitt, Villanova's defensive performance really stood out.

"That's a good team they have at Villanova," Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi said. "They are very well coached and they have a good quarterback. Give them a lot of credit. They didn't quit in the fourth quarter."

Villanova held Pitt to a 7-0 lead, and trailed only 21-7 going into the 4th quarter.

"I took out of the game that we are tough," Talley said. "We have a lot of grit, and we have a really good quarterback who is going to be better as our receivers improve. We have a good offensive line and a tailback who stepped up in RB Javon White. The offense will improve as we get stronger, and probably the best thing about this game is we got out without any injuries."

Villanova's only score last Saturday came from a 3 yard fumble return for touchdown by S Rob Rolle.

"We wanted to stop the run and we wanted to play our gaps," LB Austin Calitro said. "We thought if we could battle and could make the quarterback beat us it would be a good game. We succeed at that and we played a very crisp game overall. I think it's going to be the start of a great year for us."

This hasnt been comforting to Lehigh fans at all, and Brian Ewart's review of Villanova's defense from the Pitt game isn't any more comforting.

"Villanova's scheme -- which plays five defensive backs -- doesn't seem on paper like it would be a run-stopping scheme, but it really is," he told me.  "The Wildcats have a great defensive line anchored by DE Tanoh Kpassagnon -- who is a potential second-day pick in the NFL draft -- and an experienced group of linebackers who have bounced back nicely from the loss of Eagles practice-squadder LB Don Cherry."

"That group's experience and talent allowed them to put some pressure on the Pitt offensive line that had shuffled a bit from last season," he continued, "and lacked experience at center. The unit as a whole did a great job of getting to the runner and wrapping up their tackles."

“(Villanova) is probably going to be the most talented team we will play all season, especially on the defensive side,” coach Coen told The Brown and White. “Last year they only gave up 11 defensive touchdowns, which is not a lot. They’re a very strong, very powerful team with a lot of veterans so we really have our work cut out for us this week.”

As you might expect, Villanova head coach Andy Talley had plenty of kind words about the Mountain Hawks as well, calling Monmouth's win over Lehigh an "upset".

"We have a great deal of respect for Lehigh," he said in the CAA conference call this week.  "They run the same defense we do, and their offense is very wide open.  We've played them before, always have a great deal of respect for head coach Andy Coen and the group up there.  They're extremely well coached.  I love their quarterback, he's very good, and they have a great wideout, junior WR Troy Pelletier, who is excellent.  They've always been very good on offense, they've been one of the innovators throwing the football."

The mood from the players "is to prove ourselves," junior OL Tim O'Hara said in the weekly media session.

"We really do want to show the type of team that we can be and we know we will be at some point, but we really need to take those steps in advance so far," he said on LehighSports.com's Facebook live segment.  "Cohesion on the offensive line is such a huge deal.  I'm expecting to see very good technique and a lot of effort in low pads.  One thing that that truly impressed me watching the Pitt game is that they were playing a lot lower than the Pitt offensive linemen were, and as an offensive lineman, you really have got to take that into account when you go into a game playing guys that are really good-effort guys playing with great technique."

O'Hara is ready for the challenge.

"It's a Top 25 team," he said.  "You really want to show yourself to the nation, and say, 'this is who we are, and this is what we can do.'  To be good, you have to play teams like Villanova, where you have to play consistent and good football all the way from the 1st quarter to the 4th quarter.  You can't play inconsistent like we did against Monmouth."

Sophomore S Sam McCloskey also talked with The Morning Call's Keith Groller about Villanova as well.

"Defensively, we needed to clean up on the tackling for sure," he said.  "I think we go down there with a good mindset - to finish tackles, finish plays in the game.  If we do that, we have a good chance."

****

Finally, Lehigh fans, I'll leave you with this in regards to #NarrativeStreet this week.

In the modern era, Villanova is 5-1 against Lehigh, the lone win coming in 2006.  You could say the difference in those teams in the past vs. the team today is the fact that Lehigh now offers conventional football scholarships.

But scholarships don't win football games against CAA squads - players do.

The teams of the 1990s and 2000s frequently competed with chips on their shoulders.  The players were called "non-scholarship" by friend and foe alike, and it's my impression that the players hated it.

Every time they went into a game vs. an ostensibly bigger, faster, stronger, more scholarship-y school, they knew they would have to out-work, out-scheme, and want it more than the other side.

It's my impression that those players carried themselves with a swagger that came with the realization that, whatever happens, Lehigh wouldn't be out-worked.  Lehigh might lose, but the opposing team would remember who they were, win or lose.

And I wonder if this Lehigh team goes into this game with that kind of swagger, the kind backed up by a similar realization, that good things might result from that going into the rest of the season.

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