Football looks to build on upset against Temple in home opener against Lehigh

Joe DeNicholas

The football team will host the Lehigh Mountain Hawks at Villanova Stadium this Saturday, Sept. 12. Surging off of last week’s win, the Wildcats hope to start the season 2-0 against a struggling Lehigh squad.

The Mountain Hawk faithful had little to cheer about after losing 28-21 to Central Connecticut last Saturday. On the other side, Villanova is coming off of a big victory against an FBS opponent, defeating the Temple Owls 27-24 in stunning fashion last week. Preventing an emotional letdown after such a big win could be a difficult task for the ‘Cats.

“I’m sure that our players are thinking ‘well, we just beat Temple and Lehigh is 0-1,’ but you can’t get lulled to sleep,” Villanova Head Coach Andy Talley said. “You can’t fall asleep at the switch and look past this game. You got to be ready to go.”

The Wildcats forced five turnovers last week against Temple, while Lehigh gave up the ball three times against Central Connecticut. If the Mountain Hawks do not take care of the ball, this matchup could become largely one-sided.

When these two teams played last season, the Wildcats handled the Mountain Hawks 33-14.

“Lehigh is a team with a historical background in winning,” Talley said. “They play in the Patriot League, which can get really competitive. They get a playoff spot every year. For us, it’s a team we didn’t play well against last year, but we beat them.”

The 7 p.m. kickoff should bring a large crowd to Villanova Stadium, according to the head coach.

“We’re coming into the game highly ranked off a big Temple win, and a lot of our students had a chance to see us play and liked what they saw. And, it’s a night game. If the weather holds, we could get 10,000 in attendance.”

But a sea of brown will also invade the complex. Lehigh is just a short drive away, and they are expected to bring a strong contingency to follow their Mountain Hawks.

Lehigh likes to run several different defensive sets that can be befuddling to the opposition.

“Their defense is all over the place,” Talley said. “They run multiple defensive sets. You might look at a set and ask, ‘What the heck is that?'”

Although Lehigh does not have a ton of fire power, they have several key players returning this season.

“Their quarterback, J.B. Clark, is a guy that we’re concerned about,” Talley said. “He finished up the season really strongly but didn’t have a good game on Saturday. He didn’t play well, but he’ll be ready to go this week. He’s a good passer, a guy we’re going to need to keep an eye on.”

Despite the big win last week, the Wildcats still have much to improve on if they hope to achieve their championship goals. Coach Talley understands that his team has much to learn from last week’s game.

“In your home opener, you want to play well, and they know the drill. It’s a battle. You got to hit the field and improve. We didn’t set the world on fire, and we have a lot to improve on.”

There is a disparity in talent between the two teams, and Talley is leaving it to the older players to show leadership and maturity to motivate the Wildcats.

“It’s really the seniors that you go to. You address the senior group and say ‘it’s your responsibility to get the message across to our football team that we’re not taking anyone lightly.’ The maturity of your football team should help you in this kind of a situation. I would be shocked if they look past this game.”

The game against Lehigh will provide Villanova the chance to tune up before their tough upcoming conference games.

“This is a stepping stone game for us,” Talley said. “The next two games are games we want to build on to get ready for our conference schedule.”