Coach of the year: Talley leads football team back to postseason

Nathan McGann

On his way to earning the American Football Coaches Association Region I Coach of the Year award, Andy Talley put together one of the most successful football seasons in recent memory. The Wildcats finished the regular season with an overall record of 10-3, 7-1 in the CAA. The conference sent a record five schools into the postseason, with Talley leading the Wildcats for the first time in six years.

In their first big test against Richmond, the Wildcats jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, completing the victory over the No. 1-ranked conference opponent, the first such victory over a top-ranked team in the school’s history. Winning for Talley and his athletes was starting to seem easy. After a victory over Rhode Island, Villanova faced yet another tall task. The Wildcats were set to clash with the new No. 1-ranked team, conference rival James Madison. Talley continued to show why he deserved every accolade.

James Madison boasted on the most prolific running attacks in the country and Villanova played stifling defense. The game was all but over with Villanova leading as the final few seconds ticked away in the rain-soaked Villanova Stadium. With no time remaining on the clock, JMU senior quarterback Rodney Landers heaved a 40-yard Hail Mary pass into the endzone where it was tipped twice before falling into the hands of a receiver for the game-winning score.

The Wildcats would not fall again during the regular season. Talley had propelled his team from unranked to No. 6 in the country and Villanova went into the postseason with a legitimate chance at a national title.

After a convincing win over Colgate in the first round, the team’s first playoff victory since 2002, the Wildcats had to prepare yet again for James Madison, but this time Villanova would be on the road. Facing very big odds, the Wildcats went into the game expecting nothing more than to win. Similar to the first meeting, Villanova was leading late. But Landers and the Dukes proved to be too much again and the Wildcats season came to an end.

Talley had completed a season unlike any other. He became the winningest coach in conference history. He moved even closer to his 200th overall career win. He earned 10 wins in a single season for the fourth time at Villanova and earned a spot in the postseason for the seventh time. Most importantly, Talley did all this with a young sophomore quarterback at the helm as well as a slew of underclassmen who were not expected to succeed this quickly.