With four days remaining to prepare for a tough season opener on Friday night, the Wildcats are in the final countdown phase of training camp. On today's CAA Teleconference, head coach Andy Talley expressed his concerns about his team going up against the FBS foe in their first game of the year.
Talley: "I've played enough 1-A teams to not want to play any more 1-A teams." Prioritizes seasonal team success, health.— Stephen Bailey (@Stephen_Bailey1) August 25, 2014
The other benefit, he recounted, was that his players would get to travel to the Carrier Dome to experience a different game day than they are used to in CAA play, and -- with ESPN 3 covering it -- a chance for a broader fanbase to see the team in action.
Downsides, however, are that they have often come out of the season's opening game with injuries, which won't help the 'Cats with tough CAA games later in the season. Talley noted that key injuries in last season's opening game at Boston College (they lost three starters) had repercussions in the rest of their schedule, suggesting that they could have done better last year.
Talley says team is excited to play in Dome. "The kids love it and they enjoy that." But he also notes that it's "pretty rough stuff."— Tyler Piccotti (@SYRTylerP) August 25, 2014
The Wildcats are preparing for a team that won a bowl game last season and is looking to build on that success this season. Like, Villanova, the Orange play fast on offense, and look to leverage that against a defense that may not be able to adjust in time.
Offensively, the Wildcats will rely on the offensive line to open running lanes for Kevin Monangai, Austin Medley and John Robertson. In camp, the linemen have struggled to do so against their own defense, which raises questions about how they will perform against Syracuse.
Talley expects to have three veterans starting on that offensive line, with seniors Ross Hall (at center) and Vince Kowalski (at tackle) being key to their success. Brad Seaton should start at the other tackle spot, with Jake Prus at guard as well.
Talley - "There's three veterans on the line right now." Mentioned O-line will need to be prepared in order to face Syracuse on Friday.— CAA Football (@CAAFootball) August 25, 2014
Nico D'Angelo was also expected to be a starter at guard this Fall, but he has been nursing a high ankle sprain late in camp and is not expected to be ready for the game.
The other concern that was cited was in the kicking game. Chris Gough returns as a veteran on kick-offs, but the 'Cats will not have any experience at punter or placekicker on Friday and Talley will hope that the pressure of the situation doesn't cause any major issues for the relatively inexperienced players at both positions.
Kicking in a dome should help, of course, with the structure taking wind and the elements out of the picture.
On playing in a Dome: "There's no way you can get ready for it. It's going to be loud, raucous and noisy."— Tyler Piccotti (@SYRTylerP) August 25, 2014
"There's no way we can get ready for that," Talley said about playing in the Dome. Villanova is bracing itself for a loud and raucous game day environment at Syracuse, but has no way to really practice for it. The dome cannot be replicated at Villanova Stadium.
Talley on preparing for Cuse - "You have to try to maintain some sense of balance." Hinted that playing a great 1st half vs. FBS is vital.— CAA Football (@CAAFootball) August 25, 2014
As always, Villanova is hoping to be competitive in the game and to avoid injuries. They need to play a balanced game and avoid getting worn out too early in the game to stay in it. The 'Cats have won their FBS opener three times before and Andy Talley notes that the secret is normally to take the game into the fourth quarter and try to win it late.