Villanova head coach Andy Talley expressed his disappointment that the Wildcats weren't able to leave Connecticut with a win this morning, describing the game as a "winnable" one for his team. The "disconcerting part" was that "it was a winnable one, and we just didn't get it done," he noted.
"A real tough game to open up, you got a lot of heat up there at night. It was still really muggy and we had to deal with a raucous crowd," the coach recited. "You know, our first game of the year, we were a little sluggish coming out of the box; we had trouble getting plays in and some new guys at wide out and we had two wide receivers who were [injured]. So, it kind of messed up our rhythm a little bit.
"We played as hard as we could, and that's the thing I emphasized with the players. You know, we needed to make a couple of big plays and we didn't."
The coach went on to say that the team has a rough stretch to open the season with an away game at Patriot League power Fordham followed by an early meeting with rivals Delaware at home. He claimed, "[t]his is the three-toughest game start we've had in my career here."
They'll take on that stretch without starting right tackle Jake Prus, who started the pre-donation medication this week ahead of a bone marrow donation. Prus will be limited, and unable to play for at least a few weeks.
"Jake Prus, our starting tackle is going to donate this week for the bone marrow program, and we will probably not have him for two or three weeks."
The coach went on to note that the recipient of Prus' donation is a 65-year old man -- though his identity remains otherwise protected. The donation itself will not require drilling into the lineman's bone, however, the medication he started today will allow it to be more like a blood transfusion.
That loss is made more concerning by the fact that Villanova's offensive line struggled against UConn, especially later in the game. "We just couldn't sustain enough of a running game because their front-four is probably the best we'll see all year and we struggled with that," Talley said about his team's struggle in the trenches.
"We were overmatched in the offensive line, defensive line, a little bit," he stated, "and [QB John] Robertson was running for his life a few times."
The running game is vital for Villanova's run-first offense, and the Wildcats build their offense around the ability to make key plays on the ground.
"Without being able to set up a really solid running game, you know, it hurt our play-action stuff," against UConn.
Prus' absence was known before the UConn game. The potential absence of running back Gary Underwood, however, is a more recent development after he took a hit to his chest on Thursday night.
"I'm concerned he won't make it back for the Fordham game," the coach said. "Gary set up and did throw a beautiful block, but the guy simultaneously hit him in the chest with his helmet, so his upper chest area is really, really sore.
"We're getting an MRI on it tomorrow. I don't think anything's broken, I just think its just a pretty severe chest bruise."
The coaching staff is obviously hoping to get Underwood back sooner than later. His versatile game complements the offense very well, allowing him to be used as a receiver out of the backfield, a ball-carrier, or as we saw on Thursday, a trick-play passer.
With those key offensive players out this weekend, the Wildcats will look to their defense to keep them in the game against Fordham.
"We played real well defensively [against UConn]," said Talley. "We gave them one big play, and you could almost see it coming. Other than that, I was pleased with the way our defense played."
Up next is Fordham, who knocked off FBS Army in their opener and look set to be a playoff team behind Walter Payton Award candidate Chase Edmonds. The 'Cats held Edmonds to negative yardage last season.
"First of all, Chase is an outstanding running back," praised Talley. "He's one of the top running backs in the country, so, I think with a guy like that, its tough to hold him down -- we're just hoping that we can keep him from making really big plays -- but he's going to get his yards.
Last season, the coach said, he thinks they abandoned the running game after falling behind early -- taking away some of Edmonds opportunities to carry the ball. "It was a circumstantial type of situation."
"They have a very good transfer quarterback," Talley noted about Fordham QB Kevin Anderson (a transfer from Marshall). "It will be a good challenge to see how we play against them."
"If we want to be anything, this is a game we have to get after."