Moderator: Give us your impressions of what went well for your team on Saturday against St. Francis
Coach Talley: We had a quick start. We got out of the box a little fast. We scored the first five times we got the football. I thought that that was really important to establish the fact that we were on the move pretty good. St. Francis had only given up about eighteen points a game so they were a very stout defensive football team with a lot of multiple looks. We were very concerned that they could put you behind schedule so it was important that we established ourself offensively and we went out and got the first touchdown - I think we kicked a field goal - and then we scored a TD so it was ten - nothing. Then they hit a big pass play, I think it was like a 70 yard pass play on a bootleg play and suddenly it was 10-7 and it was like, okay, these guys obviously came to play and then we got the ball again and scored and then took control of the game offensively. It was 31-7 at the half and we were really in pretty good shape. Then we just sort of stalled in the second half. We moved the ball all over the place in the second half but we just couldn’t put together a scoring drive. That has happened to us before when we have gone out and put up a lot of points in the first half. I felt good about the game. It was our last, probably, home game at Villanova so it was good to be able to win the last one here and then to get into the tournament and see if we have the goods to advance.
Moderator: Ryan Bell … talk about how much of a weapon he has become for you on offense …
Coach Talley: He is one of those hybrid-type, tight ends. He is not really a big guy but he can run and he’s got really good hands and can get open. We started to utilize him quite a bit in our offense so it has worked out that we have a receiver that can get into the middle of the field and cause some problems. Jarrett McClinton also had a great game - he had over 100 yards in receptions - so now we are starting to spread the ball around with out offense. Your slot receiver is making a lot of catches for you, your tight end is making a lot of catches for you, you are able to run the football … I think it makes us offensively a little tougher to defend.
Moderator: Talk about the defensive effort against St. Francis …
Coach Talley: Tanoh Kpassagnon had probably one of his best games. They just really had trouble handling him off the edge and he is certainly a premier player inn the country and when you have a player like that it sets the stage for your defense. We were down a defensive back in the secondary so I was a little concerned about that but we held up pretty well. Austin Calitro also had a terrific game and our linebacking corps has been really stout all year, so I think the biggest thing with our defense is that we have been able to make adjustments with the styles of offense that you see - whether a team can throw the ball better or run the ball better or is a good balance between run and pass, we have had the ability to adjust and that is really critical for a defense to maintain their style of play. I think that we have been able to adapt and adjust the defense according to what out opponent does. There is no question we have been riding our defense all year. If we arguing to be anything in the playoff situation we are going to have to come in ad play stout defense for sure.
Moderator: Looking to South Dakota St, how important will it be for you to get pressure on the QB?
Coach Talley: South Dakota State really is a very very impressive football team when you take a look at the way they played against TCU and then their win against North Dakota St. They have some signature win in their program and are certainly one of the elite teams in the country. Their quarterback is probably the best quarterback that we have seen all year and he is difficult to put pressure on because he has great feet and can run. The problem that you have is if you pressure them he can take off and run and break you down and hurt you and he is a threat. He is really fast. He is a running threat that can really get down the field and he has a great arm. They have a package that is very similar to ours - a quarterback that can run and throw and they put immense pressure on you - on top of which their size is tremendous, they have division one size across the front. Very impressive team. We played a lot of teams during my stay here at Villanova and I would put them in the Top 2 or 3 in the country in terms of what we have had to face.
Moderator: Is there a team in recent history that you can compare South Dakota State to?
Coach Talley: I would have to say that they would probably be the elite team. We played Pitt and Pitt was certainly very impressive and I would put them close to the Pitt category, seriously. JMU is really good - we were able to hold JMU down and if we had played a little better on offense it might have been a better game. But this team can run and throw and they have a great package and they play really good defense. So, it is as tough of an opponent as you could have and of course playing on South Dakota you are a long way from home.
Moderator: CAA was 3-0 the first week of the playoffs - how does playing CAA help prep you for a tough road trip to South Dakota?
Coach Talley: I think it is going to hold all of us in there very well. The competitiveness in our league has always been a bellwether for our teams. Take a look at what we have done and the history of the league. We have made some great runs and have some national champions. We can certainly play with any of those teams for sure because we have been in some gut-busters already during the season. You come in kind of ready to handle the pressure that you are going to get when you are in a playoff game. There isn’t really much we haven’t seen, all of us, so I am real proud of all of the CAA teams and their advancement. It will be fun to see how we all match up and do in this next round.