Villanova coach Andy Talley admits he's disappointed his banged-up Wildcats didn't get a bye for the first round of the FCS playoffs to recover from what he described as a "brutal" Colonial Athletic Association schedule. But even with no rest, Talley said his team loves the prospect of going on the road to meet Stony Brook on Saturday at 3 p.m. at LaValle Stadium.
The Wildcats (8-3, 6-2 CAA) finished in a four-way tie for second but got the conference's automatic playoff bid because first-place Old Dominion wasn't eligible since it's leaving the league. But Villanova proved its worthiness with a 5-1 road record that includes a 38-14 blowout of fourth-seeded ODU, which got a bye.
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"I was really surprised, to be perfectly candid," Talley said of his team's failure to receive a bye. "But we're in. I liken it to our situation in 2010, when we played the next week. You've got to play right away, and you're going to play in some nasty venues. You've just got to put your head down and take care of business."
Talley's 2009 team won the FCS national title and reached the semifinals in 2010 before losing at Eastern Washington. After a down season a year ago, the Wildcats (No. 18 FCS coaches poll, No. 14 Sports Network poll) are back with the best rushing attack in CAA (263.4 yards per game) and a defense that had 14 interceptions.
Villanova's road loss was at Temple, an FBS program.
"They like being in white-on-white uniforms, and they enjoy travel," Talley said. "That's why we've played well in some pretty hostile environments -- Delaware and Old Dominion. I feel good about being on the road. It's not a problem for us."
What might be a problem is the Wildcats' injury situation. They lost starting defensive end Rakim Cox to a knee injury last week at Delaware, and Talley said some of his offensive linemen are banged up.
But Villanova has the most explosive FCS offense Stony Brook (9-2, 5-1 Big South, No. 11/No. 10) has faced. The Wildcats rely on powerful running back Kevin Monangai (108.2 yards) and option quarterback John Robertson, who averages 85.1 yards rushing and 166.4 yards passing while completing 61.7 percent.
"John is just as good a runner as I am, if not better," Monangai said. "He's a little faster than I am. It doesn't allow defenses just to key on me. It keeps people guessing."
Monangai agreed with his coach that the Wildcats feel at home away from home.
"I feel like we're an amazing road team," Monangai said. "It excites us. The more fans they have, the better. It gives us energy and gives us a reason to quiet the crowd. Hopefully, we bring that type of energy and the result is in our favor."