The play lingers in Villanova football history. The last NCAA FCS playoff meeting with Saturday’s FCS quarterfinal opponent, South Dakota State -- actually the only previous meeting --- came in 2016. As it turned out, this was Andy Talley’s last game of a 32-year Hall of Fame run as Villanova’s head coach.
A late field goal decided things, a field goal set up by a big play that was a weird play -- a South Dakota State tight end cutting in front of a teammate, the intended receiver, who was tightly-blanketed.
The tight end caught the pass, kept moving fast, into field-goal territory. Undiagramed misdirection.
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Yeah, they remember it all at Villanova.
“Where’d he come from?’’ said Villanova head coach Mark Ferrante, then ‘Nova’s offensive line coach.
Talley remembers how this huge tight end “criss-crossed over and snatched it out of the sky. Came out of nowhere.”
What was his name again?
“I remember it pretty well,” said Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert.
That’s right, the guy who caught Sunday’s 36-yard TD pass from Gardner Minshew for the Eagles first score against the Jets is the same guy who all but decided the last game of Talley’s career.
“It was a low-scoring game and it was kind of snowing,” Goedert remembered.
Not a surprise, since the game was in December in Brookings, S.D.
“They were a good team,” Talley said. “I thought we were better. If it was at Villanova, I think we would have beaten them. It was 10 degrees in South Dakota.”
That play …
“They were in desperation mode,” Talley said.
Game tied, 7-7, hitting two minutes left, second and 9 for South Dakota State from the Jackrabbits’ 41-yard line. (That’s right, Goedert was a Jackrabbit. Born to be a Jackrabbit. A South Dakota native.)
His quarterback, flushed out of the pocket to his right, saw a receiver also moving left to right to the sideline. Two Villanova defenders had it covered. That ball wasn’t making it through.
Goedert saw the same thing. The ball never got to the defenders.
Not intended for Goedert?
“Yeah, that was the case,” Goedert confirmed. “I think I had a corner and I came back underneath … I just kind of stole it from him and was able to run to space. It was definitely intended for one of our other receivers.”
“Our safety was running against the grain, so he couldn’t plant his foot,” Ferrante remembers of how Goedert was able to find open space for more yardage.
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“I thought I was going to take it to the house,” Goedert said. “I got tired real fast.”
The film shows Villanova’s defense actually closed off Goedert’s lanes to the end zone. But Goedert caught it at Villanova’s 45 and ran it down to the 25.
South Dakota State only gained a couple more yards. With 1:21 left, Chase Vinatieri -- Adam’s nephew -- kicked a 40-yard field goal for the game-winner.
A dropped interception the series before, Ferrante said, could have flipped the whole script, since that would have put Villanova in field-goal position.
“He’s going to kill me for even bringing that up,” Ferrante said of Talley. “I know it’s still with him.”
They all remember it so well.
“Especially when it’s Coach Talley’s last game,” Ferrante said.
“Now that you say that, I do remember that,” Goedert said of it being the end for Villanova’s coach, who got his NCAA FCS title in 2009.
No 2016 Cinderella ride for the Jackrabbits. South Dakota State lost the next week to North Dakota State. (The year after Carson Wentz graduated from North Dakota State.)
Ferrante obviously was aware, he said, that South Dakota State had a pretty good tight end. A future NFL starter?
“When they saw Brian Westbrook play at Villanova, did they know what he would do for the Eagles?” Ferrante said in response.
This time, the game Saturday is at Villanova Stadium. Since the Eagles have a bye week, maybe Goedert, if he stays around town, can get there.
“Yeah, that’d be cool,” Ferrante said, his deadpan humor coming through. “He and B-West can hang out.”
Goedert had been a walk-on at South Dakota State, was a junior for this game, and a finalist for Walter Payton FCS player of the year that season, before being drafted in the second round by the Eagles in 2018.
There’s no reason to think this play seriously impacted Goedert’s future. He already had one. Just worth noting how much this crazy play impacted the other guys, and still lingers on Lancaster Avenue.
The guy who appeared out of nowhere and ended a season, and a legend’s career.
Five years later, Ferrante still wonders, “Did he come off the sideline?”