Andy Talley has been here once before. That was 7 years ago, when a Villanova team that had opened with a win at Rutgers but lost three times had to score on the closing drive at Delaware just to make the playoffs.
The Wildcats then won twice at home before going down in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals at McNeese State, which is mostly remembered for some questionable calls.
That run just happened. This time it's different. Nobody's shocked that 'Nova (12-1) is still playing, least of all the 'Cats themselves. The surprise would have been if they weren't. Tonight, they'll host William & Mary (11-2) for the right to move on to Chattanooga, Tenn., and face either Appalachian State or Montana for the title next Friday.
This one is on ESPN2.
'Nova has beaten the Tribe five consecutive times, including a 28-17 win on the Main Line on Oct. 3. That was a long time ago. In last week's quarterfinals, the 'Cats avenged their lone blemish of the season by toying with visiting New Hampshire in the snow, 46-7.
Talley appreciates the enormity of the circumstances.
"It's in our hands," he said. "This is exactly the way we drew it up. [Being home] is what we've earned. The opportunity doesn't come around that often, because of the toughness of our [Colonial Athletic Association]."
So, is there more pressure being at home?
"I think more so it's the fact of how often can you get to the semifinals, whether it's home or away?" Talley countered. "We need to win this game. We've played in so many big games leading up to this. That's the thing about the tournament. At 11:30 on Friday we're either going to be headed out to recruit, or preparing to go to Chattanooga.
"I think the magnitude of this league makes every coach who's going to be in the playoffs think he has a shot to be the champion, because it's so good. You just know you want to give yourself the best possible chance once you get in there. With three home games, I like our chances a lot better than having three on the road. I think both teams are evenly matched. But I wouldn't want to be getting on a bus and traveling 5 hours to William & Mary. You'd better dig real deep. I hate that trip."
The Tribe hasn't won here since 2000. They lost to James Madison at home in the 2004 semis, the only other time they've made it to this point.
"It's a very interesting equation, actually," Talley noted. "Ordinarily, statistics say they have to win one of these. It just can't be this one. This is the one we have to win.
"I think it's pretty much conceded around the country, at any level of football, that there is such a thing as a homefield advantage. And I think we have it, especially in a shorter week, where you have 1 less day to heal, 1 less day to prepare."
Last year another CAA team, Richmond, won three on the road and then won it all. One of these teams will try to become the fourth CAA team to do that in the last seven seasons. Only James Madison had to play even one team from the CAA.
Appalachian State, meanwhile, is going for its fourth ring in 5 years. Montana lost in last year's final, the third time since 1996 that it's been the runner-up. The Grizzlies went all the way in 1995 and 2001.
This is the second time Villanova has won a dozen times in a year. Maybe it's time to set a new bar.
Golden a finalist
Temple coach Al Golden has been named one of 25 finalists for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award. The winner will be determined by online fan voting (www.coachoftheyear.com; fans can vote between Dec. 15 and 19), nine college football media members and College Football Hall of Fame players and coaches. The winner will be announced Jan. 6, as part of the BCS Championship Game. *