This is starting to get serious.
Less than a month ago, defending FCS national champion Villanova was one loss away from not even making it back to the playoffs. Then the Wildcats beat top-ranked Delaware, for the fifth consecutive time, on the road in overtime. Then they won at No. 3 Stephen F. Austin, by 30, their first road playoff victory in seven tries. And Saturday they went to Boone, N.C., and took out the top seed in the tournament, Appalachian State, 42-24.
The Mountaineers had won 55 of their previous 58 there.
The frequent flier miles will continue to pile up when the Wildcats go to Eastern Washington for a Friday night semifinal.
Last week, coach Andy Talley said he felt his team could beat anyone. He might have a point.
Last year, the Wildcats (8-4) got to play three times at home. Not this run.
Eastern Washington (11-2), whose field has red turf, advanced with a 38-31 overtime win over visiting North Dakota State (9-5), which was in the playoffs for the first time since moving up from Division II.
In the other bracket, Delaware (11-2) eliminated New Hampshire (8-5) Friday at home, 16-3. The Blue Hens host Georgia Southern (10-4), which won by three at Wofford (10-3), Saturday.
The final, for the first time, will be held in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 7. A Colonial Athletic Association team has won the past two titles, and four since 2003. Delaware won it that year, and lost in the final 4 years later. The only other time Villanova was in the semis, in 2002, it lost at McNeese State.
"Hell, we're ready for anything," said Talley, whose team led 28-10 at halftime. "It's a test of stamina, and adjusting to time zones, not just different styles of offense and defense you run into. The travel is really demanding. You just have to figure out a way to prepare, hit the road and play a good game in front of a hostile environment. It's much different [than last year].
"At this point, they've taken the attitude of pretty much, I guess, wherever we're sent to play we're going to set up housekeeping and get after it. You really have no other choice. We're in the middle of finals. So it couldn't be a worse time.
"This group of guys has been through a lot of difficult games over the last 3 years, actually. All of our experience has packaged us and built us to withstand the stress that we have put on ourselves, by losing a couple of games during the year. We're sort of stuck with what we gave ourselves. You reap what you sow. We have to lean on that experience, for what we're getting now, which is three brutal road games. And this will be the most brutal."
Matt Szczur, who missed seven games with a sprained ankle, is playing at about 80 percent. It still makes all the difference. And he's making himself a lot of money with the pro scouts, just in case he chooses the NFL over baseball. Against the Mountaineers he ran for three touchdowns, had a scoring catch and threw for another, which gave Villanova the lead for keeps late in the first quarter. Other than that . . .
Mountaineers quarterback DeAndre Presley, who ran for 264 yards the week before, had 22 this time on only two fewer carries. He did throw for 361, on 56 attempts, but could never get Appalachian State closer than 11 after intermission.
Villanova QB Chris Whitney, who hardly practiced last week due to various injuries, threw for a score and ran for one, limping most of the afternoon. Nobody plays with more want-to.
"I think we've been waiting and waiting for the real Villanova football team to show up," Talley said. "We played really well [in the opener] against Temple. But [after that] we could never get the full complement to play the way we thought we were capable of playing. It didn't happen until the Delaware game."