Two carries by a walk-on running back in the final minute of Villanova's convincing, 48-31 Colonial Athletic Association win over visiting Albany set off verbal volleys between Albany coach Greg Gattuso and his counterpart, Villanova's Andy Talley.
After Albany's Brian Parker scored on a 25-yard pass from quarterback Will Fiacchi for the final touchdown of the game with 49 seconds remaining, Villanova had one last possession after downing the ensuing kickoff on its own 25-yard line.
That is when senior walk-on Fred O'Connor unintentionally became part of the ending conflict.
O'Connor received two straight carries, the first for 19 yards and the second for a yard before time expired.
After the game, Gattuso let Talley know he was unhappy that Villanova ran the two plays instead of taking a knee.
"I went to shake his hand, and he gave me that [complaining], and I just waved him off and went over and did the [television] interview," Talley said.
Gattuso, a member of Penn State's 1982 national championship team, expressed his displeasure during the postgame news conference.
"I was very disappointed with Coach Talley at the end of the game," Gattuso said. "Thirty seconds left, [he] doesn't want to kneel. He mentioned Joe Paterno to me, and how he looked up to him. I can promise you this, he's no Joe Paterno after this, doing something like that."
Talley bristled at the Paterno comments.
"Joe Paterno is a legend, I would never pretend to be like Joe Paterno or anybody else," Talley said. "I am Andy Talley. Check my record, pal. When he gets to that point, he can come talk to me about coaching."
Gattuso, who was 97-32 in 12 seasons at Duquesne and is 6-5 in his initial season at Albany, had more unflattering comments about the end of the game.
"I think that was so little class it shocked me," he said. ". . . I just think it's a rookie coach mistake, and if it was a young coach it would be one thing, but somebody of his stature to do something like that is shocking to me."
Then Gattuso fired this final salvo.
"We ran the ball in the fourth quarter, we didn't use timeouts, we didn't onside kick," he said. "I think we did it the way you have to. We are certainly going to try to score, I think everybody wants to score. When there is 30 seconds on the clock, the great ones kneel, period."
Talley was seething at Gattuso's comments.
"We wanted to get a senior running back in the game who is a four-year walk-on, and we wanted to give him the ball," Talley said. "It is not like we were throwing the ball."
After O'Connor's initial 19-yard gain, his teammates were genuinely happy, congratulating a player who was rewarded for four years of dedication. It was senior night, and his parents attended the game from Virginia.
O'Connor entered the game with six career carries for 18 yards.
It wasn't lost on Talley that the final Albany touchdown was scored by starting tight end Brain Parker from Fiacchi.
"He kept his first team in through the whole game, and for him to come in here and criticize me - are you kidding me?" Talley said. "I made my bones in this program. Let him go get 10 playoffs and a national championship and he can come here and rip me."
Talley said he didn't like the way Gattuso made an issue of it in the postgame news conference.
"For him to come in a press conference and criticize me in front of my hometown press for something like that?" Talley said. "I mean, if you are going to be upset, then be upset that I am trying to run up the score."
After the news conference, Talley said he would reach out to Gattuso and explain his reasoning for running the ball those two plays.
This was the first meeting between the teams; it's only Albany's second season in the CAA.