Former longtime Delaware coach K.C. Keeler isn't about to gloat, even though his homecoming is another success story, matching the rest of his coaching career.
Keeler's Sam Houston State team (10-4) will visit Villanova (11-2) in Saturday's 1 p.m. Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal. The winner will play next Friday or Saturday against the winner of the North Dakota State-Coastal Carolina game. Villanova could host that game if Coastal Carolina wins.
A Delaware graduate who replaced the legendary coach Tubby Raymond in 2002, Keeler was fired after a 5-6 season in 2012.
"I want to look in the present and not the past," Keeler said during a conference call earlier this week.
The past included a successful 11-year run as head coach at Delaware, where Keeler was 86-52. That included four trips to the FCS playoffs, a national championship in 2003 and two other trips to the title game in 2007 and 2010.
Keeler spent last year working for ESPN3 as a commentator and with Ron Jaworski at NFL Films, breaking down football tape. And he also found time to visit various football practices, including Villanova.
That's right, even though Villanova and Delaware are chief rivals, Keeler and Villanova coach Andy Talley have remained friends over the years.
"There is no reason why you can't be friends," Talley said. "I personally like K.C, he is a character, a terrific football coach and a heck of a recruiter."
One year when Delaware was in the playoffs and its computer system went down, Villanova offered the Blue Hens the use of theirs. The computers were fixed, but the gesture was an example of the friendship of the coaches.
When Keeler visited a Villanova practice last year, he drew some stares from the Wildcats players.
"I think it unnerved the players, but coach Talley had to tell them that I wasn't the enemy," Keeler said.
For this week, he again will be.
Before coaching at Delaware, Keeler went 88-21-1 at Rowan and advanced to the Division III championship game five times.
In both places, Keeler enjoyed success recruiting transfers. For instance, he went to a national championship game in 2007 with former Audubon star and current Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who began his career at Pitt.
Keeler has 16 transfers on this year's team, compared to one for Villanova. Yet Keeler said that after taking the job on Jan. 26, he felt he had to go the transfer route as a stopgap measure.
"We got such a late start because of when I was hired and we didn't want to take high school seniors just because we had available scholarships," Keeler said. "It is not how we're going to do it in the future."
Located in Huntsville, Texas, Sam Houston State began 1-3, which included a 56-0 loss at LSU.
Since being 3-4, the Bearkats have won seven in a row. Keeler said he is also looking forward to seeing friends and family who will attend Saturday's game.
Sam Houston St. at Villanova
What: Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal
When: Saturday at 1 p.m.
Where: Villanova Stadium.
Records: Sam Houston State, 10-4; Villanova, 11-2.
TV/Radio: ESPN 3/610 AM.
How they got here: Sam Houston State beat visiting Southeastern Louisiana, 21-17, and defeated host Jacksonville State, 37-26. After a first-round bye, Villanova beat visiting Liberty, 29-22.
Coaches: Sam Houston State, K.C. Keeler (1st season, 10-4; 184-77-1 overall); Villanova, Andy Talley (30th season, 215-127-1; 243-145-2 overall).
Series: First meeting.
Three Things to Watch
Villanova QB John Robertson can hurt you rushing (1,078 yards, 4.7 avg., 11 TDs) and passing (65.4 percent completions, 2,486 yards, 35 TDs, 3 INTs).
Villanova must stop the Bearkats' dual-purpose threat at QB, sophomore Jared Johnson (2,524 passing yards, 18 TDs, 11 INTs; 901 rushing yards, 6 TDs).
Sam Houston State RB Keyshawn Hill has rushed for 1,049 yards (6.4 avg.) and 18 TDs. Sophomore RB Jalen Overstreet, a Texas transfer, has rushed for 693 yards (7.2 avg.) and 6 TDs. Junior WR LaDarius Brown, a TCU transfer, has 37 receptions for 607 yards and 5 TDs.
Three Things You Might Not Know
Sam Houston State is one of three programs to earn an FCS postseason berth in each of the last four seasons. The others are New Hampshire and North Dakota State.
Villanova is averaging 38.2 points and Sam Houston State averages 36.1 points.
Villanova has outscored its opponents in all four quarters; plus 65 in the first quarter, plus 70 in the second, plus 59 in the third and plus 28 in the fourth.
K.C. Keeler's College Football Coaching Career
Rowan 1993-2001 Div. III 88-21-1
Delaware 2002-2012 FCS 86-52
Sam Houston State 2014 FCS 10-4
- Marc Narducci