The pass last week at practice left Villanova quarterback Zach Bednarczyk's hand, spiraled over the line, and sailed to the sidelines. Nobody was open. Nobody will remember the play.

Except there was a smattering of applause, including from a coach or two. That was a good pass? A great one.

"Last year, he was rookie of the year in the CAA," Villanova coach Andy Talley said later of Bednarczyk. "But he really could have been an all-league player if he didn't throw the ball in some bad spots."

It sounds simple. Keep the good throws, eliminate the bad ones. Is it really that easy? In Talley's 32nd and final season as head coach, Villanova's hopes within the Colonial Athletic Association and nationally may hinge on the premise. The Wildcats, who open at Pittsburgh on Sept. 3, have seven starters back from a strong defense. Bednarczyk proved as a redshirt freshman taking over for the injured John Robertson that he has a big arm and winning skills.

The way Villanova offensive coordinator Sam Venuto put it: "Zach played really well outside of about 10 decisions."

Venuto added that there were "really horrific results in those 10 decisions. I've never been part of a team . . . I think six turnovers were returned for touchdowns last year. If we can understand how to negate that. He's working on that. He understands in those trouble situations he needs to be smart with the football."

The sophomore from Wallington, N.J., understands it completely. Most lines of conversation return to it.

"I think last year I was trying to make every play a huge play, which was my downfall for sure," Bednarczyk said.

As Bednarczyk talks about "good plays only - no bad decisions," it brings up the question: Is it really that easy in the moment?

"You can't have it in the front of your mind because that will affect your ability to play," Bednarczyk said. "But I think I try to keep it in the back of my mind. When I'm watching film of practice, I think I shouldn't try to force the ball. It's hard to explain."

It's a fine line because his arm is a strength, and he wants that to be a strength for the team.

"Yeah, that's the thing," Bednarczyk said. "You don't want to be too cautious where you don't make any big plays."

Maybe here's the key: Bednarczyk said that in real time last season he didn't see intercepted passes as necessarily his mistakes.

"I was like, 'I can still do that. They just got lucky one play,' " Bednarczyk said.

Safe to say, repeated conversations with his coaches have rid him of that belief.

Talley's first sentence when asked about Bednarczyk: "I think the thing he did last year, he was a little bit of a gunslinger and threw the ball around a little bit."

Villanova's coaches like their quarterback. They believed they had recruited a good one, with running skills to go with the big arm. Robertson was coming off being 2014 national player of the year, so Bednarczyk  wasn't supposed to get 210 passes under his belt. But a knee injury to Robertson changed things.

Venuto termed himself "pleasantly surprised" by both Bednarczyk's "toughness, and mental toughness. I never felt last year that a situation was too big for him, which is kind of a credit to him."

Over the years, Villanova quarterbacks, even the most successful ones, have tended to come in different sizes and flavors. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Bednarczyk hits a sweet spot of having a big arm and the ability to take off. Talley is figuring on about 400 to 500 rushing yards from him in addition to maybe 2,000 passing yards.

"Probably better in the passing game than what John was, more accurate with the ball, arm strength is just as good," Venuto said of any comparison to Robertson. "But really a better grasp of the passing game than what John had, especially at his age."

Robertson's greatest gift was that while he had a more than adequate arm, he was the best running quarterback in the school's history. If he had been healthy and played the whole way, the questions about Bednarczyk would be different ones right now based on his experience level. (Another issue: the general lack of experience of Villanova's receivers).

At this point, Bednarczyk's own internal expectations match up with the program goals, which, he said, "haven't changed at all" from past seasons.

"We want to win the national championship and the conference," the quarterback said, going long at the first opportunity.

mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus