Kern: Villanova gets Taurus out of the garage
SOMETIMES it's a matter of waiting for your turn. Even when it feels like it's taking forever. All Taurus Phillips wanted to do was contribute. But the 5-9 wideout didn't play much two years ago as a Villanova freshman. Last season he caught 15 passes, fifth-most on a team that finished 6-5 after losing its award-winning starting quarterback early on with an injury.
SOMETIMES it's a matter of waiting for your turn. Even when it feels like it's taking forever.
All Taurus Phillips wanted to do was contribute. But the 5-9 wideout didn't play much two years ago as a Villanova freshman. Last season he caught 15 passes, fifth-most on a team that finished 6-5 after losing its award-winning starting quarterback early on with an injury.
Coming back, his coach didn't know what to expect.
"Usually when a receiver hasn't really shown up prior to his junior year, you begin to wonder if you recruited the right guy," Andy Talley said. "It was more a matter of him having the confidence, that he has (finally) arrived.
"In high school (in Beacon, N.Y., about 90 minutes north of Manhattan) he was really a running back-slash-receiver. He had to learn to run routes, to read coverage and to catch the ball consistently. Now he's a veteran. I think that's made all the difference. It's a maturation process. He's emerging as a quality receiver in our conference."
Phillips has a team-best 11 receptions for 157 yards, which already matches his 2015 total, for the 21st-ranked Wildcats (2-1). He also got the first two touchdowns of his career (covering 16 and 21 yards), on passes from Zach Bednarczyk. Both came in last weekend's 40-21 win over visiting Towson in a Colonial Athletic Association opener. As did five other catches.
"It was definitely fun, but honestly I've had big games before," Phillips said. "I didn't do anything extraordinary. It was the schemes, and just Zach making the right reads and getting the ball to us.
"It's exciting to think of what we can be as an offense. Watching the film, it's not really a what-if thing. It's more a reflection of we can do this, moving forward. We have the people to make it work. Nobody's going to do it by himself."
In the first two games, which included an opening loss at Pitt, they threw for 175 yards. But they rushed for 396 in a 26-21 home win over Lehigh. Last week they passed for 230, with 190 of that coming in the first half. And got a TD pass for the first time since the next-to-last game of last season. That's a span of almost 189 minutes of clock time covering 38 drives and 72 pass attempts, during which they had eight rushing TDs and another score by the defense.
Saturday night they're at Lafayette (1-2), which is coming off a four-point loss at Princeton after losing to Delaware in Easton by 18.
"We're in the same position we were last year," Phillips said. "Then Penn came here and beat us. We know what we have to do, to get to where we want to be (FCS playoffs)."
There were times when Phillips wondered if he'd ever get to be where he is. But he kept believing in himself. And the people he looked up to.
"It's kind of hard, just gaining the coach's trust," he said. "They think you can do it, but they're not sure you'll always make the plays they want. You have to understand that it's bigger than yourself. You have to sacrifice for the team. The hardest part was seeing my roommates having good games and me not playing."
Fortunately . . .
"Poppy Livers (who is now playing in the second-level German professional league) was like my big brother. I still talk to him. When I had rough patches, he told me to keep my head up. He'd been a walk-on, so he knew what it was like. He said the same thing happened to him. So you're going to have those moments. You have to work your way up. He came in as a nothing, lower than everyone else. And he became something.
"You can't pout and stop trying. I just came out and did extra work. The guys who were playing had earned it. I had to show them I could play, too. You can't talk about it. That's not enough. It's more of an action thing. I can't just say, 'Hey, look my way.' You have to give them a reason."
Even if he is a big-time Mets fan who proudly wears something with those colors almost every day.
"It doesn't go over well," Phillips smiled. "I know I'm outnumbered, but what can they do?"
Especially when he's starting to produce the way he always felt he could.