FULL COVERAGE OF FRIDAY NIGHT'S SEASON OPENER AT SYRACUSE
Game Notes: Villanova | Syracuse | CAA
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VILLANOVA, Pa.--The season opener for the 116th year of Villanova football is slated for this Friday night when the Wildcats take on FBS and ACC member Syracuse at 7:30 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN3 and radio coverage is also available by tuning in to CBS Sports Radio 610. The radio broadcast can also be heard live on Villanova.com with a Nova Nation All-Access subscription.
Friday night's game will mark the 19th time that the Wildcats will play an FBS opponent since Villanova restored football at the FCS level in 1985. This is also the 10th consecutive year that the Wildcats are beginning the season by playing an FBS foe. Head coach Andy Talley is 14-15 in season openers during his career at Villanova, with 12 of the 15 losses coming in games versus an FBS opponent.
As the new season begins the Wildcats are ranked in the top 10 of both FCS national polls, with a No. 12 ranking in the Sports Network poll and a No. 13 ranking in the FCS Coaches Poll. Villanova has appeared in the FCS playoffs in four of the last six years and returns a total of 33 letterwinners from last year's team.
The group of returnees for the Wildcats includes 15 starters, with seven starters back on the offensive side of the ball and eight starters returning on defense. Junior quarterback John Robertson (Paramus, N.J.) was named a third team preseason All-American by the Sports Network and was also chosen as the CAA Football Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Robertson racked up 3,362 yards of total offense in 11 games last season. He completed 68.4 percent of his passes and was 169-of-247 through the air for 1,957 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Robertson also rushed for 1,405 yards and 20 touchdowns while averaging 6.5 yards per carry.
Senior center Ross Hall (Leola, Pa.) and senior offensive tackle Vince Kowalski (Williamstown, N.J.) joined Robertson in earning preseason All-CAA accolades. Hall was a third team All-CAA selection last season after starting all 10 of the games he appeared in at center. Kowalski has started all 34 games of his career and was a third team all-conference choice as a sophomore two years ago.
Villanova will be led this season by senior co-captains Poppy Livers (Seaside, Calif.) and Joe Sarnese (Ventnor, N.J.). Livers, a slot receiver, has 74 career receptions for 805 yards and three touchdowns and is also capable of being a valuable return man on special teams. Sarnese is expected to be one of the team's top defensive players and has appeared in 33 career games with totals of 189 tackles and six interceptions.
Also among the returning starters on defense for the Wildcats are senior linebacker Joey Harmon (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) and junior linebacker Don Cherry (Trumbull, Conn.). Harmon had 81 tackles last season, including five tackles for loss and two sacks. Cherry had team highs of 99 total tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss during his sophomore campaign.
Talley is beginning his 30th season on the Main Line and is one of seven active head coaches at all levels of college football to have won 200 games at one school. He is 204-125-1 (.620) in his time at Villanova and 232-143-2 (.618) overall in his head coaching career. Talley is also the all-time CAA Football wins leader, with 124 career victories in conference play.
Villanova and Syracuse have met three previous times on the gridiron but have not played each other in nearly 40 years. The first-ever meeting between the teams was won by the Wildcats, 14-13, at Franklin Field in Philadelphia on November 21, 1953. The other two games in the series were won by Syracuse at Archbold Stadium on September 25, 1954 (28-6) and September 13, 1975 (24-17).