Dec. 16, 2009
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.--On Wednesday afternoon the Villanova football team held its on-field media session with reporters at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga prior to its first practice on the field since arriving in town late Tuesday night. The Wildcats are here to face Montana in the title game of the Division I Football Championship, which kicks off Friday night at 8 p.m. live on ESPN2.
Below are quotes from Villanova head coach Andy Talley and selected players from Wednesday afternoon's media day. The link at the top of this release contains photos from the media session. A similar quote sheet and photo gallery will be available on Thursday night following the team's pre-championship press conference at the stadium.
Villanova head coach Andy Talley...
On being confident that Villanova had the talent level to get to the championship game: I never felt that we didn't have the right pieces in place to get here. I thought that last year's team was good enough to be here but we couldn't get out of the way of James Madison, losing on a hail mary and that type of stuff. Anytime you play in the league that we play in [Colonial Athletic Association], there are a lot of really good teams. I think we have played seven teams in the top 20; you need some luck to get through a schedule like that and you just hope and pray that you do.
On the difference between this team and other great Villanova teams: I think the difference is our balance across the three between the offense, defense and special teams. They are all pretty good and we have great players at all three of those levels. Being the home seed and playing at home three times really helped us a great deal. If that 14-13 game against William & Mary last week is played down there we might have lost. It was big to play at home. We were able to do that three times and it worked out.
On playing Montana: I don't think [preparing for this type of game] is that big a deal for us. We have played so many good football teams. We play an FBS team every year; last year we played West Virginia and this year we beat a bowl team in Temple. I think playing the schedule we have played week in and week out makes this week just another really big game for us.
Junior quarterback Chris Whitney...
On the team's mindset: We got off the bus here and as you saw everyone was jumping around a little bit. That is just how our team is this year. If you look at us in the locker room before a game, we can be serious at the times we need to be serious. Otherwise our team just relaxes and we play to have fun. I think that is why we have done so well this year.
On the change from last season to this season: There has been a little bit of a change. This team is more relaxed and focused on just playing our game and not thinking too much. That has allowed us to be able to just go back and play.
On playing on the road after being at home for the first three playoff games: We are still doing what we need to do. It speeds up the process a little to come down here on Tuesday night instead of being at home the whole week leading up to the game. We are still doing the same things that we have been doing and we have to keep that up.
On Montana: They have a good defense and they hit hard. They are tough. They're fast and they don't make a lot of mistakes; it looks like they are fundamentally very sound. We can't make a lot of mistakes on Friday night either. That will probably be the deciding factor.
Junior offensive tackle Ben Ijalana...
On advancing to the championship game: It is very exciting. I can't remember the last time I was in a playoff championship game, even in high school. Now that we are here in Chattanooga, this is really quite the experience for the whole team.
On head coach Andy Talley making the championship game in his 25th year at Villanova: This means so much to all of us. It takes not just talent but some luck to make it this far. Last year we had a great team as well. This year we were lucky enough to have a home seed and be able to play well. Now here we are. We know how much it means to Coach Talley. He works so hard for this program and it means a lot to all of us to be here. Being here is something we started talking about all the way back in camp, just about being a team that had national championship aspirations.
On playing Montana: It is probably going to be tough since they were here last year and they haven't lost a game since then. They probably have the same goals as we do. In their case, we are the only team that is stopping them from achieving their goals and vice versa for us. It will be interesting. It is kind of a rookie versus veteran type of situation.
Junior wide receiver Matt Szczur...
On Montana's special teams play: They work hard on special teams so we know that is something we have to look out for. Some of our other opponents have had really good special teams play, but Montana prides themselves on their special teams. They have a bunch of starters on special teams so we know it will be a challenge.
On Montana's defense: Their defense is awesome. The corner plays great and this is as good a secondary as we have seen all year. Their defensive linemen are all fast and the linebackers are good as well. We know we will have our hands full.