Appalachian State’s stunning 34-32 upset of Michigan in the 2007 season opener in Ann Arbor, Mich., still serves as Exhibit A of what can happen when a Football Bowl Subdivision school overlooks an opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division 1-AA).
It certainly resonated for Boston College football coach Steve Addazio as he prepared his Eagles to open the 2013 season by hosting Villanova, a veteran-laden FCS squad picked to win the Colonial Athletic Association. Suffice to say, BC, coming off last year’s dismal 2-10 campaign, was not in any position to be overlooking anyone, let alone the Wildcats Saturday at Alumni Stadium.
“Overlook?’’ Addazio said, incredulously. “We’re fighting for every inch right now, to be honest with you. We’re going to be in a dogfight. That’s just the way it is. I know it. I’m totally prepared that’s the way it’s going to be. I’m not like trying to convince myself, I know it’s going to be a dogfight and we’ve got to find a way to win the game.’’
The reason Addazio was so adamant: Villanova coach Andy Talley returns 16 starters from last year’s 8-4 squad, including junior running back Kevin Monangai, who rushed for 1,210 yards and 11 touchdowns, and dual-threat sophomore quarterback John Robertson, who passed for 1,965 yards and 14 TDs and rushed for 1,021 yards and 14 TDs.
It marked the first time in program history Villanova had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in the same season.
“They’re a veteran team and every time Andy Talleyhas a team full of veteran players they become rough,’’ Addazio said Wednesday after his team wrapped up practice at Shea Field. “When they have a veteran team, they’re tough. Now they’ve got a veteran group with a mobile quarterback and he’s a pain.’’
Although Appalachian State’s upset at the Big House caused the college landscape to shudder, Talley didn’t necessarily believe it was reflective of a shrinking gap between the FBS and FCS talent pool.
“What happens is you’re going to get an upset now and then, maybe because a 1-A team looks past a 1-AA team,’’ Talley said. “Sometimes that can be the difference. If you get a top-10 team, like Appalachian State was that year, I’m sure the Michigan players were going, ‘Who are these guys?’
“Maybe you catch them napping and getting ready for the next big game and not necessarily interested in that team you’re playing,’’ Talley added. “So you get into a game, you get sloppy, you turn the ball over, and suddenly a really good team at the FCS level – if they can get a Division 1 team into the fourth quarter — has a chance. All of a sudden all bets are off and that 1-A team is going, ‘Wow, these guys can play. Maybe we’d better get it turned on quickly.’
“But, normally, it’s a win for the FBS team.’’
No one at BC is making any such assumptions Saturday.
“We’re not looking at them as a 1-A team or a 1-AA team,’’ said senior wideout Alex Amidon. “We’re looking at it as Game 1. It’s equally as hard to win Game 1 vs. whoever you play, but they’re a pretty veteran team and they’re one of the best 1-AA teams.’’
The Wildcats were ranked fifth in the nation in the Sports Network Top 25 poll and ninth in the FCS Coaches Top 25.
“You got to respect every team you play,’’ said senior right tackle Ian White, a BC cocaptain. “They have scholarship players and we have scholarship players. I mean, you got to show respect for who they are.’’
Josh Bordner jogged off the practice field Wednesday looking none worse the wear after BC’s junior backup quarterback injured his left knee a few weeks ago in preseason camp. “I’m feeling good, definitely getting better,’’ Bordner said. “I’m just working trying to strengthen everything. It’s coming along.’’ Addazio, however, wasn’t certain about Bordner’s status for the Villanova game, saying, “I don’t know if he’s ready yet. We’re trying to see if we can get him ready. I mean, I don’t know. I’m not sure about that.’’ If Bordner is not available, Addazio said senior Mike Marscovetra would work as the backup QB. “That would be the next step,’’ Addazio said. “Possibly [true freshman] James Walsh could play a little bit.’’ . . . After a 47-year hiatus, BC will welcome the return of a live bald eagle mascot for all of its 2013 home football games. In partnership with the wild bird sanctuary at Zoo New England, the return of the live mascot was part of BC’s initiative to emphasize gameday traditions and atmosphere. The 9-year-old male bald eagle will be available for viewing and photos before home games at the FanFest pregame area in the Flynn Recreational Complex.