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Morgan State, Villanova take break from conference schedules for unusual midseason clash

Quarterback John Robertson and Villanova haven't lost since the season opener at Syracuse. The Wildcats play host to Morgan State on Saturday.
Quarterback John Robertson and Villanova haven't lost since the season opener at Syracuse. The Wildcats play host to Morgan State on Saturday. (Rich Barnes / Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)

Morgan State and Villanova will interrupt their in-conference schedules with a midseason game at Villanova this Saturday.

Both coaches -- the Bears' Lee Hull and the Wildcats' Andy Talley -- acknowledged that the timing of the non-conference game is unusual.

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"When I got the job here, our schedule wasn't full," said Hull, who was hired on Jan. 9. "We still had three games to fill. So it wasn't easy trying to find three games. I ended up scheduling Holy Cross, Bowie [State] and Villanova. So there were only a couple schools left that had open dates. … It's very unusual. Obviously, you don't like doing that in the middle of your conference schedule, but it was something we had to do this year."

Said Talley: "You'd like to stay on schedule with your league games. … We really wanted to get a 12th game on the schedule, and we're hoping that we can be a [Football Championship Subdivision] playoff team. They were available and we just thought what a great opponent to have on our schedule."

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Morgan State improved to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference after rallying to edge North Carolina Central, 21-20, on Saturday. A win or loss against a Villanova squad ranked fifth in the latest FCS poll by The Sports Network won't raise or drop the Bears in the league standings, but Hull said the game is still important to the players and coaches.

"This is a big game for us," he said Tuesday morning during his weekly conference call organized by the MEAC. "… We're going to down there to win the football game. They're a great team. I think they're probably the best team in the country. So we're going to go down there and try to win just like it was a conference game."

The Wildcats (6-1 overall and 4-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association) haven't lost since the season opener against Syracuse. Talley acknowledged that departing from the usual slate of conference opponents at this time of year will require a change in mindset.

"There's not as much pressure because it's not involved in the league standings," he said. "The pressure is, obviously you want to keep winning and keep that thing going, but you know you've got a very interesting team here from the MEAC that can do a lot of different things. They run option-attack. They're going to be difficult to handle. It's going to be neat to see if we can step out of our league and hold up against an outstanding team like Morgan."

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