PHILADELPHIA, PA 9/22/12 – When the Villanova Wildcats and the University of Pennsylvania Quakers meet on the football field, expect certain things will happen and so will the unexpected. For Villanova the defense was expected to play well, and the unit did. Penn did not expect the Villanova offense to move the ball effectively through the air, and the unit did. The result was a 24 – 8 victory for Villanova at Franklin Field. Wildcats coach Andy Talley credited his defense for giving his team win.
“I thought our defense carried us throughout the game,” said Talley. “The shutout in the first half made it tough on Penn. We came out in the second half and did a better job executing. The defense did a better job. I think we won this game with our defense.”
“Dillon (Linebacker Dillon Lucas) and his crew set the tone in the second half.”
That defense limited the Penn ground game limiting the Red and Blue to 158 yards rushing. However, Penn got long gains on a 49 yard run by Senior running back James Jack and a 28 yard burst by Senior fullback Greg Schuster. That left 82 yards on 34 rushing attempts. Pen would only gain 142 yards in the air. Quarterbacks Billy Ragone and Andrew Holland completed 15 of 24 passes. The first drive by the Penn offense ended with a missed field goal and followed with eight straight downs that ended with Conversions.
“The goal is to make them earn everything they got, and not give up big plays,” Talley said.
But what did not happen turned the game in favor of the Wildcats. The strength of the Villanova offense is their rushing attack. The Penn defense is strong against the run. It was the effective passing of Villanova Redshirt Freshman quarterback John Robertson that gave the Wildcats the early touchdown and control of the game in the first half. Robertson completed 13 of 20 passes for 213 yards. Robertson gives the impression of being a running quarterback, but he is showing that he can throw the ball as well, especially in this game. Adding to the impressive showing is Robertson played without three wide receivers and an injured Norman White.
He found Junior wide receiver Joe Price five times for 113 yards, all in the first half. Robertson completed a pass to Price for 38 yards in the first quarter on a 3rd and 7. That set up Villanova at the Penn 37. Two plays later Price and Robertson hooked up for 32 yards to the Penn 14. On the next play Robertson threw a touchdown pass to Senior wide receiver Norman White and a 7 – 0 lead. In the second quarter Price caught a 30 yard pass on a 3rd and 4 getting the ball to the Penn 32 yard line. That drive was capped four plays later as Junior kicker Mark Hamilton made a 41 yard field goal giving the Wildcats a 10 – 0 lead.
In the second half Villanova continued to hold the Penn offense in check. The running game of the Wildcats asserted itself, and gradually wore down the Penn defense. Junior running back Kevin Monangai ran for 109 yards and Robertson 55 yards. As a team the Wildcats 225 yards rushing, the fourth consecutive game they ran for over 200 yards. Robertson had a 26 yard touchdown run to give his team a 17 – 0 advantage. A 14 yard touchdown run by Monangai represented the final points of the day for the Wildcats. Robertson continues to grow as a runner, passer, and most importantly, a quarterback.
“I am comfortable doing both (running and passing),” said Robertson. “The (Penn defense) stacked the box and wanted us to throw on them. “The coaches told us to be bolder in throwing it on offense. If they wanted to stop the run, I am confident in throwing the ball on them.
“It was the quarterback and his ability to throw the ball consistently well,” said Penn Coach Al Bagnoli describing the impact of Robertson’s performance. “He hadn’t done that until this week. He came up big in his ability to find receivers. I felt he was the difference. We knew he was going to make plays with his feet, we didn’t anticipate his throwing the ball as effectively as he did.”
The Wildcats defense came up big early. Penn had a good opening possession. The 49 yard gainer by Jack got the ball deep into Villanova territory. The Wildcats defense held Jack to one yard on a 3rd and 2 forcing Penn into a 43 yard field goal attempt by Sophomore kicker Connor Loftus. The kick was wide left, and Villanova took over. It may have been a different game had Penn scored.
“It was a big confidence booster for us,” said Lucas. “They went down, but we say bend but don’t break. That was a good example of us bending but not breaking.
“You want to make the field goal and capitalize on the opportunities you have,” said Bagnoli. “It wasn’t a chip shot, but he is good enough to make those. It had impact, but did it cost us the game, no. You would like to score and get a little bit of momentum, get a little bit of energy, and who knows after that. We missed, they said ok and went down and made some big plays.”
As a team Villanova had 213 passing yards giving them 438 total yards.
Penn would muster 158 rushing yards, and 142 in the air. A positive for Penn was a touchdown drive on their final possession that ended a Villanova defense scoreless streak that lasted for over 90 minutes. The touchdown came on a 5 yard touchdown pass from Holland to Junior wide receiver Conner Scott.
Villanova improves to 3 – 1 on the season. The Wildcats travel to Maine for their next game as the Wildcats continue to evolve into the team they hope to become.
“It’s all about growing and taking a young team back to where we want to be,” said Talley.
Penn is still looking for its first victory of the season and will go to Hanover, NH next week to open the Ivy League season against Dartmouth. It is this part of the schedule that is of the utmost importance for the Quakers.
“You don’t get your picture on the wall by beating Villanova as much as we wanted to win this game,” said Jack. “We are all here for one reason and that is to win an Ivy League championship. Everyone is confident, so we have to get it done now.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian