Wildcats to face Big 5 foe Penn under the lights

Joe DeNicholas

On Saturday, the University of Pennsylvania Quakers will make the short trip to the Main Line to take on the No. 1-ranked Wildcats. Since narrowly losing to FBS opponent Temple in their opener, the Wildcats have been nothing but dominant.

Villanova got its second straight win, 43-7, in its home-opener against the Towson Tigers. This came one week after a 35-0 thumping of Lehigh.

The crowd of 12,111 at Villanova Stadium had dissipated by the end of the game after Villanova had virtually decided the game by entering halftime with a 36-0 advantage.

Whether or not ‘Nova can live up to the success of last year’s squad will be seen in the coming weeks as the schedule toughens up. Head Coach Andy Talley and his ‘Cats will face a taller task against a Penn team that always gives Villanova a tough game.

Last week, the Quakers extended the longest winning streak in the FCS to nine games after a come-from-behind victory against the Lafayette Leopards at Franklin Field.

The triumph was Penn’s 800th win in the school’s heralded football history. But even though Penn pulled out the victory, the game marked the first time the Quakers had trailed in any game since Oct. 17, 2009, when they beat Columbia 27-13.

Villanova on offense

In Villanova’s first Colonial Athletic Association game against Towson, quarterback Chris Whitney led the way completing 9 of 12 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns. He also scrambled for 53 yards on 14 carries, adding two more touchdowns. After Whitney’s first touchdown run, ‘Nova’s Aaron Ball added a score of his own with a 57-yard dash. Ball has emerged as the Wildcats’ leading rusher averaging 82.3 yards per game this season.

Matt Szczur was involved in the most exciting play of the game, but this time he showcased his arm. After setting up in the Wildcat formation, Szczur threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Dorian Wells to extend Villanova’s lead 22-0. Throughout the entire game, the Wildcats amassed 405 total yards coming from 243 rushing yards and 162 passing.

Villanova on defense

Villanova’s defense was equally impressive in the afternoon affair. After shutting out Lehigh the week before, the ‘Cats only surrendered a third-quarter touchdown against Towson long after the game had been decided.

Villanova held Towson to a meager 17 yards rushing and 180 total yards. Towson only managed 35 yards and two first downs in the first half.

The Wildcat defense put the first points on the scoreboard after forcing a safety on a sloppy Towson punt snap.

Junior linebacker Jeremy Rodriguez, who is not even listed on Villanova’s two-deep depth chart, demonstrated ‘Nova’s dominance by leading the defense with seven tackles.

Penn on defense

Penn’s defense, which led the nation last season, picked up where it left off by holding Lafayette scoreless in the second half on Saturday. The 14 points Penn gave up were the most it allowed in a game since Oct. 3, 2009 when they beat Dartmouth 30-24. The Quaker defense was led by senior defensive back Jon Saelinger’s three interceptions. Erik Rask led the team with eight tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Derric Bath also proved dangerous by adding two sacks of his own. Penn’s defense has actually not allowed a touchdown in the last nine quarters of play.

Both of Lafayette’s scores were off turnovers, a returned block punt and a pick six. Penn held Lafayette to eight first downs and 168 yards of total offense including 19 rushing yards.

Penn on offense

Although Penn only won by 5 points last weekend, the Quakers managed 393 yards of offense and nearly doubled the time of possession.

Sophomore Billy Ragone and freshman Ryan Becker split time at the quarterback position. Ragone threw the only touchdown pass of the day to Matt Tutten even though he only attempted five throws on the day.

Tutten led the receivers with three receptions for 34 yards. Becker was responsible for 123 of Penn’s 149 aerial yards but threw a costly interception that was returned for a touchdown.

Penn’s rushing attack was led by Lyle Marsh’s 68 yards and Brandon Colavita’s 65 yards. It was Marsh’s 12-yard touchdown dash that put up the Quakers for good in the fourth quarter. Andrew Samson is a proven kicker who is capable of putting it through the uprights from a career long of 45 yards out. He kicked a 43-yard field goal last weekend.


The Quakers hold the longest winning streak in the FCS for a reason. They know how to get it done in any number of ways.

However, the streak ends on Saturday. The Quakers do not have the talent and depth that the Wildcats possess.

Penn will always give ‘Nova a tough time, but it will get outmuscled by the No. 1-ranked Wildcats.