FBALL Preview: City rivalry renewed in Philly, Wildcats invade Franklin Field

David Cassilo

Fresh off their 33-14 victory at home against Lehigh, the Wildcats will square off against the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday. It marks the 13th meeting between the two teams, with Villanova winning the last seven encounters. The game will be played at Penn’s Franklin Field, where the Quakers will open their season, while the Wildcats look to grab their first road victory of the season.


So far this season, Villanova has relied heavily on a no-huddle spread offense. The focal point of that offense is junior quarterback Antwon Young, who has forced defenses to prepare for both his running and throwing abilities. Young is joined in the backfield by sophomore running backs Angelo Babbaro and Aaron Ball. While Ball gets the majority of the carries, this two-back system allows Head Coach Andy Talley to ride whichever running back has the hot hand. Villanova balances its rushing attack with a strong receiving core that is led by veteran wideouts Phil Atkinson and Brandyn Harvey. The junior Harvey has been Young’s favorite target thus far this season with eight catches for 117 yards. The offensive line has also been a strong point for Villanova, and the Wildcats will look to get back junior guard Brian Brannigan, who missed his first game ever last week with an Achilles’ injury.


The Wildcat defense is coming off a strong performance, in which it forced four interceptions against Lehigh. The standout in the secondary thus far this season has been sophomore Frederick Maldonado, who has intercepted a pass in both games this season. Despite the secondary’s strong performance, the defensive line has anchored the Villanova defense. Seniors David Dalessandro and Greg Miller and preseason All-CAA First Team member junior Tim Kukcuka have all been able to get consistent pressure on the quarterback this season.


The Quaker offense is in a state of flux as the first game approaches. There have been competitive battles at several positions, and as a result, Penn will start the year with platoons at a few major positions. One of those is quarterback, where senior Robert Ervin and junior Brendan McNally will share snaps. At running back, sophomore Michael DiMaggio figures to get most of the carries, but expect many other players to get their chance at running the football. At wide receiver, junior Marcus Lawrence stands atop of the depth chart for an average Quakers receiving corps.


Unlike their offense, Penn’s defensive unit returns many top contributors from the season before. The defensive backfield is the strongest aspect of the defensive unit. Junior defensive back Chris Wynn headlines the secondary after his five interceptions in 2007. Joining Wynn in the secondary is senior Britton Ertman, who despite playing defensive back shared the team lead with 3.5 sacks last year. Also returning to the secondary are seniors Tyson Maugle and Jordan Manning, who are the team’s leading returning tacklers. The rest of the defense does not have much experience, with the exception of senior linebacker Jay Colabella, who was tied with Ertman for the team lead in sacks.


The game on Saturday brings with it a lot of uncertainty for the Penn Quakers. Many of their positions will feature the rotation of several players, and as a result, the team may struggle to find consistency over the course of the game. Villanova, on the other hand, seemed to be firing on all cylinders in its game against Lehigh this past weekend. The Wildcats have dominated the Quakers in recent history, and more of the same should be expected on Saturday, as they are the superior team in experience, as well as talent.

Villanova 35, Penn 10