FB Recap: Villanova holds off Penn in overtime

Tim Richer

Never look past an opponent, or they might just make you pay. Villanova (2-1) almost learned this the hard way, narrowly edging out Penn (1-1) at Franklin Field last Saturday by a score of 20-14. On the verge of their matchup with top-ranked Richmond, the Wildcats needed overtime and a few bounces to defeat the Quakers in their season opener.

Despite the positive outcome for the Blue and White, much of the game was unable to provide cheers for the 14,000-plus in attendance. The contest included seven total turnovers, four of which came on interceptions from ‘Nova’s red-shirt junior quarterback Antwon Young. The game also went over 37 minutes without a score between a Penn touchdown midway through the second quarter and the next touchdown in the first period of Villanova’s overtime.

The game got off to a quick start, marching down the field with ease on an eight-play, 81-yard drive on their first possession that concluded with a 1-yard run from Young into the endzone. Penn came right back on the following series with a 70-yard drive of their own that concluded with an acrobatic 29-yard touchdown catch by receiver Kyle Derham from quarterback Robert Irvin.

Villanova and Penn looked to be engaging in a shootout when the team’s scored once again on back-to-back possessions early in the second quarter. The ‘Cats countered a 12-yard touchdown run from Penn’s Michael DiMaggio with a 38-yard pass over the middle from Young to sophomore wide receiver Matt Szczur that tied the score. ‘Nova’s touchdown with 7:56 to go in the second quarter was the last score in regulation.

The second half was dominated by defense. Villanova’s line-backing corps of Marquis Kirkland, Darrel Young and Terrence Thomas combined for 28 tackles and one forced fumble, while Young continued to struggle.

With under two minutes to go in the game, Young was picked off for the fourth time overall and third time in the endzone to send the game to extra periods. Young was benched in the overtime in favor of sophomore Chris Whitney, whose own red-shirt status for 2008 was forfeited by playing in the game.

Whitney embraced the opportunity and led the ‘Cats to a touchdown in the first overtime period on three running plays. The second-year player out of St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia scored the go-ahead conversation when he spun out of a sack and scrambled into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown run. Kicker Joe Marcoux’s extra point was blocked to leave the score at 20-14.

On the first play of the rebuttal possession, Penn running back Brad Blackmon was stripped in the backfield by defensive end David Dalessandro; cornerback Salim Koroma recovered the ball for the Wildcats to seal Villanova’s second victory of the year.

Despite Young’s struggles, the ‘Cats outgained the home team by a margin of 327-302. The difference came on the ground, where ‘Nova put up 145 rushing yards behind the legs of Young, Whitney and sophomore running backs Angelo Babbaro and Aaron Ball; the foursome combined for 130 yards.

With the victory, Villanova improved its record against the Quakers to 6-0 in the last seven years. The last time that the Ivy League school defeated the Blue and White was in 1911.

Next up for the men in blue is the No. 1 Richmond Spiders this Saturday at Villanova Stadium. The kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m.