As the Villanova community counts down the days until Hoops Mania (see advertisement for those of you keeping score at home), Andy Talley’s Villanova Wildcat football team has given fans another reason to start counting days until the next game against the University of Pennsylvania.
Although Villanova got off to a disappointing start this season, coming into this weekend’s game 0-3, the Wildcats again played the Penn Quakers down to the final seconds, leaving fans with a game that they won’t soon forget.
Although it would be easy as a Villanova football fan to write off this season after the three tough losses the Wildcats suffered at the beginning of the season, there is something about the atmosphere at Franklin Field that always brings out the best in our 1-AA team.
Last year, the Wildcats won 28-24 against the Quakers in a home-away-from-home game. The odds were stacked up against the ‘Cats as they faced UPenn early in the season at Franklin Field, with Penn fresh off yet another Ivy League title and the Wildcats having to play without starting quarterback Marvin Burroughs. Villanova had every reason to phone in last year’s game and hand Penn the victory on their home field. But perseverance is one thing that remains constant on ‘Nova football, and they played their hearts out until the final whistle in their miraculous victory over the Quakers. The game ended with Penn inside the ‘Cats’ 20-yard line, driving to score the winning touchdown. Andy Talley’s defense, however, was able to come up with a sack in the closing seconds to seal the victory for the Wildcats.
This year’s game was a carbon copy of last year’s, and highlighted the majesty of Big Five football for both Villanova and UPenn fans. I considered last year’s game to be one of the best football games I have ever had the chance to witness. Considering my family has had season tickets to Pittsburgh Steelers games since 1970, that is saying something. I love watching games that go down to the final seconds, where seniors have much-deserved breakout games and where the players leave it all on the field. The Villanova-UPenn game this Saturday night had all that and more.
Marvin Burroughs had the game of a lifetime, rushing for 93 yards and throwing for 274 to complement his three touchdown passes. Burroughs showed that he can lead the Wildcats to victory, and finally shook off the cobwebs from the first three games as he readjusts to his role as team leader.
DeQuese May had another career day, falling just one yard short of completing a double-triple. May ended the day with 112 rushing yards, and 99 receiving, along with two touchdown receptions.
But numbers aside, the Wildcats did something that can’t be tracked in the record books. They gave fans an exciting game, and reignited Villanova’s love of football. Here at ‘Nova, we are enamored by our basketball team. Yes, they are covered on ESPN, and yes, their deep post-season runs in the past two years are something that we should all be excited about. But Villanova football has done something that can’t be measured in record books; they have defeated Penn for the third year in a row, putting ‘Nova up in the all-time series against the Quakers 6-5 (with Penn’s last win coming in 1911). What Wildcat football has provided fans with is intense excitement, and a model of persistent perseverance Villanova-style.
There is no quit in any of our athletic teams here at ‘Nova. We constantly stare adversity in the face, and knock down that adversity in a big way. This year’s football game is one example. Last year’s basketball season is another. The fact remains that Villanova keeps on fighting the odds.
Maybe what we take from this weekend’s football game is a life lesson about the effects of dedication and perseverance. Maybe some just see it as an athletic contest where the ‘Cats were the victors. And maybe some see it as a game they can watch as they wait for basketball season to begin.
Whichever way you see the game, make sure you appreciate the football players for everything they have done. So they aren’t on ESPN every week or No. 1 in the USA Today national poll. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that they always put their best effort forth, even with their backs up against the wall. And just when you think you as a fan are out, and don’t need to follow them anymore, they pull you right back in. Football is a beautiful game that tells a story every week. Throughout the season, those stories act as chapters in an 11-game tale that runs the gamut of emotional and physical highs and lows.
As a senior, the four-year novel that Villanova football provided me was filled with excitement and disappointment, wins, losses and everything in between. One thing has remained constant for the Wildcat football team throughout these last four years: they never give up. So freshmen, sophomores and juniors, as you worry about counting down the days to the beginning of basketball season, and hope that you get a ticket to one of the big games so you might be able to get on TV, start counting the days until next year’s football game against UPenn, where we know excitement and a great game are in store. And take a lesson from the Wildcat football team: no matter how bad things might get, never give up. We all have our own UPenn that will reignite our spirits and give us that much-needed victory required to jumpstart our lives, we all just need to find it. To steal a line from the NBA, this is why we watch.