Football story inspires a Nation

Phil Consuegra

Every now and then, in our college years, we get what I like to call “story material.” They’re stories we’ll tell our parents, friends and eventually our children about various memories we had in college. I’ve had plenty: the victory over Kansas, the huge win over Boston College, last year’s tournament. These are memories that I’ll never forget and make me proud to be a Villanova Wildcat.

We experienced another memory this past weekend. This time, the Villanova Wildcat football team went into Franklin Field to face Penn in a “home game” which, hopefully, both athletic departments could build a rivalry out of.

I think their strategy worked. Not only did it work perfectly, it gave me the following story:

Penn was undoubtedly in total control the first half, and it didn’t look good for the Wildcats. The boys went into the locker room at halftime looking like it was going to be a long night. The Penn crowd was rowdy, rude and pretentious (like all Ivy League schools are), and their band was crass and inappropriate. The guy in the big football helmet was just plain annoying. But the players didn’t give in.

Down 24-7 at one point, the Wildcats would just not go away – and neither would their fans. All of a sudden, a touchdown – Jankowski to Sherry – 24-14 now – and the ‘Cats were back in the game. The ‘Nova Nation started rumbling, but let’s be honest, in Philadelphia, “getting back in the game” doesn’t mean much – until you actually take the lead.

The Villanova band sure didn’t give up. They kept the crowd in the game, drumming and playing as if it were the last game they would play at. New cheers came out of the night – a version of “raise the roof” college drumline style. Beernut and the rest of the percussion section were great, and the band was marvelous. They were the ones who kept trucking, just like the boys on the field.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the story.

The Wildcats were back in the game. They got the ball back and marched right down the field. They scored again – this time my friend J.J. Outlaw put the ball in the endzone, and just like that, it was 24-21. Those Penn fans had no idea what was going on. They were up by four scores! Now the ‘Nova Nation was more than excited. The students started bouncing off the walls at Franklin Field.

Finally, the ‘Cats got the ball back with about 5 and a half minutes to go. They covered 90 yards in 3 minutes. The Penn defense couldn’t stop the Wildcats, or the ‘Nova Nation. Jankowski to Deiser, 26 yards and the touchdown. And just like that, Villanova took the lead for the first time all game with two and a half minutes to play – 28-24.

But that’s not all. No sir. Penn wasn’t ready to die just yet. The Quaker (what kind of mascot is that?) offense took the field again, desperate to get the ball back in the endzone. They were bewildered at how they let this game slip away. Desperation was felt on the Penn sideline. Their side was silent, in reflection about what had just happened.

Third down and an incomplete pass. Fourth down now. It has to be over. The Quakers look demoralized. The snap. He’s looking everywhere. We got him sacked! Maybe not – he gets out of it without his helmet. We think the play is dead, once the helmet is off, the play is finished. Nope. Intentional facemask gives the Quakers good field position. Thank God they have to score a touchdown. Next play, clock running out. The Quaker quarterback heaves a prayer to the right side. They get down to the two. First and goal from the two.

One play. That is what this game would come down to. First and game.

The crowd is silent during the timeout. Just conserving energy for the play that would determine which team’s fans would write the outcome. They get back on the field. This is it. Ball snap, breaths held. Before anyone could start cheering, Bryan Adams rockets through the middle. Levels the Penn quarterback. One of the best hits I’ve ever seen. QB sacked! Game over! Celebration and gloating begins.

The team was inspiring. They showed us the true meaning of what going to Villanova really means. It’s about toughness, it’s about will, and it’s about perseverance. You see it on the sports field, and you see it in the classroom. Never giving up. Not on yourself, not on your friends, not on your teammates. I’m glad the freshmen got to see that nice and early in their Villanova careers. That’s what being a Wildcat is all about.

To the ‘Nova Nation, to the band, and most of all, to the team, thanks for giving me one more memory. Thanks for showing me what Villanova is all about. But most of all, thanks for giving me the story I just told, a story I’ll be telling my kids many years from now.