‘Nova, Penn clash in battle for Philly bragging rights

Kyle Scudilla

Coming off of their convincing 18-point victory over the Northeastern Huskies, the Villanova Wildcats football squad looks to carry the momentum through this Saturday night’s rivalry match-up in a home-away-from-home game against the Pennsylvania Quakers at Franklin Field.

Where the Teams Stand: Villanova’s victory against Northeastern in their home opener was their second game of the year and first win, putting them at 1-1 for the season and 1-0 in the Atlantic 10. The Quakers (1-0) crushed the Duquesne Dukes in their first game of the year by a score of 41-14. The loss was Duquesne’s first of the year, as they had won their previous two. They have no record in the Ivy League, their home conference. Last year, Villanova shocked Penn 16-13 to end the Quakers 17-game winning streak.

When Villanova Has the Ball: Villanova got over the red-zone problems they had the week before to put up some big numbers against the Northeastern defense last week. An encouraging sign for the Wildcats, the running game picked up the pace, rushing for 101 yards. Starting tailback Martin Gibson garnered 80 yards on only 15 carries, while Matt Dicken was used effectively as a change-of-pace back, finding the end zone twice on the day. Villanova’s offensive constant has been its passing game. In his first career start, sophomore QB Frank Jankowski saw his completion percentage jump from 53.1 percent against Rutgers to 64.0 percent last week, in going 16-25 with 241 yards and a touchdown.

The receiving tandem of J.J. Outlaw and John Dieser were once again solid. Outlaw made four receptions for 64 yards, and Dieser gained 73 yards on two catches against the Huskies. The offense racked up 342 yards in total offense and scored three touchdowns for the game, a marked improvement over the lack of scoring they experienced in their game against Rutgers. Defense is not Penn’s strong suit, so the Wildcats should look more like they did against Northeastern than they did against Rutgers when they clash with the Quakers. Though they yielded only 14 points to Duquesne, many questions are swirling around Penn’s defense, which lost many key starters going into this year. Defensive back Michael Johns was the defensive star for Penn last week, returning an interception 29 yards for a touchdown.

When Penn Has the Ball: Despite their offensive woes, Penn’s potent offense has generated buzz in media circuits, saying that it may be good enough to carry the Quakers to the Ivy League title this year. Quarterback Pat McDermott was at the center of Penn’s high flying offense despite having mediocre numbers. Although he went 10-20 through the air for a mere 145 yards, three of the passes were for scores, while McDermott himself added a rushing touchdown. Junior wide receiver Matt Carre was on the receiving end of two of the touchdown passes, while fellow junior wide-out Dan McDonald caught the other TD strike. Penn was able to keep the Duquesne defense off-balance thanks to a three-headed rushing attack. Senior Sam Matthews gained 64 yards on 13 carries, while Joe Sandberg added 46 yards and Von Bryant ran for 41 yards.

If Villanova wants to avoid the fate of the Dukes, they’ll have to beware of the quick strike, as Penn was able to score twice on one-play offensive drives. Villanova’s defensive stand against the Quakers will be led by linebacker Brian Hulea, who had another outstanding game against Northeastern following his standout performance versus Rutgers. The senior recorded 14 tackles, two fumble recoveries (one of which was for a touchdown), an interception, and a deflected pass. Hulea’s great game earned him Atlantic 10 Co-Defensive Player of the Week. His 314 career tackles now ranks him first among all active Atlantic 10 players.

Special Teams: Villanova saw improvement on special teams against the Huskies, including one major play that swung the momentum towards Villanova’s side for the duration of the game. In the first quarter, freshman linebacker Darrel Young blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. For his work on Saturday, Young won Atlantic 10 Special Teams Player of the Week. The kicking game must improve, however, as it was shaky for the second consecutive week. Meanwhile, kicker Derek Zoch was a standout performer for Pennsylvania last week, connecting on five extra points and two field goals.

Prediction: Expect a high flying, high scoring game between two teams who certainly aren’t lacking when it comes to aerial attacks. In the end, Penn wins a close one thanks to their comfortable setting in a “road game.” Penn 38, Villanova 31