History was made at Villanova Stadium Thursday night as the Penn Quakers defeated the Villanova Wildcats for the first time since 1911. But it wasn't just a win, it was a complete and total beat down. Not only did the 'Cats beat themselves with 11 penalties, but credit Penn with taking advantage of every second chance opportunity Villanova gave them. Head Coach Andy Talley described the game as "probably one of the worst performances in my career here." There was plenty of blame to go around as mental mistakes were made by the offense, defense, special teams, and even by the coaching staff who accumulated multiple sideline penalties.
Give credit where credit is due, Penn played a great game and deserved the win. Junior quarterback Alek Torgersen lead the team offensively completing 14 of 22 passes for 171 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. Star wide receiver Justin Watson had 5 catches for 87 yards and 2 scores before injuring his shoulder just before halftime. Lead running back Tre Solomon also missed much of the second half due to injury, but time after time multiple players stepped up and seized the moment with either a conversion to extend a drive or a clutch tackle to keep Nova at bay.
The biggest contributing factor to Penn's first half success was time of possession. The Quakers held the ball for over 24 of 30 minutes in the first half, which Head Coach Ray Priore explained was a big part of their strategy.
The first thing was we're going to take the ball. We had to minimize their possessions. I told the kids last Sunday night, 'We win the toss, we're taking the football. And any time the ball is between the 40's, we're going for it on 4th early on.' If you have the ball, the game's all about the ball. Whoever has the ball wins."
Rookie quarterback Zach Bednarczyk didn't look nearly as good as he did in his debut, but that had a lot to do with the makeshift offensive line in front of him due to injury. The freshman went 18 of 31 for 185 yards, a score, and a pick. He also rushed the ball 10 times, but only for 23 yards. Speaking of the running game, Villanova as a team was held to 96 yards on 25 carries. Coach Talley addressed the slow start after the game.
One of the problems that we had coming into the short week was, we had a lot of starters out. So we really couldn't have physical practices. We went very light, gingerly, kind of took them through the week and just kind of babied it into the game. And we sort of looked that way, we almost played the way we prepared.
We're a better program than that. If you go back and critique it as a coach, I mean that's what we're going to look at. And that's why I ripped up the stats and threw it away after the game, because it's a throw away game for us. We need to move on.
The major turning point in the game came late in the 4th when the Wildcats were driving deep in Penn territory. A Villanova TD would have brought them within 3 points with over 6 minutes left in the game. Instead, Javon White fumbled at the 10 and Penn's Donald Panciello returned it 90 yards to seal the victory for the Quakers.
While there is optimism going forward, Coach Talley addressed the major injuries to the offensive line being the biggest obstacle they'll need to overcome.
Everything is fixable that happened. Javon White's fumble is fixable. The penalties are fixable. What's not fixable is the skewed up offensive line we had playing tonight. I mean, we need to get some people back so we can get back a little bit. I can't have a tight end playing tackle. I can't have my right guard move from right guard to center. He had a lot of low snaps tonight, he's not a center, he's a guard. We just got hit unfortunately with enough injury at this point of time which has really disturbed our offensive cohesion and we have a young quarterback who is going to grow with us. We have a very good defense, we can't strain them like that. We need some offensive contribution.
I'm very positive, I really am. I think what you saw tonight was the strain of three very difficult games with the short time to get ready. Now if I'm sitting here sixteen days from now saying the same thing, then we have problems.
Villanova will play their next game after a bye week at home against William and Mary on Saturday October 10th at Villanova Stadium.
- During pregame warm ups, injured QB John Robertson was out on the field helping his replacement Zach Bednarczyk warm up, giving him the occasional pointer and clearly cracking some jokes with the rookie. He also accompanied co-captains Don Cherry, Cameron McCurry, and Reggie Paris to mid-field to start the game. Even while sidelined, Robertson continues to be a team leader.
- Penn beat Villanova in time of possesion in the first quarter 12:18 to 2:42
- Penn lead Villanova in total yards at halftime 219 to 29
- This was Villanova's second straight game with a missed extra point attempt
Penn quarterback Alek Torgersen got the first drive of the night started quickly with a 27 yard pass to Tight End Ryan O'Malley. Just like Saturday, early penalties became a problem early for the Wildcats. Torgersen continued to pick up first downs, this time using his legs to power his way inside the Villanova 20 yard line. Two plays later, Torgersen hit wide receiver Justin Watson for a 16 yard fade route to the back of the end zone and put the Quakers up 7-0 less than 5 minutes into the 1st Quarter.
For the second week in a row the Wildcats coughed up the ball on special teams and Penn had the ball right back at the Villanova 25 yard-line. But after a tackle in the backfield and a false start by the offense, Penn faced a 3rd and 19. A 15 yard gain to tight end Ryan O'Malley brought up a 4th and 4, where the Quakers decided to take a gamble and go for it. Pressure up the middle forced an incomplete pass and Villanova took over at their own 19.
Bednarczyk came out firing for a completion to wide receiver Kevin Gulyas. Some communication issues with the sideline forced an early timeout. The rookie QB continued to work the short sideline routes, complimented by Gary Underwood and Javon White. A deep bomb to a wide open Aaron Wells was placed perfectly by Bednarczyk, but fell through the receivers hands. The drive came to a hault and Villanova was forced to punt with 6:23 left in the 1st.
Two more flags on the Wildcats and a strong running game featuring Tre Solomon moved Penn back into Villanova territory on the ensuing drive. Torgersen then hit Watson on a big play inside the Villanova 10, where the ball was fumbled and picked up by Malik Reaves. Reaves then fumbled the ball, but Villanova recovered again. Unfortunately, flags on both teams negated the play. Torgersen took advantage of the missed opportunity and hit Eric Fiore for a first down inside the Villanova 20. Defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon responded immediately with a six yard sack. The 1st quarter came to an end with Penn facing a 4th and 7 from the Villanova 16 and leading 7-0.
The 2nd Quarter started with Penn kicker Jimmy Gammil missing a 34-yard field goal, and Villanova took over at their own 20. Villanova was unable to take advantage however, going 3 and out. Again Penn drove into Villanova territory, but sacks by Austin Calitro and Tanoh Kpassagnon pushed them back to the other side of the 50. Flags continued to be a major issue for Villanova as a running into the kicker foul gave Penn a first down back at the Villanova 36, negating a 4th and 20. Torgersen immediately took advantage of the second chance, hitting favorite wide out Watson who broke 2 tackles to reach the end zone and put Penn up 14-0 with 7:53 left in the 1st half.
Flags continued to plague Villanova on both sides of the ball, as a 20 yard run was negated by a holding call. Good pressure up front moved Bednarczyk out of the pocket twice, forcing two incomplete passes and another 3 and out.
Torgersen continued to effectively move the ball slowly but surely against what started to look like a tiring Villanova defense. A combination of bullet passes, strong rushing, and quaterback options were used to drive Penn down inside the Villanova 20. A 4th and 1 offsides flag on Villanova gave Penn a 1st and Goal at the 8 yard-line, forcing Villanova to take it's second time out with 32 seconds left in the half. Bryan Osei was able to get to Torgersen for a 4 yard sack, forcing Penn to take it's second timeout with 24 seconds left. Solomon continued the power running game, moving the ball down to the 7. Penn took its final timeout with 17 seconds left facing 3rd and goal.
A fade route into the end zone was picked by corner back Malik Reaves and brought back to the Penn 39 with 5 seconds left. Trying to by time for a final shot at the end zone, Bednarczyk fumbled the ball evading defenders. Villanova recovered to end the half with Penn leading 14-0.
Penn started the second half with a short kickoff, and Villanova took over at their own 36 yard-line. But a designed run on 3rd and 7 went nowhere and the Wildcats were forced into another 3 and out. But a strong showing by the Villanova defense forced Penn into a 3 and out of their own and Villanova took over at their own 43.
The makeshift offensive line for the Wildcats continued to get worked by the Penn front 4 as Bednarczyk was sacked to start the drive. On the very next play he was hit while throwing and Penn corner back Sam Philippi made an easy interception, returning the ball close to mid field.
Penn again drove to the Villanova 38 where they faced a 4th and 5. For the second time in the game, Villanova was called offside, resulting in a 1st down for the Quakers. However Penn faced a holding penalty of their own, and Villanova forced them into 3rd and 17. The Wildcats were able to hold Penn to a 41 yard field goal that put the Quakers up 17-0 with 4:14 left in the 3rd.
The Villanova offense finally woke up as Bednarczyk completed an 18 yard pass followed by a 21 yard run by Javon White. Just when things were looking up, back-up tight end Ryan Morris went down holding his knee and had to be assisted off the field. After the play, Villanova was flagged for sideline interference, their third sideline penalty of the game. On the next play, Kevin Gulyas dropped a wide open pass , setting up a 3rd and 12 at the Penn 37. A short completion to Gary Underwood turned into a big 22 yard-gain as the running back was able to spin out of tackles along the sideline. Bednarczyk salvaged a broken play and picked up 10 yards down to the 1 yard line, setting up first and goal. Underwood rammed his way into the end zone to put Villanova on the board 17-7 with 1:28 left in the 3rd Quarter.
The Wildcat defense was again up to the challenge, consistently stuffing the Penn running backs at the line. At the end of the 3rd Quarter, Penn faced a 3rd and 4 at their own 38 yard line.
Despite great pressure that put Torgersen on the ground, he was able to find receiver Adam Strouss for the first down to start the 4th Quarter. The two connected again to move the ball past mid-field. The Quakers were forced into a 4th and 2 at the Villanova 35 when they called their first timeout of the second half before going for it. Torgersen was able to execute a perfect pooch punt that was downed at the Wildcats 8 yard line.
Bednarczyk continued to be under pressure and on the ground when passing, but relied on the running game to stretch the field and move the ball. Bednarczyk continued to lead the team down the field and into Penn territory as time continued to wind off the clock. With 7:34 left, Aaron wells caught a 17 yard pass along the sideline to take the Cats into the Red Zone. A big run by White brought Villanova inside the 10. But White fumbled on the very next play and linebacker Donald Panciello took it back over 90 yards for the scoop and score, putting Penn up 24-7 with 6:51 remaining.
As the Nova Nation crowd left the stadium, Villanova mounted a long, slow moving drive down the field. While it was too little too late, Bednarczyk hit Jarrett McClenton for a touchdown (and missed extra point) to make it 24-13 with 1:27 left in the game.
Penn was able to handle the on sides kicked and took a knee to secure the victory.