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Penn vs. Villanova recap: Wildcats blow out Quakers 41-7 despite quiet second half

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The Villanova Wildcats defeated Penn for the 14th-straight time in the series, ending Al Bagnoli's tenure without a win against the 'Cats.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

By halftime, Villanova's John Robertson had accounted for 230 passing yards and 4 touchdowns, completing 15-of-21 attempts. That was all that the sparse population of fans at Franklin Field would see of the Walter Payton Award candidate. When the game restarted, with the Wildcats ahead 41-7, senior Chris Polony was the quarterback who stepped under center to take the first snaps -- saving Robertson from risking further injury to his already broken hand.

Robertson's efficiency in the passing game has been impressive, going four games without an interception. Just 10 teams in FCS football had entered the weekend without having a pass intercepted.

Villanova had tied a school high of 140 points scored in the first four games of the season by halftime.

Among the other gaudy first-half statistics were tailback Gary Underwood, who finished with 87 yards and two touchdowns, including a 54-yard run out of the Wildcat formation. Wideout Kevin Gulyas recorded 123 yards receiving and a touchdown of his own in the first half. Four different players caught a touchdown pass in the first half, including Gulyas, Poppy Livers, Mike Burke, and tight end Earnest Pettway.

After the first half was filled with Villanova offense, the second half was largely a snoozer. With the Wildcats pulling out most key players, the offensive stalled out. The Villanova defense continued to stifle Penn QB Alek Torgersen, who threw two picks in the game, and neither team managed to score in the second half.

One of those picks by Jason Ceneus, helped set the tone of the first half. After Villanova's opening-drive touchdown catch by Earnest Pettway, the Quakers took the kickoff and began driving down into Villanova territory. Once in the red-zone, however, Ceneus' pick managed to end what was ultimately their best chance of the half and shift momentum back to the blue-and-white.

The Wildcats converted that interception into another long drive, ending with Livers' touchdown grab, that put them ahead 14-0 early in the first quarter.

The Wildcats came close to scoring after the break a few times. Their first possession of the third quarter ended with a missed field goal by Chris Gough from 34 yards out. Later, two drives would end with freshman tailback Matt Gudzak fumbling; including once on the Penn 3-yard line at the start of the 4th quarter.

The Quakers threatened to score a few times, none closer than a goal line stand with around 6 minutes left in the game. Looking at 4th-and-1 from the Villanova 1 yard line, the Quakers put in Adam Strouss to take the direct snap on an option play, but the Sophomore was stuffed at the line, effectively sealing the blowout for the Wildcats.

Of concern for Villanova fans might be the fact that running back Gary Underwood -- who played a larger role this week -- was helped off the field near the end of the third quarter. It wasn't clear what the status of his injury was, but it ushered in the freshman Gudzak, who (along with Polony) ultimately made way for Fred O'Connor and third-string quarterback Cody Pittman.

Polony finished the day with 20 yards passing and 46 rushing, while Gudzak picked up 52 on the ground. Kevin Monangai gained 67 on 13 carries in the first half as well.

Poppy Livers was used more in the second half, gaining 32 yards on 5 catches, but the Wildcats mostly kept the ball on the ground after the break -- choosing to let the clock run.