VILLANOVA, Pa. - Up against the No. 19-ranked team in the country and the favorite to win one of the nation's toughest conferences, the University of Pennsylvania football team struggled to keep up with Villanova on Saturday night. In their first road game of the season, the Quakers fell 35-6 at Villanova Stadium.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Quakers dating back to last season. Penn fell to 1-1, while No. 19/21 Villanova improved to 2-2 on the year.
Villanova opened the scoring on its second possession. The Wildcats went 83 yards on nine plays and capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass at the 7:52 mark of the opening quarter.
The Quakers were able to move the ball on the ensuing possession, the beneficiaries of a running into the kicker penalty which continued the possession after it appeared ‘Nova would have great field position. After the penalty, Penn moved the ball to the Villanova 20-yard line and lined up for a field goal to cut into the deficit. However, the Wildcats blocked the kick and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 1:14 remaining in the first quarter.
A short while later, the Wildcats struck again with another big play. Quarterback John Robertson connected on a 50-yard touchdown pass to go ahead 21-0 with 11:08 left in the half – a score that held until intermission.
The Quakers got back into the game midway through the third quarter. Ragone orchestrated his team’s best drive of the night, navigating the Quakers 85 yards on 14 plays. A 17-yard completion to senior Ty Taylor on third-and-seven from the Penn 18 kickstarted the drive, and Penn gained serious traction following a 15-yard facemask penalty on the Wildcats near midfield. On first-and 10 from the ‘Nova 29, Ragone sought out senior Conner Scott and hit him for 21 yards to the Wildcat eight-yard line. On third-and-goal, Ragone found Kulcsar out of the backfield for nine yards to record Penn’s only touchdown of the game. The point after attempt was no good, and Penn was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to push the kickoff back to the Penn 20.
Those penalty yards would come back to haunt the Red and Blue as Villanova would start the ensuing possession at its own 35. Five plays later, Villanova would snuff any attempt for a Penn comeback with a 36-yard run from Robertson.
Any true hope for a Penn rally ended on subsequent interceptions from Penn quarterbacks in the end zone. Both picks came at the hands of Joe Sarnese, the first on a Ragone pass from 15 yards out at the end of the third quarter and then a Ryan Becker pass from 27 yards out. The Becker interception came after the Wildcats had improved their lead to 35-6 following Poppy Livers' second touchdown reception.
Yardage in the aerial game was relatively even throughout the game, Penn throwing for 279 yards to 266 for the Wildcats. Scott was the busiest receiver, catching 11 passes for 129 yards. He moved into 12th-place all-time on Penn’s receptions chart with 78 career catches. The 129 yards marks the second time in his career he eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark.
Ryan Mitchell’s 45-yard reception in the fourth quarter gave him 1,043 career receiving yards and made him the 16th Penn player to surpass 1,000 yards career receiving yards.
The ground game was decidedly in Villanova’s favor, as the Wildcats rushed for 280 total yards on 46 carries to just 20 yards rushing on 30 carries for the Quakers.
Defensively, junior linebacker Dan Davis led the Red and Blue with seven solo tackles, including one tackle for loss. Junior defensive back Drew Harris had five tackles, including a strip sack which forced a Robertson fumble.
The Quakers are back at home on Oct. 5 for a 1 p.m. kickoff to start Ivy League action against Dartmouth. The defending Ancient Eight champions will host the Big Green as part of Family Weekend at the University.