VILLANOVA, Pa. - With five minutes remaining, the University of Pennsylvania football team led the No. 1 team in the nation. However, the No. 24 Quakers were unable to end a 99-year drought to Villanova as the Wildcats scored 13 points in the final 4:28 to top Penn, 22-10, Saturday night at Villanova Stadium.
The Quakers (1-1) held a 10-9 lead after an Andrew Samson field goal with 9:10 left in the game, but the Wildcats (3-1) used a ten-play drive to take the lead back. On the next possession, Penn drove into Villanova territory, but an intercepted a pass went for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
Penn owned the nation's top-ranked defense heading into the night, while the Wildcats boasted the sixth-best defense in the FCS. It showed as the Quakers' defense held its opponent scoreless in the first quarter for the ninth straight game, while Villanova's defense also held off Penn for a 0-0 opening period.
However, over a 16-play drive that carried over into the second quarter, the Quakers marched 80 yards down field to take the lead, 7-0, at the 11:37 mark in the second quarter. Quarterback Billy Ragone executed a key third-down-and-six with a 12-yard pass to senior Matt Tuten, putting the Red and Blue in the red zone. Later, sophomore Jeff Jack plowed through Villanova's line for 13 yards to the four, with Brandon Colavita capping the more than nine-minute possession with a two-yard rush into the endzone.
Immediately following, Penn's defense held the Wildcats to a three-and-out, but a bad snap on the Quakers' next offensive play sent the ball sailing into Villanova's end zone for a safety.
With the ball back in their hands and in great field position, the Wildcats went 42 yards on seven plays to take thier first lead of the day, 9-7, on Angelo Babbaro's one-yard rush with 6:20 left in the half. That score stuck until the fourth quarter.
Penn had a chance to take the lead on its first drive of the second half, but Andrew Samson's 35-yard field goal attempt drifted wide left.
Just prior to the end of the third quarter, senior Josh Powers kept the Quakers in the game. Faced with a third-and-16, Villanova cut it to fourth-and-one, but a roughing the kicker call on the punt gave the Wildcats another chance on the drive. So on the ninth play of the possesion, Aaron Ball scampered into the open field and had nothing but the end zone in front of him. However, Powers caught up to the senior running back and punched the ball from his grasps. The ball bounced forward to the one-yard line and senior Bradford Blackmon recovered the fumble and brought it back out to the 10 for Penn.
It surely is a game of inches. On the ensuing drive, Penn faced a fourth-and-inches from their own 38-yard line. The Quakers gambled and Ragone's quarterback sneak pushed the ball an inch past the mark needed. On the next play, Ragone's pass was almost intercepted for what would have been an easy touchdown for the Wildcats. Instead, Tuten hauled in the pass and scampered 31 yards down the sideline to the Villanova 31 yard-line. On third-and-five from the 26, Ragone connected with junior tight end Luke Nawrocki for 20 yards to set up first-and-goal. Three plays later, Samson connected on a 19-yard field goal to give Penn a 10-9 lead over the No. 1 team in the nation with 9:10 left.
The defending national champions immediately responded. With 4:29 on the clock, Villanova made it 15-10 on Chris Whitney's 21-yard pass to Norman White in the back corner of the end zone. The Wildcats started on their own 26 and took 10 plays and 4:34 to march down field. Looking to make it a seven point lead, Penn broke up 'Nova's two-pont conversion attempt.
Threatening on their next drive, Ragone completed two passes for 10 and 14 yards. However, the next passing attempt proved to be disastrous as Villanova's James Pitts picked off the pass at the Villanova 44 yard-line and ran it back for a touchdown, stretching the lead to 22-10 with 2:59 remaining.
Aaron Baily put Penn in good position to retaliate with his 46-yard kickoff return, but 'Nova's defense caused a turnover-on-downs after a fourth down-and-five from the Villanova 25.
Ragone finished with 147 yards on 11-of-20 passing, while Tuten gathered in a career high six receptions and 89 yards. Lyle Marsh led the Quakers with 40 yards rushing on eight carries before leaving in the second quarter with an upper body injury.
Next up, Penn takes on Dartmouth to open the Ivy League schedule on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Franklin Field. The game will be broadcasted on by the Comcast Network and WFIL 560 AM.