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PHILADELPHIA - In Al Bagnoli's record-setting 200th career game as the head football coach at the University of Pennsylvania, the Quakers were able to solve the turnover issues that haunted them in the season opener, but were unable to solve Villanova's defense in 24-8 loss in Saturday's home opener at Franklin Field.
Last week, the Red and Blue committed eight turnovers in a loss at Lafayette, including seven interceptions. On Saturday, the Quakers (0-2) did not turn the ball over once, but were unable to reach the end zone until their final drive of the game.
After missing all of last season, junior wideout Conner Scott reeled in his first touchdown reception since Oct. 9, 2010 via a five-yard catch with 3:14 remaining. Senior Andrew Holland rolled to his right and found Scott in tight coverage for his second touchdown pass in as many games. Holland then found sophomore Eric Fiore in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion and closed Penn within two scores. The Quakers attempted an onside kick, but the pooch kick was recovered by Villanova, who proceeded to run out the clock.
After holding Villanova (3-1) on downs on its first possession, Penn got a nice 49-yard run from senior running back Jeff Jack that put the Quakers in Wildcats territory. That eventually led to a 43-yard field goal attempt by sophomore Connor Loftus that went wide left.
Villanova's second possession was vastly better than its first. John Robertson took the air and completed three long passes, the final of them a 14-yard strike to Norman White in the end zone. The drive covered 74 yards in just five plays.
Villanova upped its lead early in the second quarter with another drive, this one a bit more sustained. Taking nine plays and covering 63 yards, the Wildcats drove to the Penn 24 before settling for a 41-yard field goal to make the score 10-0.
The Wildcats put together two sustained scoring drives, one in each quarter of the second half to build its 24-point lead. In the third quarter, Robertson pulled the ball down and ran for a 36-yard tocuhdown on a third-and-four play to give the Wildcats a 17-0 lead.
Penn's next drive saw the Quakers move downfield, aided by a Spencer Kulcsar 27-yard rush to cross midfield. The drive stalled after Penn was unsuccessful on a fourth-down pass at the Villanova 34.
Penn forced a three-and-out from the Wildcats on their ensuing possession, but Penn again was halted just past miidfield after the Wildcats sacked Holland on third-and-four from the Villanova 35. The Red and Blue seemed to put Villanova in a tough spot via another beautiful punt from senior Scott Lopano - this one downed at the Wildcats' five-yard line. However, Villanova marched 95 yards in seven plays, a drive capped by a 14-yard Monangai rushing touchdown to put Penn down by 24 with just 8:09 remaining.
Lopano was a weapon for the Quakers all day, booting a 67-yard punt near the end of the second half which pinned Villanova inside its own 10-yard line, one of three punts downed inside the 20 by the Penn special teams unit. In total, Lopano averaged 46.3 yards on his seven kicks.
Holland played all but one series in the second half and led the Quakers in passing for the second straight game. He was 11-of-17 for 102 yards and a touchdown. Jack anchored the running game with 88 yards on just 14 carries (6.3 yards per carry). In addition, Kulcsar had just two carries - but they totaled a career-best 55 yards. Senior Joe Holder had a career-high five catches and led the team with 41 receiving yards. Scott added four catches for 29 yards.
Defensively, junior Sebastian Jaskowski led the team in tackles for the third straight game. He followed up his 11-tackle performance in the opener with nine on Saturday. Senior captain Brandon Copeland was second on the team with seven tackles.
Bagnoli is the first head coach in program history to stand on the Penn sidelines for 200 games. He is 136-64 (.680) in those games and is the school's all-time winningest coach.
A national television matchup awaits the Quakers in Hanover, N.H. Penn will open its Ivy season on the road at Dartmouth for the second straight year on Saturday. Kickoff is at noon on NBC Sports.