Box Score (PDF)
Final Game Notes
Postgame Penn Coach/Player Quotes
PHILADELPHIA - As inauspicious beginnings go, you would be hard-pressed totopthe first play of Penn's 2009 football campaign: the Quakers kicked off to Villanova's Matt Szczur, and he took the return 87 yards for a touchdown. The play took all of 14 seconds.
After that, though, Penn gave the second-ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS, formerly I-AA) all it could handle Saturday night at Franklin Field. Unfortunately, while the defense was flexing its collective muscles, the offense could not muster enough to overcome that first play. In the end, the Wildcats escaped the city limits and returned to the Main Line with a 14-3 victory.
Villanova may have been playing its third game of the season, but the 'Cats looked out of sorts throughout the game thanks to Penn's stout 'D'. The Quakers held 'Nova to just 187 yards of total offense on 50 plays, an average of only 3.7 per play. The defensive line and linebackers seemed to live in the Villanova backfield, led by Jake Lewko (career-high 13 tackles), benefiting from tight coverage by the secondary whenever 'Nova QB Chris Whitney -- and then Antwon Young -- looked to throw.
Unfortunately for Penn fans, the same could be said on when the units switched up. Penn ran 62 plays in the game, and gained just 239 yards (a 3.9 average). While the Quakers had much more success through the air -- Keiffer Garton was 19-of-27 for 185 yards -- they seldom knocked on the door against a 'Nova defense that came up with six sacks.
The tone for this contest was set after Szczur's kickoff return. Penn went three-and-out, gaining eight yards, and then Villanova did the same (gaining nine yards).The Quakers'second possession ended after six plays and 25 yards, and the Wildcats' second outing went five plays and 12 yards. Clearly, both teams were digging in.
Penn's third possession gave the home side plenty to chew on; the Quakers ran 14 plays and covered 66 yards, getting as close as Villanova's 5-yard line. However, they could only settle for a field goal, and All-America candidate Andrew Samson was true on the 22-yarder.
Momentum stayed with Penn when Jonathan Moore picked off Whitney at the Penn 28 on the first play of the ensuing drive -- his second in as many games, dating back to last season --but the Quakers could only get to the Wildcats' 42-yard line before punting. Villanova then put together its best drive of the first half, going 57 yards over 11 plays and eating up almost six minutes of clock. However, Penn caught a break when Nick Yako's 40-yard field goal fell wide right.
Both defenses ratcheted up the intensity in the third quarter. Penn seemed to catch a break when Joe Goniprow forced a Whitney fumble from behind and Zach Heller recovered. However, on the very next play Garton threw into double coverage and Villanova's Ross Ventrone settled under it for the interception.
Both teams went three-and-out, before Villanova finally found paydirt with its offensive unit. With Young now at the helm, the Wildcats marched 78 yards in 10 plays, scoring when Young found Brandyn Harvey in the right corner for a diving catch.
Head coach Al Bagnoli inserted Billy Ragone into the quarterback spot for one possession, but his first pass of the night was picked by Fred Maldonado near midfield. Garton was under center the remainder of the game andled a 56-yard drive to start the fourth quarter that advanced to the Villanova 19-yard line. However, Samson's field goal attempt was blocked by Tim Kukucka. Penn had just one full drive after that, and could only advance to Villanova's 41-yard line before Garton was sacked.
Kyle Derham caught five passes on the night for 44 yards, while Matt Tuten had career highs with four grabs for 82 yards andBradford Blackmon had four for 35 yards.
Penn returns to action next weekend at Lafayette. Kickoff in Easton will take place at 6 p.m.