Press Conference Quotes
PHILADELPHIA Oh no.
That is what had to be going through the mind of sophomore running back Bradford Blackmon, Penn football coach Al Bagnoli, and everyone else affiliated with Quaker football -- player, coach, fan -- as the ball went tumbling to the turf on the first play of Penn’s possession in overtime.
Sure enough, Villanova’s Salim Koroma recovered the ball, and that was it. The Wildcats were 20-14 winners in another down-to-the-wire game between these two city rivals at Franklin Field.
It was a harsh ending for Penn’s season opener, in which the untested Quakers fought tooth-and-nail with a Wildcats team that was playing its third game of the season and ranked 19th in the latest national poll. Unlike last year, when Villanova easily outplayed the Quakers in the second half en route to a 34-14 victory, this game only tightened up after halftime, and it was Penn that made the big defensive plays.
When all was said and done, the Quakers had interceptedtheWildcatsfour times -- three of them in the end zone -- and even given itself a chance to win the game in the extra session.
Villanova (2-1) had first possession in OT, and wasted little time behind backup quarterback Chris Whitney. He found Angelo Barbarro for 10 yards on the Wildcats’ first play, then rushed for six and nine yards, respectively, to score and make it a six-point game.
However, the door was opened for Penn’s possession when junior Chris Wynn -- who had two interceptions on the day -- snuck in from the right side and got enough hand on Joe Marcoux’s extra-point attempt for it to fall short.
As soon as the door was opened, though, it closed. On the Quakers’ very first play, Blackmon took the handoff, and after looking to go right headed around the left end. He was caught from behind by a Villanova defender, and when he got popped, the ball squirted out in front of him right to Koroma.
It was an unfortunate ending for the Penn offense, which was steady throughout the day. Quarterback Robert Irvin, in his first action since being shut down for the season almost a year ago, was an efficient 15-of-23 passing for 179 yards and a TD. As expected, sophomores Blackmon and Michael DiMaggio proved to be a dynamic duo in the backfield -- DiMaggio had 69 yards on 15 rushes and scored once, while Blackmon gained 43 yards on 15 carries.
The game started much the way last year’s contest ended -- complete domination by Villanova. After holding Penn to a three-and-out to start the game, the Wildcats marched 81 yards in eight plays and took a 7-0 lead before the game was six minutes old. Villanova QB Antwon Young completed three passes on the drive, and called his own number for a 1-yard run to paydirt for the score.
Boy, did momentum change after that.
Penn took the kickoff and went on its own lengthy drive, this one seven plays and 70 yards. The final play was arguably the most spectacular, as Irvin went to the air and found Kyle Derham in the right corner of the end zone. Derham had to go to the air to beat his man, but came down with the ball and the score was tied.
The Quakers took the lead early in the second quarter, finishing a 12-play, 79-yard drive when DiMaggio ran in from 12 yards. Villanova answered on its very next possession, eating up 68 yards in just four plays for its touchdown. The drive was engineered by two Young passes, one of 22 yards to Phil Atkinson and the other 38 yards to Matt Szczur for the score.
After that, it was a defensive struggle, although Villanova seemed to gain the edge in field position. A Penn fumble handed the ball to the Cats at Penn’s 40-yard line before halftime, but Wynn got the ball right back by intercepting Young on first down.
In the third quarter, Villanova’s first drive ended when the Wildcats went for the end zone and Wynn again struck with his second pick of the day.
Midway through the third, Villanova earned a glorious opportunity when Martel Moody picked off Irvin at the Penn 28, but the Wildcats were unable to move the ball and the Quakers caught a break when Marcoux’s 41-yard field goal went wide right.
In the fourth quarter, Villanova drove to Penn’s 10-yard line, but again the Quakers held when sophomore Josh Powers beat a Wildcat receiver to a pass at the goal line for Penn’s third INT.
Penn’s best field position of the second half came with 5:51 to play, when the Quakers started at Villanova’s 48-yard line. However, after driving to the 40, and facing fourth-and-2, Penn went for it and saw the play backfire when Blackmon was caught deep in the backfield for a 15-yard loss. Suddenly, with 3:19 left, the Wildcats were starting with the ball on Penn’s 45-yard line.
Once again, though, the defense answered. After Atkinson gained 10 yards on Villanova’s first play, the Wildcats went yardless for two plays before going to the end zone on third down. This time, Jonathan Saelinger was the culprit, as he picked the pass off at the goalline to keep the game tied with just 1:45 to go. That set the stage for overtime.
This series, when it’s played at Franklin Field, has proven to be quite a showcase for the city’s two FCS programs, and Saturday night was no different. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a game more evenly played. Villanova gained 327 yards to Penn’s 302, running just three more plays (63-60). The difference in rushing and passing yards were relatively negligible. Both teams converted five third-down conversions.
Kyle Olson saw action at quarterback for Penn, completing two of three passes for 13 yards and also punting six times for a 38.3-yard average.
For Villanova, Young completed 15-of-26 passes for 172 yards and also ran eight times for a team-high 38 yards. Atkinson led all receivers with six catches for 81 yards.
Penn is back in action net Saturday, traveling up the Blue Route to face Lafayette. Kickoff at the Leopards' Fisher Field is set for 6 p.m.