The Quakers used to be known as an easy win. No matter how much Villanova struggled in a given year, a game against Penn was almost always penciled in as a victory.
However, this would be the year that Penn defied the odds. Penn came out swinging, and drove Villanova onto its heels. The 104-year long wait was finally over, it was Penn’s night.
The Quakers stunned the Wildcats en route to a 24-13 win, using their physicality on both sides of the ball to set the pace.
“I think they came in with a purpose,” Villanova head coach Andy Talley said. “They had a very good game plan and scored right off the bat on us.”
Penn set the tone on its first drive of the night. Quarterback Alek Torgersen threw a 12-yard touchdown to wide receiver Justin Watson, after slowly grinding the ball for the first five minutes of the first quarter. The Watson-Torgersen connection was the story of the first half, as Torgersen came after Watson early and often. Watson finished the night with 87 yards on 5 catches with two touchdowns. He did not return for the second half.
The Quaker running game was also quite the factor for their offense.
“Our O-Line was doing a terrific job,” Torgersen said. “We were moving the ball – I think we did a great job of that today.”
The Villanova defense had a hard time deciphering the Penn offense. The Wildcats were hit with a varied, balanced attack. Quaker runningbacks Tre Solomon and Brian Schoenauer combined for over 100 yards on the ground and kept the ‘Cats honest. The Quakers were unpredictable, using read options, speed options, screens, and varied passing plays to move the ball along.
The same could not be said for the Villanova offense that had a hard time moving the ball. The Wildcats converted only one third down situation and had the ball for approximately five and a half minutes through two quarters. The Wildcat defense played most of the downs, as the offense met a number of three-and-outs.
“I think we just killed ourselves – committing penalties, fumbling, interceptions,” Villanova quarterback Zack Bednarczyk said. “It’s tough sitting for a long time but when were on the field we just couldn’t get it done. There was no excuse for that.”
Late in the second quarter, Penn found the end zone again. This time, Torgersen found Watson for a 33 yard touchdown. Villanova found themselves unable to answer this second Penn touchdown, as they gave the ball back to the Quakers one more time in the half.
The Quakers would move all the way down field, with a chance to take a three touchdown lead going into the break. The ball was floated up to Watson and was picked off by Villanova cornerback Malik Reaves. This was the spark Villanova needed heading into the break.
After giving up a field goal in the third quarter, Gary Underwood punched it in the closing minutes of the quarter. Bednarczyk led an inspired offense that was able to move swiftly downfield. The Wildcats moved with ease. Things were finally looking up.
Later in the fourth, the Quakers punted the ball away and Villanova took over on its own eight. After a series of impressive plays, the Wildcats found themselves in the heart of Quakers territory. Unfortunately, that momentum was short-founded.
After picking up a first down off of an 11 yard run, the Wildcats went right back to Javon White. However, he fumbled the ball inside the five following a big pickup. The ball was then scooped up by Penn linebacker Don Panciello, who returned the ball for a touchdown.
It was the finishing blow for Villanova, as the Nova Nation stood silent. Meanwhile, Penn fans were ecstatic as victory was just a few minutes away.
Granted, Villanova scored a touchdown in the closing minutes of the game, with Bednarczyk throwing a touchdown to wide receiver Jarrett McClenton, but it was too little too late.
Villanova was kept in check for most of the night, as they only allowed 185 passing yards and 96 rushing yards the whole game. Redshirt freshman Zack Bednarczyk had a rough first career start. He finished the night with 18 completions on 31 attempts for 185 yards, with a touchdown and one interception.
Injuries to the Villanova offensive line forced a number of position changes in order to fulfill the gaps. Their absences were felt tonight as Penn’s edge rush wreaked havoc.
“[It was a] complete win from [the] offense, defense, and special teams,” Coach Priore said.
Villanova runningbacks Gary Underwood and Javon White combined for 11 carries for 49 yards between the two of them. The leading receiver for Villanova was Underwood, who finished with 5 catches for 52 yards.
Penn’s Torgersen had a solid game, as he finished with 14 completions on 22 attempts for 171 yards and two touchdowns and a lone pick. Villanova will have to move on from this game as they head into their bye week.
“Everything I saw tonight we can fix,” Talley said.
The Wildcats are now 2-2. They will resume action on October 10th for a game with William and Mary. Kickoff is at 12 p.m.