Nova staves off Penn comeback for 30-21 win
Wildcats return two interceptions for touchdowns in close game, as Penn falls to 0-2
September 24, 2011, 7:08 pm · Updated September 26, 2011, 4:30 pm·
Rachel Bleustein | DP
A losing streak that goes back a century will live to see another year.
Penn lost a battle to Villanova Saturday night, 30-21, marking the 100th year since the Quakers’ last win against the Wildcats.
“It’s the same old story,” Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. “It’s really early in the season for us, playing against a really good, athletic group of kids, and we just can’t make mistakes.”
Penn (0-2) entered halftime up, 14-13, after a goal-line stand in the second quarter forced a Villanova field goal, but mistakes plagued the Quakers.
“Every drive today was critical in this game because this was a nail-biter,” Villanova coach Andy Talley said.
On Penn’s first possession of the second half, a handoff from junior quarterback Billy Ragone to junior running back Lyle Marsh was fumbled and picked up by the Wildcats, leading to a field goal that gave the Wildcats (1-3) the lead. The Quakers could never get the momentum back on their side.
Villanova senior Christian Culicerto got his first start at quarterback and went 12-for-20 for 139 yards. He threw one interception that led to a Penn touchdown in the first quarter.
Ragone went 15-for-26 for 250 yards and rushed for 32 more, but his two second-half interceptions both led to touchdowns, sealing a Villanova victory.
In the third quarter, Ragone threw a low pass to senior wide receiver Ryan Calvert, which bounced off his chest and was picked off and returned for a touchdown by Villanova defensive back James Pitts.
“Every time the defense creates a turnover, especially scoring on a turnover, it always carries over to the offense and gets the offense moving a little bit,” Pitts said.
An apparent Ragone pick in the fourth quarter was called back after two Villanova personal foul penalties, giving Penn first and goal at the 10-yard line. Ragone threw a touchdown pass to Calvert, keeping the Quakers alive.
Down two with just under 10 minutes remaining, Penn’s defense came through, forcing two Villanova punts. The offense couldn’t make the Wildcats pay, however. With less than a minute remaining, Ragone threw another pick-six to Ronnie Akins, ensuring a Villanova victory.
“We keep making one or two too many mistakes,” Bagnoli said. “Every time there is a mistake to be made, they capitalize on it and it’s a back-breaker.”
The Quakers expressed their frustration with the bad breaks they had in the game, but they expect things to turn around in the coming weeks.
“Hopefully the tide turns and they start falling in our arms,” senior Matt Hamscher said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Villanova pick for six. That’s the way the game ended the past two or three years.”
But despite adding to the loss column, Bagnoli was much more satisfied with his team’s performance than after last week’s 25-point loss to Lafayette.
“I certainly was a lot more happy with the way we prepared, the emotional state we were in, the physicality we displayed,” he said.
Bagnoli said that his team is now more prepared for the Ivy League season, which begins next week at Dartmouth.
“If we can take some of the lessons out of this week of how hard you have to play, then I think that will bode very well for us as we head into the Ivy season,” he said.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that going into the Ivy season, the games are going to start going our way,” Hamscher added.