It was a success before the first whistle had been blown. Saturday evening's Penn-Villanova football game at Franklin Field gave fans from both teams something they have waited almost two decades to see. A good portion of the 18,722 people in attendance were not even cheering for a particular side; many of them were there simply to see the two local teams battle it out. While it might not have been the best matchup -- the Division I-AA 14th-ranked Wildcats in their fourth game of the season against a partially rebuilding Quakers team in their second game -- no one seemed to care. "I wanted to see a good college football game," said Ed Peters, a local fan who came with his friend Eric Hessinger. "Hopefully they get a lot of local kids from around the area to watch it. I wish they would play it every year." People like Ed Malley, a 1968 Villanova graduate, came from as far away as Darien, Conn., to watch the game. "This is a big game for both schools if you follow Philadelphia-area football," Malley said. Others such as Tom Beine, who has one daughter who is a sophomore at Villanova and another daughter who is a Penn graduate, brought his son -- a local high school football player -- to show him Franklin Field and what the game is like at the next level. The game was also a large attraction for the students. While many Penn students from bigger college towns may not find much excitement in the Quakers' weak Ivy League schedule, seeing Penn play a city rival that happens to be one of the best teams in Division I-AA gave many a reason to come. This event came up as a relative spur of the moment idea. While most schedules are finalized as far as 10 years in advance, four years ago Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky realized the Quakers had an open weekend and called over to Villanova to try to schedule the game. Unfortunately for the fans expecting to see how the teams will fare against each other in 2000, the next meeting will not take place for another three years. As local rivals, it is a shame that a game like this is not played annually. Why was this just the second meeting between the two teams in the past 88 years? The students, some of whom were not even born yet when Penn last played the Wildcats, showed their support. "If you compare the turnout to what this game has been -- a game against the Patriot League -- we probably have three or four times the crowd," Bilsky said. In two non-league home games last season, the Quakers drew a total of 16,118 fans. The players loved the game, too. It gives Villanova a chance to strut its stuff in a 60,000-seat stadium, compared to the 12,000-seat capacity of Villanova Stadium. The high-caliber matchup gives the Quakers a chance to measure themselves against the best in the division. A similar result against another superior Atlantic 10 team, Richmond, last year preceded Penn's run to an Ivy League championship. "I think the way the public relations guys were hyping this game up was good for the University," Penn running back Kris Ryan said. "It is also good for the program. Personally, I would like to see it because I would like to play them again and try to beat them." More than pitting the Quakers against a tougher non-league team than Penn's typical Patriot League opponents or bringing in another local team to play in historic Franklin Field, the game allowed two of Philadelphia's top college sports programs to display their ability in front of a combined group of their hometown fans. Similar to a Big 5 basketball game, a Big 5 football game brings in a different atmosphere than your average non-conference game. And a bigger crowd.Comments powered by Disqus
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