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Penn vs. Villanova Football Credit: Tonjanika Smith

Maybe, somehow, this will be the year.

If Penn football is going to buck one of the longest active losing streaks in the sport, it might actually be the squad’s lack of game experience in 2015 that helps it out.

Heading into Thursday night’s game against their Big 5 rival, the Quakers have played only once, a 42-21 drubbing at the hands of Lehigh last Saturday. On the contrary, No. 5 Villanova — who hasn’t lost to the Red and Blue since 1911, winning each of the 14 meetings since the squads’ series resumed in 1980 — will be playing for the fourth time in 21 days.

Despite its dearth of meaningful playing time in comparison to its cross-town foe, Penn (0-1) emerged from its season opener relatively injury free. Meanwhile, the Wildcats (2-1), whose only loss came in their first game against Connecticut, are bruised and battered and will be without a collection of offensive talent when the teams face off for their midweek contest.

A year removed from winning the Walter Payton Award, an honor given annually to the top player at the Football Championship Subdivision level, Villanova fifth-year senior quarterback John Robertson injured his right knee in Saturday’s game against Delaware and was immediately ruled out for team’s game against Penn. On Tuesday, Wildcats’ coach Andy Talley announced that an MRI revealed the reigning CAA Offensive Player of the Year suffered a torn posterior cruciate ligament and will be out indefinitely.

Into Robertson’s place steps redshirt freshman Zach Bednarczyk, who entered last weekend’s game against the Blue Hens in the fourth quarter and threw a touchdown pass and ran for another to give his side a come-from-behind 28-21 win. The Wallington, N.J., native finished four-for-six with 57 yards through the air, while adding 21 yards on the ground on his game-winning score.

"[Bednarczyk] has the same stuff John has,” Talley said on Tuesday. “He can throw, he can run. He’s as fast as John is, he’s a really good runner. What he doesn’t have is a total grasp of the offense for the last four years. John was a master of our offense.”

Last year, Robertson was a force against the Red and Blue, registering 230 yards through the air and four touchdowns in the Wildcats’ 41-7 romp. In addition to playing without their veteran behind center, Villanova will also be without its two starting tackles — junior Brad Seaton, who suffered a knee injury against Delaware, and freshman Ethan Greenridge, who will miss the game with a high ankle sprain.

Fortunately, despite the epidemic of injuries on the offensive front, the Wildcats should be getting one of their starters back for their contest with Penn.

Heading into the season, Talley knew he would be without starting guard Jake Prus for at least the team’s first three games. After starting all of the Wildcats’ 14 games in 2014, the junior biochemistry major donated bone marrow on Sept. 10 to help a 65-year-old man suffering from a blood disorder.

Regardless, over a century since the Quakers last took down Villanova, their chances might have gotten a little bit better as their opponent deals with a M.A.S.H. unit on offense.

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