By Harry Allison
Legendary Penn football coach Al Bagnoli is retiring after this, his 23rd season, and it is unlikely that he will ever forget the pasting his Quakers endured yesterday at Franklin Field.
True, it wasn’t an Ivy League battle so it doesn’t count in the standings, but Villanova’s 41-7 victory is an indication of how much better the Wildcats are.
Wildcat quarterback John Robertson didn’t let his broken left hand and bruised right hip keep him from tying a career-high with four TD passes as the No.5/6 Wildcats rolled over the Quakers.
All four TD passes came in the first half before the bruised and battered Robertson gave way to senior Chris Polony to start the second half. One half, though, was more than enough for Robertson to wow the crowd as he completed 15 of 21 passes for 230 yards to go with those four TDs.
“When they get on a roll, they’re very difficult to contain,” Bagnoli (congratulating Cats coach Andy Talley, photo above) said. “They got on a roll and we had no answers.
Robertson hit seven different receivers and threw TD passes to tight end Ernest Pettway (36 yards), Poppy Livers (nine yards), Mike Burke (17 yards) and Kevin Gulyas (66 yards) as the Wildcats scored on their first five possessions to open up a 34-0 lead. The touchdown to Livers capped a 99-yard drive that was set up by the first interception.
“We had a great game plan going in,” Robertson said. “Everything that we were scheming up was open, it was great. We came out and we knew what we had to do. We knew we were more skilled than they were so we knew we couldn’t let them hang in there. It’s just a great feeling. We went out there and Ernest Pettway had like a 35-yard touchdown and that started it off. The defense got the ball back and we just started rolling.”
In the first half of Villanova’s last two games, Robertson is 30-for-37 for 381 yards and five touchdowns. And that’s with that broken left hand and bruised right hip, which has limited his running ability. Robertson fractured his left hand early in Villanova’s 50-6 romp over Fordham three weeks ago. He bruised the hip early in last week’s 49-31 come-from-behind victory over James Madison.
“I think that’s what makes him so much more dangerous,” Bagnoli said. “He’s always been tremendously elusive, a kid that can win games with his feet. Now he can win games pretty regularly with his arm.”
Robertson wasn’t the only Wildcats to shine as Villanova (3-1 overall, 1-0 CAA) handed Penn its worst loss in the series, its worst defeat of any kind since a 33-0 whipping by Harvard in 1997 and its worst setback at home since Army rolled to a 41-3 victory over the Quakers at Franklin Field in 1985.
With running back Austin Medley out with an ankle injury, junior Gary Underwood showed what he can do and he did not squander the opportunity. Underwood carried the ball six times for 93 yards and two touchdowns. His 54-yard run in the second quarter gave Villanova a 21-0 lead. Kevin Monangai added 67 yards on 13 tries.
Meanwhile, the Villanova defense returned to form. The Wildcats forced three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) and held the Quakers to 273 yards of total offense.
“I think when (the offense) is clicking we definitely feed off of their energy,” Villanova linebacker Don Cherry said. “It allows us to go out there and play better football. When we get that momentum I feel as though we’re unstoppable.”