Sept. 24, 2011
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - In a home game at Franklin Field on Saturday night Villanova (1-3) held off Penn (0-2) for a 30-21 victory, the 11th straight time that the Wildcats have beaten their nearby rivals in a series that dates back more than a century. Villanova secured the win thanks to a defense that returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the game, including a 26-yard return by junior defensive back Ronnie Akins (Lansdale, Pa.) with 12 seconds left that sealed the game's outcome.
Junior kicker Mark Hamilton (Gaithersburg, Md.) kicked three field goals in the game for the Wildcats, including a 31-yard attempt with 5:59 left in the third quarter that gave Villanova the lead for good at 16-14. Senior cornerback Jimmy Pitts (Montclair, N.J.) returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown with 2:00 left in the third period to stretch the margin to 23-14.
In the fourth quarter Penn pulled to within 23-21 when Billy Ragone threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Calvert with 10:01 remaining. However, the Quakers would later go three-and-out on their next possession and punted the ball back to the Wildcats with 5:42 to play. Villanova held the ball for over four minutes at the most critical part of the game and eventually punted the ball back to Penn with 1:21 left, when a 52-yard punt by Hamilton pinned the Quakers at their own four-yard line.
The special teams play, thanks in large part to Hamilton, matched the effort of the defense in the Wildcats first win of the season. By going 3-for-3 on field goals tonight Hamilton has now made nine consecutive attempts since last season and is 10-of-11 in his career. He also averaged 46.8 yards on six punts, with the late 52-yarder being the fourth time this season he has kept an opponent inside their own 20-yard line.
Hamilton scored the first Villanova points of the evening with 3:08 to play in the first quarter with a career-long 42-yard field goal. The score at that point was 7-3 in favor of Penn but in the opening minute of the second quarter senior quarterback Christian Culicerto (Charlotte, N.C.) threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Dorian Wells (West Covina, Calif.) for a 10-7 Wildcats lead.
In his first career start Culicerto was 12-of-20 through the air for 139 yards and a touchdown while also running for a net of 43 yards on 10 carries. Despite throwing an interception in the first quarter Culicerto otherwise settled down a Villanova offense which had committed 10 turnovers in the first three games. Following that interception in the first quarter the Wildcats did not turn the ball over again and then benefited from its defense taking the ball away three times.
Sophomore defensive lineman Rakim Cox (San Diego, Calif.) had a big game on the defensive end with three tackles for loss, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Freshman linebacker Dillon Lucas (Medford, N.J.) added a team-best nine tackles.
On the offensive end Villanova balanced its running and passing games throughout the entire contest. Wells finished the night with five catches for 70 yards and the long touchdown while senior wide receiver Mikey Reynolds (Moorestown, N.J.) added four receptions for 49 yards. Meanwhile, freshman running back Kevin Monangai (Roseland, N.J.) ran for 54 yards on 12 carries and senior running back Lawrence Doss (Bellflower, Calif.) added 51 yards on 15 runs.
Midway through the second period Jeff Jack ran for an eight-yard touchdown to give the Quakers a 14-10 lead but the Wildcats closed to within 14-13 at the half on a 19-yard field goal by Hamilton with 2:03 to play before the intermission.
Brandon Colavita ran for 92 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries to lead Penn offensively, while Ragone finished the night 15-of-26 for 250 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Villanova returns to action next Saturday at Noon when it hosts William & Mary at Villanova Stadium.
NOTES: With tonight's victory the Wildcats now lead the all-time series with the Quakers by an 11-5 margin ... Penn won the first five meetings and Villanova has won the last 11 ... The last win in the series for Penn was a 22-0 decision on October 14, 1911 at Franklin Field ... Following that contest the teams did not meet again for 69 years until 1980 ... The career-long 42 yard field goal by Hamilton in the first quarter was his first career field goal longer than 40 yards ... His streak of nine consecutive field goals began in the game against New Hampshire last season on November 13, 2010 ... In addition to Culicerto making his first career start in tonight's game, freshman middle linebacker Joey Harmon (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) also started for the first time ... Villanova had not scored a point in the first half in its first three games prior to scoring 13 points in the first half tonight ... The team's average margin of deficit at halftime in its first three contests was 12.7 points ... Pitts registered his third career interception return for a touchdown and his second in as many seasons versus Penn ... His first career touchdown came at home against Towson on November 15, 2008.