By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If you are looking for a top notch local college football match-up this weekend, look no further than the Main Line on Saturday when Villanova hosts Penn.
Both teams are coming off victories last weekend. Villanova improved to 1-2 with an impressive 35-6 throttling of Stony Brook. The Wildcats rushed for 266 yards in the victory.
“That was a great win for us, we needed it badly,” Villanova head coach Andy Talley tells KYW Newsradio. “Our backs were up against the wall. It’s the first time this year, after three games, that we played two halves, put it together and didn’t turn the ball over. That was huge.”
Penn opened its season with a 27-21 win over Lafayette at Franklin Field. The Quakers rolled out to a 27-7 second-half lead and then withstood a late rally by the Leopards.
“We played very, very well at times,” Penn head coach Al Bagnoli tells KYW Newsradio. “Very efficient on both sides of the ball. We probably didn’t close the game as well as we would’ve liked and maybe we probably got a little bit conservative trying to bleed the clock at the end after getting a big lead. But, overall, we were pleased. We protected the ball well, we only had one turnover, so we won in that department. We made some plays, we changed field position and I thought we blocked and tackled pretty well.”
Bagnoli thinks very highly of the Wildcats.
“Really good athletes, very well coached, very creative on offense and defense,” Bagnoli says. “Just a really elite football team that obviously has had an awful lot of success on both the CAA and national level. So we’ll have our hands full.”
Talley is just as complimentary of the Quakers.
“As usual, the Ivy league champions look great on paper,” Talley says. “Billy Ragone, their quarterback, is one of the best in the country. We know, having played them over the last ten years, three of those games went to the last play of the game. Coach Bagnoli is a legend down there and we have our work cut out for us. I’m just glad the game is at Villanova.”
When you break down this match-up, you could spend hours just talking about the quarterbacks. Villanova’s John Robertson and Penn’s Ragone are each about as good as it gets in their respective leagues and amongst the top signal callers in the country. Both are dual threats, applying pressure to defenses both with their arms and their legs.
“He can run and throw,” Talley says about Ragone. “He’s got pinpoint accuracy with his passing and he’ll hurt you with the running game. He’s a guy that you have to know where he is all the time.”
Ragone threw for 218 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Lafayette. Robertson has thrown for 462 yards and a pair of scores through three games. He has also rushed for a team high 241 yards and three more touchdowns.
“They do a great job of putting him in space on designed plays,” Bagnoli says of Robertson. “And then he is just as dangerous when everything breaks down and you think you have the play stopped. Then he’s so athletic that he makes people miss in space and creates positive plays out of negative plays. He’s really the guy that makes them go. And if he’s on and if he’s efficient and he makes good decisions, that’s a very, very difficult offense to stop.”
While the games are always highly competitive, some down right dramatic, in the recent history of this series, Villanova has always been able to find a way to grab the victory. They have won 12 straight against the Quakers dating back to 1980. Last season, Villanova captured a 24-8 decision at Franklin Field.
Penn and Villanova will kick-off at 5:00pm on Saturday at Villanova Stadium.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.