Penn Scores An Upset of Villanova 104 Years in The Making


In the summer of 2010, just prior to the start of a new college football season, I wrote a feature story for CBS on the success of the Philadelphia’s Div. I college football programs: Penn, Temple and Villanova.

Temple was coming off its first bowl season in 30 years, Penn had won the Ivy League championship, but Villanova set the City of Brotherly Love’s benchmark with the 2009 FCS national championship.

The 2009 Villanova team beat both Temple and Penn, further lengthening the shadow the Wildcats cast on the city. It was a familiar spot for Penn, as then-head coach Al Bagnoli alluded when I interviewed him.

““We respect Villanova’s program tremendously,” he said. “[2009] we played them well. Now the trick is getting over the hump.”

It didn’t happen in 2010. Villanova won, 22-10. It didn’t happen in 2011, either, when Villanova won, 30-21; or 2012 at 24-8; or 35-6 in 2013; or 41-7 last year.

Penn lost every one of those matchups in the last half-decade, as it had every time for the previous nine-and-a-half-decade. But Thursday, the Quakers finally got over the hump, 24-13.

The Penn student newspaper referred to the Quakers’ win over the fourth-ranked Wildcats as “Upset of the Century” on Twitter, but that’s not entirely accurate.

It’s the Upset of the Century and Four Years.

Penn last Villanova in 1911, 22-0, in the last college football in which touchdowns were worth five points.

The two Philadelphia-area programs only played 14 more times in that 104-year span, but Villanova won all of them. The Wildcats’ recent dominance is particularly noteworthy, as they’ve established themselves as one of the nation’s preeminent FCS programs and Penn fell back in the Ivy League.

If head coach Ray Priore accomplish nothing else in his first season replacing Bagnoli (now at Ivy League counterpart Columbia), he already has his own chapter in the annals of Quaker football history.

This win may come with the footnote of Villanova playing without 2014 Walter Payton Award-winning quarterback John Robertson, who came out in the Wildcats’ Week 3 defeat of Delaware, but it’s an asterisk Penn will gladly accept.

So party like it’s 1911, Quakers. You’ve waited 104 years for this.