Villanova faces UPenn in city football battle without All-American John Robertson

Villanova faces UPenn in city football battle without All-American John
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Takinga page straight out of Hollywood, Villanova’s Zach Bednarczyk saw an All-Americanquarterback go down Saturday, grabbed his helmet and ran onto the field, thenled his team to an improbable victory.

Now, just five days later what can the redshirt freshman do for an encore when hegets the call as the No. 5 ranked in the FCS Wildcats take on local rival Pennin a game moved up from its original Saturday start to accommodate Pope Francis’ visit?Based on the wayBednarczyk rose to the occasion late in the fourth quarter of ‘Nova’s 28-21 winover CAA rival Delaware, he shouldn’tneed any Divine intervention.

Takingover when 2014 Walter Payton Award winner John Robertson went down awkwardlywith a knee injury that will sideline him indefinitely, the kid from Willington,NJ was spectacular, throwing for 57 yards and a key fourth down touchdown toKevin Gulyas, then romping 21 yards for the winning score–followed by thetwo-point conversion with 2:35 left. It allhappened so fast, the 6-foot-1, 200 poundBednarczyk didn’t even have time to thinkabout it.

“Ijust grabbed my helmet and ran on the field,” said Bednarczyk, who’ll bebacked up tonight by fellow freshman Bradley Jackson. “My teammates weresaying, ‘We’ve got you.’

“I get reps with them every day, so it’s not like we’re strangers.’’

Still, practice reps are one thing. This was with the game on the line.

“I can’t say enough about ZackBednarczyk,” said Talley, who’ll likely have to go without not onlyRobertson but otherkey players on bothsides of the ball. “To come in cold like that and do what he did is probably asgood a quarterbacking job as we’ve had here in my years.

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“Now, given we have injuries we have a Herculean task with a short week toget ready for this game.We have to getZack comfortable with the game plan immediately.”

WhileGulyas, who got to know Bednarczyk when they roomed together this summer, sayshe had the utmost confidence in the kid, things figures to be different tonightwhen he lines up. Not only won’t Bernarczyk be coming in cold, he’ll be facingan opponent that will have prepared specifically for him.

Anopponent that might smell a chance to snap a 14-game losing streak vs. ‘Nova that stretches all the way back to 1911 — yes, 104 years. The Quakers will becoming off a 42-21 loss to Lehigh in which quarterback Alek Torgersen threw for336 yards and two touchdowns.

ButBednarczyk won’t be the only unfamiliar face on the field. For Al Bagnoli to not be there for the Red and Blue, with longtime assistant Ray Priore takingover the reins, will seem particularly strange for Talley.

“He’s my dear friend and a first class guy,’’ said Talley, who’d beaten the new Columbia coach all 13 times they met. ‘Ray’s a good guy, too.Inever thought I’d outlast Al, like ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’ “The last 10years we’ve kindof been adversaries

“So lookingon the sidelines and Al not being there will be unusual.”

Butthere won’t be much time for sentiment.Villanova, which dropped its opener to Division-IConnecticut, thenwon at Fordham, before escaping Delaware in the Battle of the Blue, normallyhandles Penn.Last year the Wildcats amassed567 yards offense in a 41-7 rout at Franklin Field.In 2013 it was 34-6.And while the scores have been a bit closersince the rivalry resumed in 1999 for only the second time since Penn made it five in a row back in 1911, the results have been the same.

Still, the Wildcats will take nothing for granted.

“They’re another big, physicalteam,’’ said ‘Nova linebacker Don Cherry, who leads the Wildcats with 26 tackles —11 unassisted—and two sacks through three games.“But our coaching staff will make sure we’reready.

“We’re expecting a battle.”

For the Quakers, playing their first night game since 2002, to the change therecent script, though, may take a different kind of Hollywood ending.

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