Penn can win Ivy title outright with win over Cornell

ASSOCIATED PRESS Villanova's Kevin Monangai leads the CAA in rushing.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Villanova's Kevin Monangai leads the CAA in rushing.
Posted: November 16, 2012

PENN (5-4, 5-1 Ivy League) has a chance to make history on Saturday at Cornell (4-5, 2-4). The Quakers, who've already clinched at least a share of the crown, will claim their third outright title in 4 years with a win, something that has only been done four times. And just twice by teams not named Penn. No other program has done it since Yale (1977-80).

These Quakers can join their Penn predecessor's from 1984-86 and 2000-03, which would make those reunions a little more rarefied.

This is Al Bagnoli's ninth ring in 21 seasons. All the rest were solos.

"It makes all the difference," said senior Scott Lopano, one of the best punters in FCS. "It's incredibly important to us. We're competitive. We beat Princeton and Harvard [the teams with two league losses]. We don't want to share something with them now, not after that. That would be a letdown.

"You don't want to tarnish it, in any way. We want to really be proud of it. It would still be a title [even if they lost], but . . . This is a great opportunity for us. You want to be part of something really special. This would do it."

The Quakers, who haven't always looked like the kind of team that could be in this position, have won three straight. Last week at home against defending champ, preseason favorite Harvard was the first time they didn't win by coming from behind in the fourth quarter. But they lost starting quarterback Billy Ragone at the end of the third with an ankle injury. So fellow senior Andrew Holland, who has played and completed a pass in every game, takes over. Sophomore Patton Chilura and freshman Alex Matthews become the backups, just in case.

Hey, it's been that kind of run.

"We've won ugly at times, but we've found that edge when we had to have it," Lopano said. "Now it's on us, to finish this off. That's a big motivation. If we take care of business one more time, then we can celebrate."

Princeton (5-4 overall) hosts Dartmouth (5-4, 3-3), while Harvard (7-2) hosts Yale (2-7), whose only Ivy win came at home against Penn.

Villanova: Lot at stake

The Colonial Athletic Association still has 16 possible tiebreaking scenarios involving five teams. And that doesn't include Richmond, which could still factor into the FCS 20-team playoff picture.

Villanova (7-3, 5-2), ranked 16th after a convincing home win over No. 13 James Madison, will win the title in two combinations, and the automatic NCAA bid that goes with it. But first the Wildcats have to win at Delaware (5-5, 2-5). And even if they do, there's no guarantee that'll be enough to get them back into the postseason.

That's how goofy this thing is.

Defensive back Ronnie Akins played as a freshman on a team that won a national title in 2009. And a team that went to the semifinals the next season. And the one that went 2-9 a year ago. The Wildcats were picked to finish eighth this time. Yet here they are.

"My first couple of years, we had the target on our backs," he said. "This is different. I feel like people underestimated us. But now, we have to look at this as the first round of the playoffs. You win or go home. We can only do what we can do. Then we'll see what happens."

The CAA has put five teams in the tournament before. But it looks like four or maybe even three could be the number.

Villanova needs No. 4 Old Dominion (9-1, 6-1) - which is ineligible for the title but can go to the playoffs - to beat JMU (7-3, 5-2), No. 19 Towson (6-4, 5-2) to beat No. 7 New Hampshire (8-2, 6-1) and No. 20 Richmond (7-3, 5-2) to beat William & Mary (2-8, 1-6). Villanova has beaten ODU but lost to Towson and Richmond. It didn't play New Hampshire, but would have the best record (1-0) over the highest common opponent.

Last year the Wildcats lost to Delaware for the first time since 2005.

"The atmosphere's amazing, like no other game I've ever played in my life," Akins said. "It seems like it's more than a football game. I don't want it to be my last one.

"We've definitely had a good season. But we want to go back to the playoffs and try to make another run. But we can't worry about that right now. All I know for sure is we don't have any chance if we don't win this one."

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