Penn, Temple done in by mistakes

The words could have come from the mouth of Al Bagnoli or Al Golden.

"This whole game, I thought we had a chance," the losing coach said. "One of the problems in this game is you can't make a mistake. Your margin of error is basically nil, and we made some big mistakes."

In this instance, it was Bagnoli speaking into the press room microphones at Villanova. But it's not hard to draw parallels between Penn's 22-10 loss at Villanova and Temple's 22-13 loss at Penn State. Both underdogs had chances to pull off historic upsets today, but came up short.

Only the diehard Quakers and Owls fans would have thought that their teams would hold leads in second half .Yet there they were: Temple ahead of Penn State, 13-12, late in the third quarter, and Penn up on Villanova, 10-9, well into the fourth.

Although both home teams took the lead back, the visitors still had their chances. Temple had a drive going with just over two minutes left, and a touchdown would have brought the Owls within a field goal. Penn was even closer, at Villanova's 46 down five points with four and a half minutes remaning.

But Chester Stewart and Billy Ragone both killed any chances of comebacks by throwing interceptions. Stewart threw two in the last three and half minutes of the game, while Ragone's one was returned for a touchdown.

Coincidentally, Ragone's pick-six meant that Villanova and Penn State both finished the day with 22 points on the scoreboard.

"It's one of those games where they force you, because of their athleticism, to play virtually a perfect game, which is really hard to do," Bagnoli said.

Injuries were certainly a factor in both games. Matt Szczur's sprained ankle constrained Villanova's dynamic offense, especially its Wildcats plays. Bernard Pierce also left the game with an ankle injury, forcing Temple's offense to rely much more on quarterback Chester Stewart. Penn was less affected by Lyle Marsh's broken arm, which in all likelihood ended his season. But Marsh was the best of the Quakers' many running backs at forcing his way through Villanova's defensive line.

Of the two losing teams, Temple has to be hurt the most. This was a chance for the Owls to make a big statement on a national stage, and assert themselves as a true rising power. It was also the program's best chance by far finally beat a team that many of their fans truly loathe.

Penn and Villanova are more like quarreling brothers. There's relatively little enmity between the two fan bases. For as much as Penn wants to win the game, they don't really have anything to prove to anyone in the way that Temple does.

Furthermore, the Quakers came in with relatively low expectations, given Villanova's prowess and the visitors' lack of athletic scholarships. Penn's regular season is also pretty meaningless, because Ivy League teams don't go to the I-AA playoffs. So the only thing that really matters is the conference slate.

Still, both city schools' fan bases will be stinging a bit from this weekend. They can be forgiven for wondering if either team's losing streak will ever end. Perhaps the day will finally come at some point, but it won't be for at least another year.

There's a photo gallery from Temple-Penn State above, and you can listen to Penn and Villanova's postgame press conferences below. There's also a video in the player at right with some analysis from me and game highlights shot by my colleague Dave Isaac.