Andy Talley won his 200th game as Villanova head coach with a 35-6 win over Penn. (USA Today Images)
VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Somehow, Andy Talley had kept from his players that a win Saturday over Penn would be his 200th at Villanova.
They didn't find out until after the game.
John Robertson tallied 398 yards and four touchdowns combined through the air and on the ground, Poppy Livers caught his first two receiving scores and the Wildcats handed the Quakers a 35-6 defeat at Villanova Stadium (see Instant Replay).
"I'll be honest with you, I didn't know," Livers said of Talley's milestone. "I was very surprised and we talked about it a lot in the locker room. ... Right when we got in, Coach (Talley) came in, we said our prayers and who came in? I think the chaplain or someone came in."
"The president of our university," Talley interrupted.
"I knew it was someone important," Livers responded over a backdrop of laughs.
"He came in and spilled the news, and it was awesome."
An important win indeed it was for Talley, who became the 37th coach in the history of college football to reach the milestone with one school.
The head coach at Villanova (2-2) since 1985, Talley has led the Wildcats to 10 playoff appearances, six conference titles, three national semifinals and the 2009 national championship in 29 years.
And it came against a coach nearly as accomplished in Al Bagnoli, who has won 142 games and nine Ivy League crowns in 22 years at Penn (1-1) and remains a close friend of Talley's.
"That kind of bodes for the longevity and consistency," Bagnoli said. "I think he and his staff do as good a job as we see all year."
Bagnoli's right -- Villanova is typically the toughest team on Penn's schedule. The series has been played annually since 2004, and the Wildcats have won all 10 contests. That's 10 losses to Villanova in a decade-long span in which the Quakers have lost just 35 games altogether.
Penn hasn't beaten Villanova since 1911, but four of the last nine contests before Saturday came down to one possession.
"Obviously, I'm very, very pleased that we were able to win a game against a team that always gives us fits," Talley said. "For the first time in a long time we were able to come out and run the ball against them. When you can do that, obviously you've got a good chance to win."
And oh boy. Did Villanova run the ball.
The Wildcats outgained the Quakers 280 yards to 20 on the ground. They averaged 6.1 yards per carry to Penn's 0.7. Robertson led the way and was responsible for 132 of them and a 36-yard third-quarter touchdown. It was his fifth career 100-yard running game. Kevin Monangai also reached the century mark, with 101 yards on 17 carries.
It was the first time in Bagnoli's tenure at Penn that two opponents reached the 100-yard rushing mark against his Quakers.
"He's a really gifted kid," Bagnoli said of Robertson. "He's playing at a speed that we really don't see, so we really had our hands full trying to corral and tackle him in space."
On Villanova's second drive, Robertson set up the Wildcats' first score when he avoided two would-be sacks and scampered 22 yards to the Penn 6-yard line. After a holding penalty set 'Nova back to the 15, Robertson connected with Joe Price for the touchdown.
The Quakers responded and moved the ball well on their ensuing drive. Billy Ragone hooked up twice with Conner Scott on 3rd-and-long and Penn was handed another first down on a running-into-the-kicker penalty on a 4th-and-3.
The drive hit a halt after 13 plays and 60 yards, when Connor Loftus lined up for a 37-yard field goal. But Villanova's Rakim Cox got a hand on it and Craig James found the loose ball and dashed 73 yards for the score to put the Wildcats up, 14-0.
"I think that was real big," Talley said. "That gives you three [had Penn made it] and at least you feel like you earned something and had a drive. And then to have it completely wiped out and then the other teams scores against you? That's like opening the game and having the kickoff go back against you. ... I think that kind of thing really deflates the team."
It certainly appeared to deflate the Quakers. So did their three other turnovers -- two of which were interceptions in the end zone. Ragone, Penn's fifth-year senior quarterback, didn't have a good day. He completed just 18 of 35 passes for 192 yards, a touchdown and a pick.
Scott had a huge day, tallying 129 yards on 11 catches. But it was Livers who stole the receiving show.
Livers connected with Robertson for his first career receiving touchdown on a 50-yard strike early in the second quarter to give the Wildcats a 21-0 lead.
Livers added another score on a six-yard catch to make it 35-6 early in the fourth. In all, the junior wideout pulled in eight catches for 121 yards.
"It felt great," Livers said. "Before every game, John (Robertson) comes up to me and tells me, 'Man, I trust you,' and I say, 'Find me, I'll be open.'
"But it felt great, felt great to do it at home, felt great to do it for coach Talley's 200th career win."
Talley will go for win No. 201 at Villanova when the Wildcats host CAA foe William & Mary next Saturday as conference play resumes.
Penn sees its first Ivy League action of the season in its defense of the Ancient Eight crown when Dartmouth visits Franklin Field on Saturday.