PHILADELPHIA, October 8,2011 – The University of Pennsylvania football team had players unavailable for the game because of injuries, but did have players with game experience to use. The team on the field played efficient on offense converting all five Red-Zone chances, and created first downs on 10 of 15 Third-Down situations. Experience and efficiency were the key factors for the Penn Quakers as they won their second straight game beating the Fordham Rams 35 – 20 at Franklin Field.
Junior Running Back Lyle Marsh, a player with meaningful game experience, filled in for the injured rushing leader Brandon Colavita and scored three touchdowns on runs of 2, 11, and 4 yards to lead the Penn offense. Marsh ran for 72 yards on 14 carries. On Defense Penn was missing Senior Defensive Back Matt Hamscher. Others contributed and the defense was flexible stopping Fordham at key junctures forcing the Rams to settle for field goals rather than score touchdowns.
“There were a lot of moving pieces today,” said Penn Coach Al Bagnoli. “I felt that we were as efficient and balanced as we have been in a while which was good to see. We needed it. We were good on Third-Down Conversions, and made some plays in the Red-Zone.”
“We were 5 – 5 in the Red-Zone with touchdowns which was the difference in the game.”
The offense for Penn was very balanced in this game despite having to shuffle the offensive line. The Quakers had 440 yards of offense, 248 yards passing and 192 rushing yards on 46 attempts. Junior Quarterback Billy Ragone was efficient completing his first 11 passes of the game. Penn got off to an early lead on a long, sustained drive. Taking the ball on the Penn 11 after a Fordham punt Ragone engineered a 15 play, 89 yard scoring drive that took 7:49. The drive featured 9 passing plays for 74 yards and 6 running plays. Ragone completed a 25 yard screen pass and run to Junior Running Back Jeff Jack that set up a first down at the Fordham 46 yard line. Three plays later Ragone found Senior Tight End Luke Nawrocki for 22 yards to the 13 yard line. Marsh took the handoff getting to the 2 yards line, and scored going up the middle to give Penn a 7 – 0 lead with 5:45 remaining in the half. It was a picture of how the game would unfold as the offense for the Red and Blue was in a positive groove.
“Everything started with the first drive,” said Ragone. “We were getting open. They had some young guys in the secondary, and our receivers are getting more and more confident and able to make some big plays. The groove was definitely there tonight.”
Fordham answered with a 36 yard field goal by Kicker Michael Marando with 18 seconds left in the first quarter cutting the Penn lead to 7 – 3. The Rams would take a 10 – 7 lead after the Rams took the ball on a 55 yard pass to Wide Receiver Carlton Koonce capping a 7 play, 80 yard drive ast the 9:23 mark of the second quarter.
The Red and Blue responded in Sophomore Quarterback Ryan Becker’s sequence by keeping the ball for 5:54 moving 84 yards in 13 plays. The drive was capped by an 11 yard run by Marsh. It was his second touchdown of the game, and sent Penn into halftime leading 14 – 10.
Fordham scored 10 unanswered points to cut the lead to 28 – 20 with 9:49 remaining in the game. The points came on a touchdown pass from Higgins to Tight End Dan Light. Faced with a one possession game, Penn put the game away with a 13 play, 73 yard drive in 6:06 getting a touchdown on a 6 yard run by Junior Fullback Greg Schuster with 3:36 on the clock. However, in that drive Penn would lose Marsh for the game with a lower leg injury. The severity of the injury is not known at this time.
With the exception of the one play touchdown drive the Penn offense put together drives that were 4:12 as the quickest, and 7:49 the longest. The time of possession advantage for the Red and Blue was 34:57 to 25:03. This allowed Penn to wear down a young Fordham defense. The Penn defense got a chance to rest which was needed against the hurry-up Fordham offense.
“It puts a lot of pressure on you when you face these up-tempo offenses that run a lot of plays,” Bagnoli said. “You’re dependent upon your offense to rest your defense, and when they have opportunities to score, go in and score because you are going to have a lot of possessions. It was critical that we were efficient as we ended up being.”
Ragone gained 50 yards on the ground, and was 17 of 22 passing for 209 yards. Ragone had a rushing touchdown. Jack gained 55 rushing yards on 13 carries, and added 32 yards on 2 receptions. Nawrocki caught 5 passes for 61 yards. Sophomore Wide Receiver Ryan Mitchell had 4 receptions for 65 yards. Penn had just one turnover.
For the Rams Higgins was 21 of 38 for 249 yards and 2 touchdowns, and was intercepted once. Wide Receiver Brad Pierre hauled in 5 passes for 61 yards. Running Back Darryl Whiting carried the ball 20 times for 86 yards.
Penn improves their record to 2 – 2. The Red and Blue prepare for an Ivy League game at Columbia. The balance shown in this game should help them in future games. Penn would not be known as a one-dimensional offensive team. Bagnoli said they can’t run the ball 55 times a game and win against some of the teams they will be playing.
Some of the injured players will return to action. Colavita and Hamscher have injuries that are not serious. Penn will have more players with meaningful game experience. That is your best defense against injury.
The team is growing.
“We are getting better, but it will take a little bit of time,” said Bagnoli.
Written By: Glenn Papazian