PHILADELPHIA, November 5, 2011 – It was a bounce back game for the University of Pennsylvania football team. The Quakers had their 18 game conference streak ended in their previous game against Brown. To continue their streak of winning Ivy League championships this game was a must win. PThe Princeton Tigers got the special teams breaks early, but the Penn Defense kept them out of the end zone keying a 37 – 9 win in front of 17,179 at Franklin Field. The Quakers gave their students, alumni, and fans a good Homecoming Day celebration.
Penn had to rely on its defense early in the game. Princeton blocked two punts to give the Tigers great field position. After the first block by Will Powers on Penn’s first possession the ball rested at the Penn 11 yard line early in the 1st quarter. But the Penn defense gave up just 3 yards forcing a 25 yard field goal by Princeton Kicker Patrick Jacob at the 13:10 mark. Later in the quarter Princeton Wide Receiver Seth DeValve blocked a punt to once again set up the offense at the 11. But the Quaker defense gave up only another field goal with 51 seconds to play in the quarter.
“You’re not expecting the first time on the field to be inside the 20-yard line,” said Senior Linebacker and Co-Captain Eric Rask. “When that happens the defense has to step up and do whatever it takes to keep them out of the end zone. The fact that we were able to hold them to two field goals right from the start was huge. Our defensive coaches always say when in the red zone always try to get a turnover, but if not always make them have a field goal try.”
The Penn offense was not consistent as Princeton kept the run game in check, but Senior Wide Receiver Ryan Calvert and Joe Holder found openings. Calvert had a big 42 yard reception that set up the 10 yard touchdown pass from Junior Quarterback Billy Ragone to Holder for Penn’s first touchdown. In the second quarter Calvert had a 27 yard catch to set up a 3 yard touchdown run by Junior Running Back Jeff Jack for the second Penn touchdown of the half. Calvert grabbed 6 passes in the first half for 110 yards. Penn held a 14 – 9 lead at the half.
The game would turn in Penn’s favor late in the third quarter. After a Connor Loftus 44 yard field goal gave Penn a 17 – 9 lead with 5:37 on the clock, the Penn Defense forced Princeton to punt. Two plays later Ragone threw a 54 yard touchdown pass to Senior Wide Receiver Ryan Mitchell to put Penn ahead 24 – 9. On the ensuing possession Princeton Quarterback Tommy Wornham went to the air, but Penn Senior Defensive Back Matt Hamscher intercepted the pass, then returned it 25 yards for the touchdown giving the Quakers a 30 – 9 advantage with 3:27 to play in the quarter. In the fourth quarter Ragone threw his third touchdown pass of the game finding Mitchell for a 23 yard touchdown.
Ragone was 16 – 27 for 254 yards. Princeton defended the run as Penn would get 76 yards rushing. The Red and Blue needed to go to the air, and did so effectively getting 302 passing yards. Mitchell had 2 touchdowns on 3 catches for 84 yards. Calvert had 8 receptions for a career-high 122 yards receiving.
“We were very efficient, and probably should have called more pass plays.” Bagnoli said bout the Penn aerial attack. “They (Princeton) do a good job against the run. It was part of our game plan, and we wanted to throw the ball early and often. If the score wasn’t what it was, we would have thrown the ball even more.”
Princeton was led by Running Back Chuck Dibilio with 130 yards on 29 carries. The Tigers out-gained the Quakers 154 to 76 on the ground. Penn held Princeton to 180 passing yards as the Tigers completed 18 of 39 passing attempts. The Penn Defense held Princeton to 9 of 21 Third Down Conversions, and 0 for 4 on Fourth Down Conversions.
Penn improves 5 – 3 overall, 4 – 1 in Ivy League play. The Red and Blue travels to Harvard on November 12 in a game that will determine their fate in the league. A new streak begins and Bagnoli was pleased the way his team bounced back.
“The schedule, in a way, helped us,” Bagnoli said. “Coming back home and to a homecoming game, you’re coming against a traditional rivalry. I thought we would be ready to play and fortunately, we were. But obviously we were in uncharted territories. Up until last week, we hadn’t had that feeling (of an Ivy loss) in a long time. So it tested the upperclassmen, their mettle, and their ability to regroup, and fortunately they did a nice job.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian