Quakers Open The Season September 15 At Lafayette
PHILADELPHIA, PA 9/7/2012 – The 2011 football season for the University of Pennsylvania was one of high expectations. The Quakers were the favorite to win the Ivy League and get a three-peat of outright Ivy championships. It did not happen. Penn had a disappointing 5 – 5 record and were 4 – 3 in conference. Their last two games were losses at Harvard and at home against Cornell. In 2012 Penn is looking for a season of redemption. Finishing with a .500 record was not expected, and Coach Al Bagnoli reflected on last season believes the players and coaches need to use the experience as a motivating factor.
“Maybe we overestimated everything after graduating 33 seniors and 11 all-league kids (from the 2010 season) so we probably didn’t do as good a coaching job as we needed to do,” said Bagnoli. “We probably gave the kids too much, being so young. Starting from me on down, we’re much more prepared and we’re more focused. We have a better gauge of where we are and what our kids can and cannot do.”
“We got knocked down a little last year,” said Penn Senior starting Quarterback Billy Ragone. “We’re not at the top like last year, so we’ve got a lot of work for this season. We’ve been taking steps to get back up there and giving this thing a shot.”
The Red and Blue come into the season picked to finish second in the Ivies. The question the team must answer is how to make this a bounce back year. Bagnoli thinks having game experienced players and some depth is the key.
“We’re a lot better suited this year than we were last year,” Bagnoli said. “We have eight starters returning, we have the whole offensive line – minus one – returning, we have tight ends returning, and we have wide receivers back. We just have so much more depth.”
On the offensive side of the ball Penn has returning starters and lettermen coming back. The offensive line is always a good building point for the offense. The projected starters are Junior left tackle Jake Schwertner, Junior left guard Steve Szostak, Junior center Chris Bush, Senior right guard Mike Pinciotti, and Senior right tackle Joe Bonadies. Penn lost Greg Van Roten to graduation and the NFL from last year’s squad. The line must protect the quarterback and open holes for the running backs.
Ragone retains the reigns to the offense. He started all ten games last season and is the first Penn player with 1,000 rush yards and 2,000 pass yards in a career. Bagnoli looks for him the to be the leader, and to be on a high level game in and game out
“Billy had a real good second year,” said Bagnoli. “Statistically, he had a much better year throwing the ball. The thing we’re looking for with Billy is just continuing to improve and much as anything else, the consistency. He was kind of a microcosm of our team. When we were good, we were really good, but when we were bad we were also pretty bad. I think the whole goal is to try to level things out and be a little more consistent.”
The Red and Blue always had a strong running game under Bagnoli, and this year it looks to be no different. Senior Brandon Colavita ranked fifth in rushing in the league and lead the team with 704 all-purpose yards. He returns along with Senior Jeff Jack. Senior Lyle Marsh returns after suffering a season-ending injury in the fourth game last season. Senior Greg Schuster starts at fullback for this versatile and experienced group. At Wide Receiver Ragone has weapons to throw the ball to in Junior Connor Scott and Joe Holder.
“We have a lot of weapons at the wide receiver position and our line has matured,” said Ragone. “They’re more comfortable and have experience. Or running backs have been carrying us and that won’t change. Having so many weapons will give us a chance to spread the ball and make it difficult for a team to game plan against us.”
The defense will be led by Junior defensive tackle Brandon Copeland. He was a First Team All Ivy selection in 2011 for the second consecutive year. Copeland was named the singular team captain for the 2012 campaign, an honor he takes with sincere pride and wants to perform the responsibilities.
“It is something to be proud of that the guys thought so much of me, the example I set off the field and leadership on the field,” said Copeland. “That is an honor to myself and a reminder that I have other guys that I have to continue to work hard for and never be content with anything. It is definitely an honor.”
Copeland was second on the team in tackles with 51. He recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the win at Dartmouth. He sees other talented players such as Junior linebackers Steve Lias and David Park as ready to contribute. But they need to fill the shoes of the graduated Erik Rask.
“We have a lot of young linebackers who’ll make a lot of plays this year,” Copeland said. “Replacing Erik Rask is not going to be an easy task at all. We have young guys who can play football and haven’t got the chance to show it on the field yet, so hopefully we’ll be impressed by them.”
Perhaps the biggest weapon the defense has is the hunger to get back on top of the standings.
“Our past couple of years we had a special type of motivation,” said Copeland. “My freshman year those seniors were motivated by the fact that they hadn’t won a championship. The next year our captain Owen Thomas passed away and that was extra motivation. Last year the three-peat was motivation. We got a little content and thought everything would come to us. This year we want revenge. We were humbled last year. Now we are going to come back and start anew.”
Connor Loftus returns to the kicking duties. The Sophomore led the team in scoring with 54 points. His nine field goals were fourth best in the Ivy League. Senior Scott Lopano will handle the punting duties.
Penn will host Harvard this season, and make road trips for key contests at Yale, Princeton and Cornell. Their non-conference schedule includes a game against Villanova at Franklin Field, and a home game versus William and Mary.
The Red and Blue expects to get back on top of the Ivy League. They will work for it, and not take anything for granted. The pressure to win will be there for Penn, the pressure to be excellent.
“There is always pressure,” said Ragone. “We put it on ourselves that this program is always at the top of the Ivy League. We challenge ourselves to have a great season, and that’s what we are planning on doing.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian