HANOVER, N.H. - Senior quarterback Billy Ragone used his arm, legs and even made his first career reception to help guide the University of Pennsylvania football team to its first win of the season Saturday. The Quakers outlasted Dartmouth on national television at Memorial Field, 28-21, in the Ivy opener for both teams.
Penn (1-2, 1-0 Ivy) led 20-0 at the half, but that lead was down to six before senior Lyle Marsh ran free for 51 yards to give the Quakers a 28-14 lead with 5:50 left. Dartmouth (2-1, 0-1) added seven points just two minutes later, but the Red and Blue ran out the clock for their 14th win in the last 15 meetings with the Big Green.
"It's always a close game up here," said Ragone, who ran for 60 yards and threw for 165 yards on 14-of-18 (78%) passing. "And it's always nice to go 1-0 in the league and come up here, on the road, and get a good road win against a good team."
The Quakers scored on all four of their first half possessions, which included a one-yard touchdown run by senior Jeff Jack on the opening drive, a pair of Connor Loftus field goals and a one-yard touchdown rush from senior Greg Schuster. Jack's first rushing touchdown of the season was set up by three third-down conversions and Ragone's 24-yard hookup with junior Ryan Mitchell to the two-yard line.
Junior Dan Wilk and senior Brandon Copeland recorded Penn's first two sacks of the year and forced a Dartmouth punt on the Big Green's first drive. Loftus' 28-yard field goal was set up by Schuster's 4th-and-1 conversion from the Dartmouth 44 and a trick play. Ragone handed off to Mitchell, who stopped, turned and passed back to Ragone for nine yards - the quarterback's first catch and Mitchell's second career completion. Four plays later - and on the first play of the second quarter - the Quakers went up 10-0.
Penn had the ball for all but 2:07 of the first quarter and outgained the Big Green, 155-(-7). The Red and Blue's dominance continued with 10 more unanswered points in the second quarter.
Senior Andrew Holland took over at quarterback for Penn's third drive. He ran three times for 22 yards to set up a 25-yard field goal.
On the Red and Blue's next possession, Ragone - who became the 11th player in Penn history with 3,000 career passing yards - returned to march the Quakers 80 yards in 10 plays. Schuster's touchdown with 33 seconds left in the half, gave Penn a 20-point lead at intermission.
Since 2006, all but one meeting between these Ivy rivals has been decided by one possession. Dartmouth extended that streak with a second-half rally. The Big Green opened the last half with its first points - a 31-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-3 - to close to within 20-7. Then a 33-yard touchdown run by Dominick Pierre got the Big Green within 20-14 with 8:59 left in the game.
The Quakers responded immediately. After converting a pair of third downs to reach midfield, Marsh found a hole and a lot of open space as he raced 51 yards for the touchdown. On the two-point conversion attempt, Ragone was flushed out of the pocket to his left, then ran out of room, spun and raced to the opposite sideline where he bought enough time to find senior Joe Holder in the end zone. Holder dove, corralled the pinpoint pass and kept both feet inbounds to put Penn up 28-20 with 5:50 remaining.
Dartmouth needed just 2:17 to get back to within 28-21. But the Quakers ran out the clock with a pair of first downs to seal their fifth straight win over the Big Green.
Marsh had a team-best 61 rush yards on just two carries, Jack added 52 rush yards and the Quakers outrushed Dartmouth, 207-63. Junior Conner Scott had a team-high eight receptions for 89 yards.
Wilk had a career-high eight tackles to lead the Quakers in addition to his first career sack. Sophomore linebacker Dan Davis was second on the team with seven tackles and senior Dave Twamley added six more.
Penn was playing its first of three nationally televised games this season. The NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will also broadcast Penn's matchup at Yale on Oct. 20 and the home finale against Harvard on Nov. 10. Both of those games are also noon starts.
Next Saturday is the final non-conference matchup of the 2012 campaign for the Quakers. Penn will play host to William & Mary for the fi rst time since 1992. Kickoff from Franklin Field is set for 3:30 p.m.