HANOVER, N.H. - The first and only offensive touchdown of the game for the University of Pennsylvania football team came with 17 seconds left. And it was the game winner. Senior Ryan Calvert hauled in the winning catch to give the Quakers a 22-20 win over Dartmouth in front of 8,117 rain-soaked fans Saturday night at the first-ever night game in Memorial Stadium's 89-year history.
Shortly after the first game-winning touchdown pass was negated due to a holding penalty, Calvert caught a three-yard pass from junior quarterback Billy Ragone with 17 seconds left to put Penn up 22-20 and senior linebacker Jason Rasmussen picked off a pass near midfield with four seconds remaining to seal the victory.
Penn improved to 1-2 on the year and 1-0 in Ivy League play with its 16th straight Ivy League victory. That's the longest active conference winning streak in the FCS and the third-longest streak in Ivy history. Dartmouth fell to 1-2 on the year and 0-1 in Ivy play.
Down four with four minutes remaining, the Quakers took over from their own 11-yard line. Junior Brandon Colavita, who finished with his fourth career 100-yard rushing game (102), ran twice for 18 yards. A few plays later, Ragone converted third-and-one with a sneak near midfield. Then, with 1:09 to play, Ragone converted another third with a 12-yard completion to sophomore Ryan Mitchell to the Dartmouth 26.
On first down from the 11, Ragone and Mitchell connected again for the game-winning touchdown. But it was called back due to a holding penalty. Unfazed, Ragone hit senior Joe Holder over the middle for 18 yards to the three-yard line to set up the actual game-winner on the next play.
Ragone was 8-for-8 for 65 yards and 13 rushing yards on the game-winning drive.
In the opening quarter, Penn's defense started the scoring. Shortly after the rain picked back up, Dartmouth's Tim McManus lost control of the ball. It popped into the air and was grabbed by Penn junior Brandon Copeland. The defensive lineman sprinted untouched into the end zone for a 7-0 lead at the 2:54 mark of the first quarter.
Dartmouth responded with its best drive of the first half. An eight-play drive that ended in a career-long 46-yard field goal for Foley Schmidt on the first play of the second quarter.
On Penn's next drive, the Quakers were inside the Big Green red zone, but the pouring rain caused another turnover. This time the victim was Colavita and the Penn threat was thwarted.
After the defense forced a punt, Penn responded with another good drive. The Quakers started from their own 39-yard line and finished with freshman Connor Loftus' career-long 44-yarder with 2:48 left in the first half for a 10-3 lead.
A wild ending then capped the end of the first half. Penn got the ball back again and drove to the Dartmouth 26-yard line. On third down, Ragone completed an eight-yard pass to Mitchell who was tackled a yard shy of the first down with 13 seconds left. Penn had no timeouts and rushed the field goal unit onto the field. The Quakers got the 35-yard field goal off in time for a 13-3 halftime lead.
Dartmouth regained momentum early in the third quarter after the Big Green blocked a 36-yard Loftus field goal attempt. Nine plays later, the home team found the end zone for the first offensive touchdown of the day - an eight-yard pass play with 5:44 to go in the third quarter to close the Penn lead to 13-10.
Following a few punts, Penn once again penetrated the red zone, but settled for a field goal. Loftus made his third of the day from 27 yards out for a 16-10 lead with 13:31 to play.
Dartmouth returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield and a 34-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage set up a 30-yard field goal. With 11:42 to go, it was once again a three-point game.
On the next possession for the Big Green, the hosts took their first lead of the game. A 27-yard touchdown run had Dartmouth ahead, 20-16, with 8:27 left.
Penn had to punt on its next possession. But the defense forced a Dartmouth punt in return and the Quakers took over to set up the last-minute dramatics.
Ragone was 15-for-25 for 160 yards passing in addition to 63 rushing yards. Colavita finished with a career-high 24 carries as Penn tallied as season-high 206 rushing yards. Mitchell led the Red and BLue with four catches and 53 receiving yards.
On the defensive side, senior linebacker Erik Rask had a team-high nine tackles. Copeland and Rasmussen each finished with seven. Rask forced the fumble on Copeland's touchdown. Junior Daniel Ritt picked off his second career interception in the third quarter. Senior Matt Hamscher had Penn's only sack of the day and the only one allowed all year by the Big Green.
As a team, Penn's 20 first downs were six more than Dartmouth's. The Quakers, who ran 21 more plays than the Big Green, finished with 366 total yards to Dartmouth's 276. Penn was 6-of-17 on third down and held Dartmouth to just three third down conversions on 12 attempts.
Penn returns to Franklin Field next Saturday for its final non-conference game of the 2011 campaign. Kick off with Fordham is set for 6 p.m.