Football Rivals Battle for First Place Saturday
The Penn-Princeton Series
Now in its 104th edition, this maybe the most true rivalry in the Ivy League. Princeton may lead the overall series, 63-39-1, but the Tigers took the first 28 meetings from 1876-1891. In the last 74 years, the series is virtually even as the Quakers hold a narrow edge of 38-35-1. Penn has dominated recently though, winning five straight and all but two over the last 16 years. Head Coach Al Bagnoli is 15-5 against Princeton, including a 7-1 mark at Princeton Stadium and a 2-0 record against Coach Surace.
Last Time It Counted....
In one of the most historic rivalries in college football—the 11th-most played rivalry—this game hasn’t had such Ivy title implications since 2005. Princeton (2006) and Penn (2009, 2010) have each won Ivy titles in that time, but this marks the first meeting where both teams enter the game atop the Ivy League in seven years. In 2005, both teams entered with identical 5-2 records overall and 3-1 Ivy marks. That was part of a four-way tie atop the Ivies with Yale and Brown. Princeton won the game, 30-13 at Franklin Field—its only win at Penn in the last 20 years. The Tigers finished 5-2 in Ivy play and tied for second-place (Brown won the title outright at 6-1). Penn, which had lost teammate Kyle Ambrogi just a few weeks earlier, lost its last four games that season and finished sixth in the league—the program’s lowest finish under Bagnoli.
Penn’s current Senior Class has statistically had the best stretch the Red and Blue have ever had in the 136-year-old series with the Tigers. Over the last three seasons:
Last Time at Princeton Stadium...
Other than Penn posting its largest margin of victory of all-time against Princeton with the more points than the Quakers have ever scored against the Tigers in a 52-10 win, there were several other notables from the last meeting at Princeton Stadium. The 396 rushing yards are the most for Penn in the Al Bagnoli era ... Penn gained 600 yards of offense for the first time since a 601-yard effort on Oct. 5, 2002 in a 49-14 win over Dartmouth and the most on the road since the school-record performance of 628 yards at Cornell on Nov. 18, 2002 ... Billy Ragone threw multiple touchdown passes for the first time in his career (he has now done so six times in his career) ... A school-record three players were named Ivy League Player of the Week (Offensive - Ragone; Defensive - Matt Hamscher; Rookie - Aaron Bailey). It had been 11 years since three Ivy players from the same school were honored in the same week.
Princeton’s Last Win...
Penn has never lost in regulation at Princeton Stadium. The Quakers are 7-1 all-time at the Ivy League’s newest stadium. Its only loss came in double overtime in 2006—also the last time the Red and Blue lost to their arch rival. The Quakers fell 31-30. Penn went for the touchdown on its first OT possession, but was stopped on 4th-and-2 from the 3-yard line. However, Princeton’s ensuing game-winning 34-yard field goal attempt was blocked. Princeton crossed the goal line to start the second overtime, but the Quakers responded on their first play—a 25-yard touchdown pass from Robert Irvin to Matt Carre. Unfortunately, a bad snap on the extra point attempt gave the Tigers the win.
Ragone Against Princeton
Senior quarterback Billy Ragone is 2-0 against the Tigers and has had some of the best games of his career against Penn’s arch rival. Last season, he threw for a career-high 254 yards and three touchdowns, while the last time he visited Princeton Stadium he passed for a then-career high 182 yards and two more touchdowns, while rushing for 75 yards and another touchdown. In all, he is 27-for-43 (62.8%) for 436 yards and five passing touchdowns with 16 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground in his career against the Tigers.
Ragone in the Record Books
Last week, Ragone, who has 42 career touchdowns (17 rush, 25 pass)—third all-time at Penn behind Gavin Hoffman (54) and Mike Mitchell (47)—became just the third player in Penn’s 136-year history with 5,000 career yards of total offense. Only Mitchell (5,394) and Hoffman have accomplished the feat (7,188). In addition, last Saturday, Ragone also moved up in the top 10 all-time at Penn in career pass yards, touchdowns, attempts and completions. His 165 pass yards gave him 3,799 for his career. That is seventh-most at Penn as only Hoffman (7,542) and Mitchell (5,547) have surpassed 4,000. Ragone’s 22 pass attempts last week gave him 562 for his career. That is six behind Matt Rader (1997-98) for fifth place. Also, Ragone’s 13 completions now give him 324 for his career which places him fifth all-time at Penn. His two touchdown passes gave him 25 for his career which passed Pat McDermott (2003-05) and tied Mark DeRosa (1994-95) for sixth all-time. A complete list of Quakers approaching milestones is on page five of the game notes (link above) and a list of Ragone in the school record book is on page four.
Fourth Quarter Comebacks: Lions, Tigers and Bears
With a dramatic 10-point fourth-quarter comeback against Columbia on Oct. 13 and equally frenetic game-tying and game-winning drives against Brown on Oct. 27, Ragone has now engineered seven career game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. Three of those comeback wins came last year—two were on the road, two came in the final minute and all three were on national television (Dartmouth, Yale, Columbia). This year, two of Penn’s three wins are due to fourth-quarter comebacks. Both needed multiple drives to win the game as the Quakers scored two touchdowns in the final 7:27 against the Lions, and scored two field goals in the final 2:12 against the Bears. Next up? The Tigers?
With the dramatic win over Brown, Penn has now won its last four Homecoming affairs by a combined score of 123-40. The current streak was preceeded by a four-game losing streak (two of which came in overtime). But other than that stretch, the Quakers have been tremendous in front of the Homecoming crowd under head coach Al Bagnoli, winning 16 of 21 overall, including a 12-1 stretch between 1992-2004.
Penn has the luxury of a crowded backfield. Senior Jeff Jack went over 1,000 career rushing yards at Yale on Oct. 20 and the Quakers became one of three teams in the FCS (along with The Citadel and James Madison) to have three active players with 1,000 career rushing yards. In fact, the Quakers have four different players with more than 875 career rushing yards. Brandon Colavita leads with 1,416 yards, followed by Billy Ragone’s 1,358, Jeff Jack’s 1,038 and Lyle Marsh’s 893. If Marsh gains another 107 yards, the Quakers will be the only team in the country with four players over 1,000 career rush yards. The quartet has combined for 4,705 rushing yards for the Quakers over the last four seasons.
Lopano Set School Record
Senior punter Scott Lopano, a four-year starter at the position, set the school record for career punt yards last week. Lopano has punted for 6,843 yards over the last 37 games, more than any Penn player in the program’s 136-year history. He surpassed Rob Sims, who held the school record for 20 years at 6,621.
Lopano Nears A Few Other Records
Lopano is also near another school record. He punted eight times last week and is second all-time at Penn with 177 career punts. He is just short of Jeff Salvino’s school standard. Salvino punted 186 times between 1994-97. In addition, Lopano’s current average of 41.6 yards per punt is just slightly behind Sims’ single-season school record of 43.5.
No program in the history of college football—at any level—has played more games than Penn. Every time they play, the Quakers set an NCAA record. Saturday’s game will be the 1,331st in the Red and Blue’s illustrious history. Penn remains the only program to pass 1,300 games, hitting that mark on Oct. 31, 2009 in an overtime win at Brown. Yale is second all-time with 1,278 games played.
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