PHILADELPHIA - What seemed like desparate times became joyous ones as the University of Pennsylvania football team put up 27 points in an eight-minute span in the fourth quarter to abruptly end any Yale thoughts of halting the second-best Ivy winning streak of all-time. The Quakers, who trailed 20-10 entering the final quarter, came away with a 37-25 win in front of a national television audience Saturday afternoon at Franklin Field.
Junior Billy Ragone accounted for four of Penn's touchdowns, passing for three and running for another while racking up 330 total yards of offense to lead Penn to its fourth straight win overall. The Red and Blue are now 4-2 overall this season and remain unbeaten in Ivy play at 3-0. Yale fell to 3-3 and 2-1 against the Ivies.
In his 100th career game at Franklin Field, Penn head coach Al Bagnoli notched his 100th career Ivy League win. Only two other coaches have ever reached that number.
Ragone was 17-for-24 in the air, spreading the ball around to seven different targets and finding three players for touchdowns. Senior Ryan Calvert (20 yards), senior tight end Luke Nawrocki (16 yards) and senior Joe Holder (22 yards) all had scores in the game, with Holder's receiving touchdown the first of his career.
When Ragone wasn't taking to the air, he was more than content to hand the ball off to Brandon Colavita who rushed 18 times for a career-best 156 yards and a 25-yard touchdown. As a team, Penn ran for 277 yards on 44 carries, averaging 6.3 yards-per-carry with Colavita posting Penn's best individual rushing performance since Joe Sandberg ran for 158 yards against Princeton in 2007.
A surprise onside kick catapulted Penn to victory. Ragone had just engineered a seven-play, 88-yard drive to pull the Quakers within four, 20-16, with 13:00 to play. Freshman kicker Connor Loftus then floated the kickoff to around the Yale 35, it bounced back toward midfield, and freshman Kyle Wilcox pounced on it.
Three plays later, Ragone ran it in from 11 yards out and Penn, who was trailing by 10 just two minutes earlier, had a 23-20 lead with 11:42 remaining.
Yale tied the game with a field goal on its next possession, but Penn's offense - once again - was unstoppable when it mattered. Ragone and the Quakers completed their third fourth-quarter comeback in as many Ivy games this season when they took just five plays to go 80 yards for the go-ahead score - a 20-yard strike from Ragone to Calvert with 6:07 left.
Yale fumbled the ensuing kickoff, sophomore Joey Grosso jumped on the ball and just three plays later, Colavita ran in his 15th career touchdown for a 37-23 lead with 5:13 to play.
Yale tried to respond, but the Penn defense held on fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard line. Penn took an intentional safety with 2:07 to go to avoid any thoughts of a Yale comeback.
It was a different game in the first half with just 10 combined points. Both teams had little success on their first drives, but Penn used 11 plays to go 83 yards and get the first points of the day late in the first quarter. Connor Loftus had a 24-yard field goal at the 1:44 mark of the first quarter.
Yale got momentum early in the second quarter when Patrick Witt hit Chris Smith with a 12-yard touchdown pass for a 7-3 Bulldogs advantage with 9:45 left in the half.
The score remained that way heading into the locker room after Penn had a chance to regain the lead late in the second quarter, but on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1, Ragone's quarterback sneak was stuffed by the Yale defense.
Yale took a 10-point lead with its first drive of the second half. The Bulldogs took a little less than four minutes to find the end zone, but missed the extra point.
Penn responded immediatley. A 46-yard pass to sophomore Ryan Mitchell set up a 22-yard touchdown pass to Holder on the next play.
But the scoring trend continued when Yale needed just three plays to answer and go back up 10 with a 60-yard passing score with 8:04 to go in the third quarter.
That led to more fourth quarter drama for the Quakers when Ragone connected with Nawrocki
Up next for the Quakers is a historically tough road trip to Brown Stadium to take on the Bears in Providence, R.I. Brown and Penn are slated to kick off at 12:30 p.m.