SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - To be a championship-caliber football squad, a team has to take advantage of what opponents give them and make them pay. On Saturday in Saratoga Springs, the Penn sprint football team did just that, capitalizing on four Navy fumbles and 10 Midshipmen penalties en route to a 24-14 win in the Adirondack Trust Allegiance Bowl.
The win was a streak-buster, as the Quakers ended a 10-game losing skid to the Midshipmen. For Navy, the loss was the first in 25 games.
“We are very excited,” head coach Bill Wagner said. “This was a terrific game and a terrific weekend. Such a great atmosphere the whole weekend and I am so thrilled that we earned the win.”
At the same time, Wagner was quick to keep his team’s focus on the end goal of the season.
“This is just the first step towards where we want to be,” Wagner said. “We have our sights set on a championship. We will enjoy this win and move on to prepare for Mansfield.”
The Quakers came alive in the fourth quarter, thanks to big plays on both sides of the ball. After a Gage O’Connell sack pushed Navy back 15 yards and out of field goal range to open the fourth, Penn needed just two plays on its next possession to take the lead.
Todd Busler hooked up with favorite target Whit Shaw for an 83-yard touchdown to give Penn a 17-14 lead with 13:26 to play. The reception was one of four on the day for Shaw and it accounted for most of his 98 yards receiving.
The rest of the fourth quarter was a battle of defenses. The teams traded three-and-outs, with Penn helped out by Raiam Santos’ punting forcing Navy to start in unfavorable field position, Twice he had punts downed inside the five – including a 32-yarder with 4:49 remaining that had Navy pinned in at its own five.
On the ensuing drive, Navy faced a third and nine from its own six. Anthony DiBella strip-sacked Tyler Terronez in the end zone and Matt Cuccinello pounced to add to Penn’s lead. The sack was the second of the game for DiBella and one of his five tackles.
A Jordan Foley 47-yard kickoff return gave Navy life and the Midshipmen moved the ball down to the Penn 19 before a Mike Paci sack sent the Middies back 12 yards to face 4th and 15. Though Navy went for it, Penn ratcheted up the defense one more time to turn the ball over on downs. From there it was three handoffs to Mike Bagnoli to run out the clock and turn on the celebration.
Bagnoli went over 100 yards for the game, finishing with 104 and a touchdown. His TD was a five-yard rush that gave Penn a 7-0 lead on the first drive of the game. Bagnoli was featured heavily on that drive, with five rushes for 38 yards including a 25-yard run. After the game, Bagnoli was presented the Ken Kunken Most Valuable Player award.
Zak Klinvex had eight solo tackles and pitched in on three more while forcing a fumble for Penn. O’Connell, DiBella and Anthony Krumbhaar also forced fumbles for the Red and Blue. O’Connell, Cuccinello Krumbhaar and Bean Pearlman had fumble recoveries.
Busler moved into third place all-time on Penn’s passing yardage list in the game. He now has 2,159 yards in the air, moving past Mike D’Angelo (2,098). For Bagnoli, his 104 yards gives him 1.941 for his career – leaving him 59 away from becoming Penn’s fifth 2,000-yard rusher. Shaw now has 1,130 yards receiving and is 216 yards away from setting Penn’s all-time receiving yardage record (Patrick Monaghan – 1,346 from 2001-04).
The Quakers head to Mansfield Oct. 9 at 1 p.m.