Finally! Football is Here!

PHILADELPHIA - Penn opens its 131st season of football with Lafayette at Franklin Field; the Quakers are hoping to set the table for another championship run in the Ivy League, starting with the three-time defending Patriot League champs.

GAME 1
Penn vs. #25 Lafayette
Saturday, Sept. 15 * 6 p.m.
Franklin Field (Philadelphia)
TV: RCN4 (Lafayette Sports Network)
Radio: WNTP 990 AM/Sirius Satellite Radio (Channel 126)
Penn Game Notes (PDF)
Lafayette Game Notes (PDF)

Hunting for an Ivy Crown
Penn was selected second in the Ivy League’s preseason media poll, behind Yale and just ahead of Harvard and Princeton. The Quakers picked up 110 voting points overall, including one first-place vote, while Yale had 116 points (14 first-place votes) and Harvard 95 (one first-place). Princeton was picked fourth with 87 voting points. The full poll can be found on Page 3 of this week’s notes.

On the Radio
For the second straight season, all 10 Penn football games will be heard on either WNTP 990 AM or sister station WFIL 560 AM this season. Every game will also be streamed live at PennAthletics.com. Matt Leon (play-by-play) and Hench Murray (color analyst) return for their fifth season together in the booth. This season also marks Murray’s 27th providing color commentary for Quaker broadcasts. Brian Seltzer returns for his fourth season; he will host the pre-game, halftime and post-game shows. The pre-game show begins approximately 30 minutes before kickoff. This weekend’s halftime guest will be Patrick T. Harker, the former Dean of Penn’s Wharton School of Business who now serves as President of the University of Delaware.

On Sirius Satellite Radio
Sirius Satellite Radio, available to subscribers nationwide, will air an Ivy League game of the week for the second straight year, and the Quakers will be heard on the service four times this year. In addition to today’s game, fans who have Sirius and can’t get to the Dartmouth, Columbia and Princeton games will be able to listen in.

On TV
Five of Penn’s 10 games this year will be televised, beginning this afternoon with the Lafayette Sports Network’s telecast on WBPH/RCN4. Three of the Quakers’ games will be featured on CN8 (Villanova, at Columbia, Princeton), and the Homecoming game with Yale will be televised nationally on the YES Network as part of the Ivy League package.

The Penn Sports Network
Every Penn home football game, and several road games, can be viewed live or archived online at PennAthletics.com thanks to the Penn Sports Network. For a monthly or yearly fee, fans can get video streaming of the football games on Penn’s athletic website; for a slightly smaller monthly fee they can get the “PSN Lite” Package which includes live audio from the games.

Who’s Back For Penn
Penn returns a significant chunk of its 2006 team. Overall, 16 starters return while nine have departed; 37 letterwinners in all are coming back to 16 lost. Ten of Penn’s 18 All-Ivy players also return, including three first-teamers in Joe Sandberg, Naheem Harris and Joe Anastasio.

The Captains
Seniors Joe Anastasio (LB), Nick Cisler (FB) and Patrick Kimener (FS) have been selected Penn’s captains for the 2007 season by their teammates. Anastasio was a first-team All-Ivy selection last year after racking up 102 tackles, while Cisler was an honorable mention All-Ivy. Kimener played in all 10 games last year and finished fourth on the team with 52 tackles.

A New Look
The Quakers are sporting a new look this year with both their helmets and their game jerseys. The helmets, which have boasted the words “PENN” in white for the past several years, remain dark blue; however, they now sport the split P logo that is used by the Department of Athletics. The game jerseys, which used to say “Pennsylvania” but had nothing on the front last year, now have “Penn” in small type above the numbers.

A New Look 2 (Offensively Speaking...)
One of the biggest changes for the Quakers this year will be the arrival of new offensive coordinator Bill Schmitz, who will implement a new-look offense. While the run game, which served the Quakers very well last year, will not change much, Penn will primarily operate out of a quick, no-huddle shotgun attack. With most of the offensive skill personnel returning, it should make for a productive year for the Quakers’ offense.

Today’s Game
While Penn is opening up its 131st season today, Lafayette rolls in on the strength of two dominating wins, over Marist and Georgetown. The Leopards are averaging 38.5 points per game and allowing just 8.5; they are also averaging 376 yards of offense, while giving up just 145.5 per contest.

Revisiting An Old Rivalry
Penn and Lafayette are meeting for the second-straight year, and the two are hardly unfamiliar with each other. In fact, the Leopards are Penn’s most consistent and familiar non-Ivy opponent, with 83 games between the two teams since 1882. Penn leads the series 61-18-4. The Quakers also have the upper hand in season openers with a 16-1 advantage.

Opening Statement
Penn has won its last six season openers, spanning back to a 37-0 shutout of Lafayette at the Leopards’ Fisher Field on Sept. 21, 2001. The Quakers have dominated their first opponent in each of those five games, winning by a combined 263-74 and scoring fewer than 37 points only last year (a 21-11 win at Lafayette). All-time, Penn is an impressive 101-28-1 in season openers; the Quakers are 11-4 in openers under head coach Al Bagnoli (6-1 when that game is at Franklin Field).

Scouting the Leopards
Lafayette has won the Patriot League championship each of the last three years, and is off to a good start in 2007 after routing conference rival Georgetown, 28-7, last weekend. The Leopards scored on their first two possessions, the first when senior QB Michael DiPaola hit junior wide receiver Shaun Adair for an 11-yard touchdown and the second when junior tailback Maurice White capped an eight-play, 61-yard drive with a four-yard TD. White later scored again on a 21-yard rush, giving the ‘Pards a 21-0 lead at the half. He finished the game with 87 rushing yards on 13 carries, while Anthony D’Urso had 15 carries for 70 yards. Lafayette’s defense was highlighted by Marcel Quarterman’s interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. Junior linebacker Andy Romans led the defense with 11 tackles—one shy of a career high—a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

The Ninth Ivy
You can be forgiven for thinking that Lafayette has joined the Ivy League for the 2007 season; the Leopards begin a four-game run through the Ancient Eight today. Following today’s game, they host Princeton next Saturday; host Columbia on October 6; and play at Harvard on October 13. Lafayette also played four straight games against the Ivies last year, and lost all of them (to Penn, Princeton, Yale and Harvard).

Penn Picked Second
Penn was picked to finish second in the Ivy League’s preseason football poll, which was announced at Ivy League Football Media Day in August. The poll was voted on by media members who cover Ancient Eight football, with two members per school represented. The Quakers received 110 voting points and picked up one first-place vote. Yale was picked to win the Ivies this year, receiving 125 voting points, while Harvard was third (95 points) and Princeton was fourth (87).
Yale, 125 voting points (14 first-place votes)
Penn, 110 (1)
Harvard, 95 (1)
Princeton, 87
Cornell, 62
Columbia, 44
Brown, 33
Dartmouth, 28

The Sandberg Show
Senior running back Joe Sandberg figures to be someone Lafayette keys on today. Last year, Sandberg opened the season with 166 yards on 24 carries in Easton on his way to 1,042 yards for the year. In doing so, he became just the eighth player in Penn history to reach the 1,000-yard mark in a single season. Sandberg—who scored 13 touchdowns on the ground in 2006—also caught 22 passes for 189 yards, and even threw for a TD against Villanova.

Irvin’s Career Day
Junior quarterback Robert Irvin is another player the Lafayette defense may remember from a year ago—last year, in his first collegiate start, Irvin completed his first 11 passes against the Leopards. He went on to throw for 2,128 yards on the season, just the second time a sophomore QB had gone over the 2,000-yard mark (the other was Penn’s all-time passing leader, Gavin Hoffman). Irvin was honorable mention All-Ivy in 2006.

Airing It Out
Irvin will have several options when he drops back in 2007, but two in particular stand out. Senior Braden Lepisto was an honorable mention All-Ivy pick last year after catching a team-high 47 passes for 625 yards. Another senior, Dan Coleman, started the first two games last year and had five catches at Lafayette; however, he was injured most of the rest of the season and caught just three more balls following the opener. The tight end spot is being filled by junior Josh Koontz, who has some big shoes to fill in replacing first-team All-Ivy Chris Mizell.

On The Line
The offensive line figures to be a bit of an unknown heading into this season. The Quakers returns two senior starters in the five spots, center Brian Brazinski and left guard Jesse Rigler. Junior Chris Kovalcik, who started a game last year at right guard, will move over one spot as a tackle while sophomore Matt Schaefer steps into the guard position. At the other end, senior Harry Kenning steps in at left tackle.

On The Other Side of the Ball...
Penn returns two All-Ivy starters on the defensive line—in addition to Harris, senior Tom Stone was an honorable mention All-Ivy pick as a defensive tackle a year ago despite not making a start. He certainly will today. On the other side, sophomore Joe Goniprow gets the nod.

End Runs
Senior Mike Marinelli will reprise his role at defensive end, and is joined on the other side by classmate Sam McGarity who looks to fill the shoes of graduated All-Ivy pick Jim Malizia.

Linebacker U?
The “other” Penn school up the road—Penn State—may lay claim to the title, but the Quakers can certainly boast their share of great ‘backers through the years. The latest great is Anastasio, who gobbled up 102 tackles last year, the most by a Penn player since 1997. He also led the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and had two sacks.

The Secondary
How deep is this position for Penn? Last year, senior Gregory Ambrogi was an honorable mention All-Ivy selection; he enters today’s game listed as the backup at cornerback, to junior Tyson Maugle (himself an All-Ivy pick). Between them, Maugle and Ambrogi came up with 24 pass break-ups and five interceptions in 2006. The pair was also among Penn’s leaders in tackles, as Maugle had 52 and Ambrogi had 31. On the other side, sophomore Chris Wynn (11 tackles as a freshman) has won the starting battle and will be backed up by junior Joey Brown (21 tackles in 2006). Senior captain Patrick Kimener lines up at free safety, while junior Jordan Manning steps in at the strong safety spot. Kimener was Penn’s fourth-leading tackler last year, with 52 stops, while Manning made 48 tackles. Both of them came up with two interceptions last year, as well.

Special Teams
If Penn fans learned anything last year, it is that special teams can be the difference between winning and losing. The Quakers excelled in some aspects of special teams last year, and the good news is that the strengths figure to stay that way. Senior Anthony Melillo returns as a two-time All-Ivy punter, after averaging 36.0 yards per punt last year and putting 21 of 55 kicks inside the 20. The return games also figure to be strong, as Ambrogi reprises his role as punt returner and Wynn and Tyler Fisher remain on kickoffs. Last year, of course, Ambrogi returned a punt for a touchdown and Wynn returned a kickoff for a touchdown; it marked the first time in the Bagnoli era that one of his teams scored both ways in the same season.

Quaker Notemeal
This is the 131st season of Penn football ... While Penn's first season of football was 1876, no intercollegiate team was fielded in 1877 but football has been played every year since ... Penn and Lafayette first met on Nov. 25, 1882, in Philadelphia, with the Quakers winning by scoring a goal and three touchdowns to the Leopards’ two safeties ... The last time Penn played a ranked opponent, they won—22-13 over No. 17 Harvard last season ... Penn has not been shut out since losing to Harvard, 33-0, on Nov. 15, 1997, a span of 90 games ... The Quakers have won their last 10 games against Patriot League teams. The last loss was to Holy Cross, 34-17, on Oct. 7, 2000.

Next Time Out
Penn is on the road for the next two games, traveling out to the Main Line next weekend to renew its rivalry with Villanova. Two weeks from now, the Quakers open Ivy League play with a trip to Dartmouth. Penn is back at home October 6 against Georgetown.

Download: 07 game 1 - Lafayette.pdf