Football Celebrates Special 2015 Season at Banquet

PHILADELPHIA --A memorable 2015 season was celebrated on February 12 as the University of Pennsylvania football prorgam came together at the 2015 Banquet to honor the Ivy League champions.

25 seniors were honored at the banquet, and they began the ceremony in earnest with a surprise presentation with their championship rings just before dinner was served.

In addition to the championship bling, the team's annual awards were announced, each presented by an alumnus of the program.

The Bednarik Award, given to the most outstanding offensive and defensive linemen, was presented to senior offensive lineman Tanner Thexton and senior defensive lineman Lukas Nossem. A first-team All-Ivy selection, Thexton started all 10 games on the offensive line for the Quakers in 2015. The offense ran for 169.2 yards-per-game, second-most in the Ivy League and allowed just 12 sacks. Nossem, a second-team All-Ivy selection in 2015, had a breakout season in his senior campaign with 23 tackles – including 14 solo stops and three sacks.

Junior quarterback Alek Torgersenreceived the Edgar Church Memorial Award, designated to the player who, by vote of the letterwinners, made the biggest overall contribution to the team. A first-team All-Ivy selection at quarterback, Torgersen threw for 19 touchdowns in 2015 – second-most in the Ivy League. No quarterback in the Ivy League was more efficient with his passing than Torgersen, who finished with a 69.1% completion percentage – a number which was also No. 2 among all FCS quarterbacks. Through three seasons, Torgersen is now fourth all-time at Penn in passing yards (4,794), touchdowns (35), pass attempts (667), and total offense (5,310).

The prestigious George A. Munger Award is named after Penn's Hall of Fame coach and presented to the team's offensive and defensive most valuable players. This year, the recipients were wide receiver Justin Watson and linebacker Tyler Drake. The Ivy League’s Bushnell Cup Award winner as Defensive Player of the Year, Drake was a finalist for National Player of the Year and a unanimous first-team All-Ivy choice after totaling 80 tackles and an Ivy-leading 8.5 sacks. Watson, also a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection, was a finalist for the Bushnell Cup as Offensive Player of the Year following a season where he led the Ancient Eight in receptions (74), receiving yards (1,082), and receiving touchdowns (9). His 1,082 receiving yards made him just the third Penn player to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in a single season and ranked seventh this season among FCS receivers. He averaged 108.2 yards-per-game this season, fifth among FCS players, and he finished 2015 with seven 100-yard games – just the fourth Ivy Leaguer to do so.

Dan "Lake" Staffieri Award
The Lake Award is presented to the player who has displayed dedication to leadership, team spirit and Penn pride in honor of Coach Dan "Lake" Staffieri, a team motivator for 33 seasons. Wide receiver Cam Countryman and defensive lineman Dan Connaughton were the 2015 recipients. Countryman had 25 catches for 239 yards and a touchdown in his senior season while also serving as a kick returner. Connaughton, one of Penn’s 2015 captains, earned honorable mention All-Ivy honors after factoring in on 22 tackles – 11 by himself – and securing two sacks.

The Football Club award for distinct athletic achievement was given to senior tight end Ryan Kelly and senior defensive back Ian Dobbins. In his final season, Kelly played in all 10 games and caught 17 passes for 242 yards and four touchdowns. Dobbins capped his career with a selection as second-team All-Ivy after posting 48 tackles in nine games while adding three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

Three Quakers were selected as Rookies of the Year – one on offense, defense and special teams. On the offensive side of the ball, wide receiver Christian Pearson was honored. In his freshman season, Pearson caught 29 passes for 404 yards and four touchdowns – ranking second on the team among wide receivers in each category. Pearson earned three Ivy League Rookie of the Week awards during the season. Defensively, Sam Philippi was honored. He was tied for fifth among defensive players in tackles with 46, and he led all Quakers with four interceptions. Long snapper Carson Vey was the special teams honoree for his efforts with the punting group.

Junior linebacker Donald Panciellowas honored with the George A. Weiss Award, given to the player who most embodies the grit and determination that is the "Pennsylvania kind of football." Panciello was second on the team with 61 tackles to earn honorable mention All-Ivy status. Panciello had one fumble recovery – a 90-yard touchdown return in Penn’s win at No. 4 Villanova which earned him one of his two Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week Awards. On November 7, Panciello blocked a potential game-winning field goal as time expired on Homecoming against Princeton, giving his team a chance for an eventual overtime win.

Tight end Ryan O’Malley and linebacker Brandon Mills were presented with the Bagnell Award, named after Hall of Fame back Francis (Reds) Bagnell and given to the team's unsung heroes. One of the team’s tri-captains and a second-team All-Ivy selection, O’Malley finished 2015 with 20 catches for 202 yards and three touchdowns. Mills was third among all defensive players with 57 tackles, including 25 solo stops and one sack. He also had two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.

In addition to the player awards, Don Challis was honored with the Man of the Year Award for his continued support of the Penn Football program. A two-time letterwinner, Challis has long been one of the most ardent fans and supporters of the Quakers since graduating in 1964.