PHILADELPHIA - An inspiring effort in head coach Al Bagnoli's final game at Franklin Field fell just short for the University of Pennsylvania football team. A fourth-quarter lead slipped away against #17/17 Harvard on Saturday afternoon in a 34-24 defeat on Senior Day.
Prior to the game, the Class of 2015 was honored as well as the school's all-time winningest head coach. Bagnoli, who is retiring after 23 seasons at the helm of the Quakers, was presented a framed No. 9 Penn jersey -- signifying his all-time record nine outright Ivy League titles.
Then his team nearly knocked off a top 25 opponent, but came up just short of ending the longest active winning streak in the FCS.
The home crowd barely had time to sit back in their seats after the ovation for Coach Bagnoli before the Crimson found the end zone. A 42-yard touchdown run on their first play from scrimmage gave the visitors a 7-0 lead just 1:20 into the contest.
Harvard then tried a surprise onside kick, but the Quakers were prepared and sophomore Riley Pelisek fell on the ball at midfield. Sophomore quarterback AlekTorgersen ran for two first downs, then connected with freshman wide receiver Justin Watson for six yards and a first down to set up first-and-goal at the Harvard 10-yard-line. The Quakers stalled and juniorJimmy Gammillknocked through a 24-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3.
On the next possession, juniorJack Madden intercepted a tipped ball to set up the Quakers a the Harvard 40-yard line. A few plays later, Torgersen found Spencer Kulcsar on a play-action pass that went for 22 yards and set the Quakers up first-and-goal at 2-yard-line. Adam Strouss was unsuccessful on direct snap runs on second and third downs, but on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Strouss faked a run inside, and executed a jump pass to senior tight end Ryan O'Malley for a 10-7 lead with 4:47 remaining in the first quarter.
Harvard reclaimed the lead midway through the second quarter with another long touchdown run -- a 75-yard score -- and added a short field goal to take a 17-10 lead into the break.
The Quakers stormed back to take the lead on a pair of touchdown drives in the third quarter. Torgersen capped a nine-play, 56-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to senior captain Mitch Kingat the 9:36 mark. The game-tying score was King's first touchdown catch of the season and marked Torgersen's seventh straight game with a touchdown pass.
After Penn's defense forced a three-and-out from the Crimson on the next series, the Quakers would take over on the Harvard 38 after a short punt. Three plays later, Torgersen scampered in from four yards out to give the Quakers a 24-17 lead. With 6:34 still to play in the third quarter, Penn's 24 points were the most allowed by Harvard this season and the most since the Quakers put up 30 in Cambridge last season.
Penn missed a chance to add to its lead late in the quarter when a low snap led to a missed 38-yard field goal. The Crimson capitalized, marching 59 yards and notching a 38-yard field goal. Just three minutes later, Harvard would retake the lead on a 28-yard touchdown pass with 10:31 to play.
The final score of the game -- a 14-yard touchdown rush with 6:42 to play -- was too much for the Quakers to overcome.
Kulcsar led the Quakers with eight catches and became the 10th player in program history to surpass 100 career receptions. His 72 catches this year are tied for third-most in a season at Penn. Watson had six grabs for a team-high 62 yards and now continued his streak with multiple receptions in every game of his career. Senior Conner Scott added six receptions for 36 yards and is just the fourth player in Penn history with 150 career catches.
Sophomore Brian Schoenauer led the Quakers with 39 rushing yards on 11 carries and added a career-best three catches for 18 yards. Torgersen finished 27-of-43 through the air for 211 yards, no turnovers and a passing and rushing touchdown.
Defensively, senior captain Dan Davis finished with a forced fumble as well as a career-best and game-high 12 tackles on Senior Day. Seniors Kevin Ijoma and Evan Jackson also added seven tackles apiece. Junior Ian Dobbins totaled a career-high seven tackles and his second interception in as many games.
In his 23 seasons, Bagnoli has posted a school-record 147 wins at Penn, including an NCAA record 24 straight victories as well as111 Ivy League wins (second-most all-time)and six undefeated Ivy campaigns en route to the league record nine outright championships. Bagnoliconcluded his career with an 81-35 (.698) record overall at home and 60-20 (.750) hosting Ivy opponents.
Next up is the grand finale. Saturday’s game will mark the last for Bagnoliat the helm of the Quakers. He will finish his illustrious career at Cornell’s Schoellkopf Field. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m.
Download: 9-Harvard box.pdf