PHILADELPHIA - A new era for Penn Football begins on Saturday as Ray Priore makes his head coaching debut for the Quakers. After 28 seasons as an assistant, defensive coordinator and then associate head coach, Priore makes his first appearance at the helm of the Red and Blue at Lehigh. The Quakers renew a 130-year-old rivalry with the Mountain Hawks with a 12:30 p.m. kickoff at Goodman Stadium.
Preseason Video SeriesVhito's Story - Meet Penn's four-year-old team captain, Vhito DeCapria. A cancer survivor and now the program's youngest and most beloved teammate. Meet the Coaches - A casual three-way conversations with head coach Ray Priore, defensive coordinator Bob Benson and offensive coordinator John Reagan. First-Year Perspective - Penn freshmen and transfers discuss the transition to college football and life in Philadelphia.
The Penn-Lehigh Series: 58th Meeting
For the 57th time, Penn and Lehigh will face off on the gridiron. The Quakers hold the edge in this 130-year-old rivaly, 43-13, although the Mountain Hawks have taken seven of the last 10. Penn won the first meeting back in 1885—10 years before the current oldest collegiate stadium in the nation, Franklin Field, was built. The Quakers won 34 straight in this series from 1890-1974, but Lehigh has won 11 of the last 15 since that time. Saturday’s game will break a 12-year hiatus in the series. In the last meeting, Penn defeated the then-19th ranked Mountain Hawks, 32-24, en route to an undefeated season in 2003.e to the World Meeting of Families and Papal Visit and will kickoff at Villanova Stadium at 7 p.m.
Red and Blue Debuts
- Ray Priore is the 22nd head coach in Penn history. The prior 21 coaches combined to go 18-3 in their Red and Blue debut.
- The previous two head coaches, Gary Steele and Al Bagnoli, each lost their first game at the helm. The last Penn coach to win his first game was Ed Zubrow in 1986—a 21-7 victory on Sept. 20 at Dartmouth—en route to a perfect 10-0 season.
- This also marks the road debut for Priore, and Penn coaches have had a much less success in their first road games with a combined record of just 6-15.
- Three other Penn coaches made their debut against Lehigh. Carl Williams (1902), Bob Odell (1965) and Harry Gamble (1971) all won, though all those games took place at Franklin Field.
Coach Cohen Connections
Penn Head Coach Ray Priore and Lehigh Head Coach Andy Coen worked together as the coordinators at Penn for six years (2000-05). Priore was the head of the defense and Coen led the offense. The Quakers won three Ivy League championships in that span, including Penn’s last perfect season (10-0) in 2003. The Quakers went a combined 47-12 (.796) with Priore and Coen as the coordinators, including 35-7 (.833) against the Ivy League. This will be Penn’s first matchup against Lehigh since Coen took over as head coach in Bethlehem.
Let the Games Begin
Today marks the 139th season opener for Penn. The Quakers have been superb in openers, with an all-time record of 103-34-1 (.750). Penn lost last season’s opener at Jacksonville, but did start the 2013 season with a victory with a 27-21 win over Lafayette at Franklin Field.
The first road game of the year hasn’t been as kind to the Quakers in recent years. Penn has lost its first game on the road in each of the last eight seasons. The last time the Quakers won their road opener was in the 2006 season opener at 22nd-ranked Lafayette, 21-11.
Last to Start
As is the annual tradition, Penn will be among the last Division I teams to kick off its season. Every other Division I program has either played a game or is currently playing. The Ivy League is the last to begin play, and this season, the last team to kickoff will be Princeton at 6 p.m.
First Two Games in Five Days
Penn may be one of the last teams to play, but it will be quick to catch up. The team’s first two games will take place within five days. The matchup with Villanova was moved to Thursday, Sept. 24. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26, but with the Pope’s impending visit the City of Brotherly Love, an estimated 1.5 to 2 million visitors are expected in Philadelphia and city-wide restrictions led to the change. It will be Penn’s first Thursday night game since the sixth-ranked Wildcats held off the 23rd-ranked and eventual Ivy League champion Quakers, 17-3, on Oct. 10, 2002.
Junior quarterback Alek Torgersen has a touchdown pass in 10 of his 11 career games, including eight straight and all eight Ivy League games he has played ... He has thrown for 200+ yards and 1+ touchdowns in eight straight games, including four 300-yard passing performances in that span ... He has passed for 14 touchdowns to just five interceptions in his eight Ivy League games.
Franklin Field Renovations
Penn will have its latest home opener since 2001 when the Quakers waited until Oct. 6 to play at Franklin Field—a 43-7 win over Holy Cross. Penn’s first game at home this season is on Oct. 3 against Ivy rival Dartmouth. The extra time has allowed renovations of the historic stadium to finish. This summer, the iconic Franklin Field track was resurfaced and the stadium’s entrance plaza was renovated. The team has been using the picturesque Penn Park practice fields this preseason and is schueduled to begin practicing at Franklin Field on Sunday, Sept. 20.
Four-year old Vhito DeCapria became the first captain of Ray Priore’s tenure in April. Vhito signed his letter of intent to join and lead the Penn Football team at a press conference in the Directors Room of the Dunning Coaches Center on April 10. Vhito was diagnosed with Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (ATRT) in April of 2014 and has been through numerous radiation treatments since that time. ATRT is a rare cancer, but Vhito persevered through a survival rate of just 17 percent and was declared cancer free by his doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on Aug. 21, 2015. Vhito and the Quakers are part of the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation.
A trio of Quakers will join four-year-old Vhito DeCapria as captains of the 2015 Quakers. Seniors Ryan O’Malley, Dan Connaughton and Tyler Drake were selected by their teammates and the football staff to lead the Red and Blue in head coach Ray Priore’s first season at the helm. O’Malley is a fifth-year senior and was named second-team All-Ivy last year. Drake is also a returning All-Ivy recipient (honorable mention), while Connaughton played in all 10 games in each of the last two seasons.
No program in the history of college football—at any level—has played more games than Penn. Every time they play, the Quakers set an NCAA record. Saturday’s game will be the 1,354th in the Red and Blue’s illustrious history. Penn is one of only three programs to pass 1,300 games, and was the first to hit that mark on Oct. 31, 2009 in an overtime win at Brown.
A Penn Win Today Would…
... mark the second straight at Goodman Stadium over the Mountain Hawks.
... be the first win for the Quakers under head coach Ray Priore.
... snap an eight-year losing streak in road openers.
... improve the Quakers to 104-34-1 in season openers.
A Penn Loss Today Would…
... be the sixth in the last eight games against Lehigh.
... mark the sixth in a row against non-league foes.
... be less good than a win.
Last Time Out
- The Quakers topped Cornell, 34-26, at Schoellkopf Field to cap the 2014 season at 2-8.
- Sophomore quarterback Alek Torgersen threw for 331 yards, and ran for 86 and another score, in addition to his three touchdown tosses to Kulcsar.
- After five first-half lead changes, the Quakers led 21-18 at the break.
- Penn added to its lead when Schoenauer capped a 94-yard drive with his first career touchdown. He finished off the 14-play possession for a 34-18 advantage with 7:53 to play.
- Cornell made it interesting down the stretch with a touchdown and two-point conversion to close to within 34-26 with 4:07 to go. Penn used up most of the clock on the ensuing possession, but the Big Red got the ball back with 35 seconds left. They got to midfield, but a harmless pass floated incomplete as time expired.
- Torgersen was 26-of-37 and finished the season with 260 completions (second-most all-time at Penn) and a school record 421 attempts.
- In all, Penn finished with a season-high 492 yards of offense.
Penn is one of the last teams to kickoff in all of college football. However, they will play catch up with their first two games in a span of just five days. Following Saturday’s season opener at Lehigh, Penn plays at Philadelphia rival Villanova on Thursday night (Sept. 24). The game was moved dueto the World Meeting of Families and Papal Visit, and will kickoff at Villanova Stadium at 7 p.m.
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