Penn Football Gets Back to Work in 2005

George A. Munger Head Coach of Football Al Bagnoli has experienced a large amount of success in his 13 seasons at the helm of the Red and Blue. He has captured six Ivy League titles, winning back-to-back crowns, not once, but twice in 1993 and ‘94 and again in 2002 and ‘03. In fact the Penn football program is just two losses from having collected five-straight titles from the 2000 season through to last year’s campaign. The 2005 Penn Quakers are looking to continue that winning pattern this season.

Making Their Franklin Field Return
Penn heads into 2005 returning 40 letterwinners and six All-Ivy honorees from a 2004 squad that came up just one game shy of a third-consecutive Ivy championship. The Red and Blue return All-Ivy starters at two of the three skill positions on the offensive side of the ball as well as three starters from last season's offensive line. Penn's defense returns 21 letterwinners, one-third of whom will be patrolling the defensive backfield.

Highlighting the returning starters are six 2004 All-Ivy League honorees, four on the offensive side of the ball and two from the defensive backfield. Pat McDermott leads the offensive returnees as the senior comes into 2005 with one full season as the Quakers' starter at quarterback under his belt. McDermott was asked to fill the shoes of Mike Mitchell a year ago and did so admirably, throwing for the ninth-most yards in a single season in Penn history, while starting all but two games.

Sam Mathews is the leader in Penn's stable of capable running backs. The Quakers return five rushers from last season but Mathews, a threat to run the ball between tackles as well as catch a screen pass out of the backfield, has the opportunity to leave his mark on this football program as Penn’s all-time rushing record could be in jeopardy by seasons end.

Chris Mizell emerged as a double threat for the Quakers' offense and for McDermott. The rising junior is a quality blocker, who not only protects his quarterback but also helps the Penn ball carriers turn the outside corner. Mizell also is a check-down outlet at tight end for McDermott in the Quakers' passing game.

In order for McDermott to be successful passing the ball and Mathews rushing the ball, the offensive line has to be solid and that begins with senior captain Don Snyder. Snyder, along with returning seniors Keith Walewski and Greg Williams, started all 10 games last season and will be the barrier between the opposition's defense and Penn's ability to have a successful and productive offense.

Penn's defensive All-Ivy returnees are members of a reloaded defensive backfield. Casey Edgar and Michael Johns combined for 95 tackles. Edgar, one of many returning letterwinners at defensive back, made a name for himself during his junior campaign, appearing in all 10 games, while Johns made a game-saving interception in the 2004 finale against Cornell.

Best of the Best
Four of these six All-Ivy returnees are members of the graduating Class of 2006. This coming year's seniors are following the first and second-most successful graduating classes in the modern era (post 1956) of Penn football and in the history of the League. The Class of 2004 left Franklin Field with a record of 34-5 (.872), which was second-best at Penn since 1956 and third all-time in Ivy history, and three Ivy championships. The Class of 2005 finished 35-4 (.897), tops in the modern era at Penn and in the history of the Ancient Eight, also capturing multiple League titles.

This year's seniors have a chance to top their successful predecessors. Heading into the 2005 season, the Class of '06 holds a 27-3 overall record and a 20-1 mark in the Ancient Eight.

A Simple Game
On the most elementary of levels, to win you must score. Penn's offense will use multiple facets to get the ball across the goal line and put points on the board during the 2005 season. The person that will have a hand in almost every scoring drive, play and snap is quarterback McDermott.

The Yonkers, N.Y. native completed his first season as the full-time signal caller for the Red and Blue in 2004 and the rising senior came through with flying colors. McDermott threw touchdowns in all but one start last season and wasted no time in getting into the end zone as he tossed two scoring strikes in the season opener at San Diego.

384 yards -
McDermott threw for the fifth-most yards in Penn history in the Quakers', 32-25, double-overtime victory at Bucknell. — Oct. 9, 2004
341 yards - McDermott recorded his second-career 300-yard passing game as Penn came from behind to beat Brown, 20-16. — Oct. 30, 2004
276 yards - McDermott connected on 21-of-34 passes and controlled the time of possession, which allowed the Red and Blue to hold Yale to just six minutes and six seconds and 87 yards of offense in the second half, in Penn's, 17-7, win. — Oct. 23, 2004
257 yards - Walker completed 19-of-36 passes in the Quakers', 20-14, win at Cornell en route to an Ivy League Rookie of the Week selection. — Nov. 20, 2004
249 yards - McDermott lit up the Dartmouth Big Green for three touchdown passes and 21 of Penn's 35 points in the shutout victory. — Oct. 2, 2004

McDermott finished the season with 1,995 yards on 159-for-294 passing for a third-place finish in the Ivy League in efficiency (121.15). His efforts ranked as the ninth-best season passing the ball in Penn history, just missing the 2,000-yard passing mark in a season, a feat accomplished by only eight Quakers. An injury on Penn's last offensive play against Princeton sidelined the field general for the majority of the final two games in the 2004 season even though he showed true grit when he tried to play through pain in the Red and Blue's home finale against Harvard with the Ivy League title on the line.

Sharing the Wealth
McDermott was not stingy with his passes as he connected with 16 different receivers in nine games, throwing touchdown passes to five different receivers. His favorite scoring connection, the graduated Dan Castles, hauled in eight of McDermott's 12 touchdown passes but the senior will not look to just his wide receivers when completing the pass. He completed 33 passes to a running back, six to a fullback and 15 to his tight ends.

Waiting in the Wings
Championship teams never have just one able and ready quarterback. When McDermott went down due to injury near the end of the 2004 season, then-rookie Bryan Walker stepped in and performed well in his first two career starts, passing for 435 yards and one touchdown. Also backing up McDermott is rising sophomore John D'Agostini. The rising sophomore did not see action during the 2004 campaign but having three quarterbacks not only gives depth at the most visible position on the field but also heightens competition during practice.

Penn's quarterback will have a bevy of proven running backs to hand the ball off to this season. This crop of ball carriers is led by senior captain Mathews, who is entering his third season in the Red and Blue after transferring from Navy following his freshman year.

Slammin' Sammy
Mathews, a back who break runs outside but also busts through a hole created by his offensive line, already holds the ninth-best rushing performance in Penn history with 204 yards against Yale in 2003 and after two seasons, ranks ninth on the Quakers' all-time rushing list with 1,982 career yards. A career 4.4 yards per carry running back, Mathews is averaging 99.1 yards per game with the Penn football team. Merely gaining his average over his final 10 collegiate games would rank him third on the all-time list in school history. If Mathews duplicates his 2003 performance of 1,266 yards on the ground, Mathews could eclipse fellow Pittsburgh, Pa. native Kris Ryan as the career rushing leader at Penn.

The two-time All-Ivy selection has 17 rushing touchdowns during his Penn career. Mathews crossed the goal line seven times in 2004 with possibly his most dramatic score coming in the Red and Blue's come-from-behind win against Brown on Oct. 30 to extend Penn's record Ivy winning streak to 19 games. With 50 seconds remaining, No. 23 punched it in from two yards out to give the Quakers their eventual 20-16 margin of victory.

69 yards - Mathews recorded his season high, scoring both of Penn's touchdowns in a 17-7 win at Yale. — Oct. 23, 2004
131 yards - Mathews helped control the clock for Penn's offense with 23 carries in a 35-0 shutout win over Dartmouth. — Oct. 2, 2004
111 yards - Bryant began his Penn career with a 100-yard rushing effort and one touchdown in Penn's, 61-18, win at San Diego. — Sept. 18, 2004
102 yards - Mathews was one of two 100-yard rushers for Penn in the Quakers' first trip to the West Coast in 50 years. — Sept. 18, 2004
73 yards - Mathews recorded hard-fought yards on 24 carries against a defense determined to stop him in Penn's, 16-15, victory at Princeton. — Nov. 6, 2004

Run Quakers Run
Penn's rushing attack may begin with Mathews but it definitely does end there. Two ball carriers who made an impact in 2004 and will do so again in 2005 are senior Kyle Ambrogi and junior Von Bryant.

Ambrogi saw action in all 10 games for the Quakers last season, compiling 231 yards on the ground. Rushing for 40 or more yards on three occasions, Ambrogi is a sleek back that has the ability to get around the corner and could prove to be a viable passing option for McDermott out of the back field.

Bryant broke onto the Penn football scene with a purpose at the beginning of the 2004 season. In a blow out win at San Diego, the Duke transfer carried the ball just five times for 111 yards and one touchdown. Appearing in all 10 games either with the offense or on special teams, Bryant scored his most memorable touchdown in the second quarter of Penn's, 16-15, win over Princeton on Nov. 6. Down 6-0, Bryant relieved Mathews in the backfield. On his first carry, he made the Tigers' defenders look a bit slow as he scampered 12 yards to the corner of the end zone to give the Red and Blue a 7-6 lead en route to their 20th League win in succession.

Fullbacks also got into the action as graduated run blocker Kevin DeSmedt and returning fullback Ryan Kwiecinski, Penn's only returning letterwinner at the position, combined for six receptions.

Even though the offensive line creates the initial holes for Penn running backs, the fullback acts as a rusher's personal escort through those portals and having successful blockers such as Kwiecinski, Nick Cisler, Sean Goodbody and Blakely Thornton could make the Quakers' ground game even better than in years past.

Miles Macik, Mark Fabish, Doug O'Neill, Rob Milanese and most recently Dan Castles have headlined a corps of Penn wide receivers who have enjoyed historic success. The 2005 group of Red and Blue receivers will look to place their names on this impressive list. For an offense that scored 14 of its 29 touchdowns through the air, the need to find a new go-to receiver is high on the priority list.

Who's Next?
Five letterwinners and a group of talented youngsters will vie to become the focal point of Penn's passing game this season. Matt Carre had a breakout year as a junior, catching 21 passes for 308 yards and a fourth-quarter scoring grab, the first of his career, in the Quakers', 14-3, Homecoming victory over Columbia on Oct. 16.

Sagar Patel and Ryan Pisarri will find open spots on the field as the duo combined for eight receptions and 120 yards in a passing attack dominated by Castles, one of the most prolific pass catchers in Penn history. Junior Dan McDonald hauled in three catches during his sophomore campaign and could become a more visible receiver in 2005.

145 yards - Castles recorded his first 100-yard receiving game of the season with three touchdown catches in Penn's, 35-0, win over Dartmouth. — Oct. 2, 2004
132 yards - Castles registered his second-straight 100-yard game on 12 catches in the Quakers', 32-25, double overtime win at Bucknell. — Oct. 9, 2004
131 yards - Castles helped moved the sticks in Penn's smothering, 17-7, win at Yale. — Oct. 23, 2004
124 yards - Castles closed out his career with yet another 100-yard receiving game in the Red and Blue's, 20-14, win at Cornell. — Nov. 20, 2004
110 yards - Castles hauled in nine receptions and a touchdown in a 20-16 comeback win against Brown that momentarily tied him for the all-time lead in scoring receptions in Penn history. — Oct. 30, 2004

Carre's 308 yards last season was, as mentioned, a breakout performance. He ended the season six yards behind Penn's second-best receiver, also its top rusher, as Mathews caught 32 passes for 314 yards.

The tight end position also proved fruitful for Penn quarterbacks last season as All-Ivy selection Chris Mizell and Matt Boyer combined for 15 receptions and 167 yards. Along with juniors Mike Carley and converted offensive lineman Andrew Weitstock, Penn's corps of tight ends will be beneficial to the ground and air assault with the ability to pass and run block and also slip out into the flats as receivers.

The Big 'O'
In order for the Penn passing and/or rushing attack to have any type of success, the offensive line has to be a solid unit. Fortunately, the Quakers return three starters and five letterwinners from the 2004 campaign.

This will be a group led by All-Ivy lineman and senior captain Snyder. Snyder, along with classmates Walewski and Williams, provides the experience of starting all 10 games a year ago and allowing just 1.6 sacks per game.

With a trio of starters returning, there is room for two more to move into a starting role. Sean Estrada and Marko Grzan tip the scales at 285 and 270 pounds, respectively, and have the most experience of the returning linemen on the offensive side of the ball. Both juniors, Grzan appeared in seven games in 2004, while Estrada made three appearances during his sophomore campaign. Six more offensive linemen wait in the wings, including Jesse Rigler and a pair of 300+ pound sophomores in Kamal Nesfield (320) and William Milne (315).

First Line of Defense
Moving from the men in the offensive trenches to those on the defensive front line, Penn returns J.J. Stanton as its lone starter from last season's senior-laden line. This does not mean that the Quakers are lacking at defensive line by any means. As a sophomore, Stanton recorded 26 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss (TFLs) and 2.9 sacks.

Thirteen members of that line return in 2005, six of which were letterwinners in 2004. Among the Red and Blue's baker's dozen of returnees is a corps of young talent. Only Ed Villanueva and Scott Hamilton are seniors. Leading the youth movement on the defensive line is rising sophomore Naheem Harris. Harris, an Ivy League Defensive Rookie of the Week selection last season, recorded 18 tackles and 3.0 TFLs during his freshman season. Fellow returning letterwinners Joseph Albarelli, Brian Fairbanks and Michael Meridith look to join Stanton on the starting defensive line.

Strong in the End
Also a part of the defensive line are the Quakers' defensive ends. Senior Jim Malizia is a returning letterwinner who comes back in 2005 with junior Matt Weyandt and sophomores Robert Eroh, Michael Marinelli and Sam McGarity. The returnees look to fill the void left by All-Ivy second-team honoree Bobby Fallon and Kevin Junge, who finished with a combined 25 tackles, 12.5 TFLs and 5.5 sacks. Seniors Al Wawszyzck and J.T. Laws transition from linebackers to the end position in 2005, as will sophomore Brian Appleby. Mark Herman, who suffered a season-ending injury in a preseason scrimmage, returns at full strength for his junior season.

11 tackles (nine solo) -
Gedin finished his first season in the Red and Blue with his first-career double-digit tackle effort in Penn's, 20-14, win at Cornell. — Nov. 20, 2004
11 tackles (five solo) - Luke Hadden helped Penn in a 20-16 comeback victory over Brown with his first double-digit tackle effort of the season. — Oct. 30, 2004
11 tackles (three solo) - Hadden duplicated his efforts one week later in Penn's 16-15 win at Princeton. — Nov. 16, 2004
10 tackles (seven solo) - Hadden led the Penn defensive effort in Penn's only Ivy loss of the season. — Nov. 13, 2004
Nine tackles (four Quakers) - Slapnicka, Kevin Stefanski, Johns and Scott Williams all recorded nine-tackle games in 2004 with Johns and Williams doing so in the same game, a 61-18 win at San Diego. — Sept. 18, 2004

The Key to the 'D'
One of Penn's two most stacked positions on the defensive side of the ball is linebacker. Not only do the Quakers return six letterwinners at the position, but they welcome back Ric San Doval after missing all of 2004 due to an off-season injury. San Doval, a two-time captain and two-time All-Ivy honoree, led Penn in tackling as a junior with 86 stops (42 solo). The versatile linebacker also recorded 9.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, deflected three passes and forced one fumble.

In San Doval's absence, Penn was able to solidify its linebacker corps a season ago as Kory Gedin, a transfer from North Carolina, started seven of the nine games he appeared in and ranked second on the team with 61 stops (41 solo).

Another transfer who made an impact in his first season in the Red and Blue was Andrew Allen. Allen recorded nine tackles (eight solo) and had 2.0 TFLs and 2.0 sacks in nine appearances. Sophomore Brian Raike brings five games of experience into the upcoming season as he looks to continue the success of past Penn linebackers.

Chad Slapnicka is another successful linebacker returning for his senior year after registering 41 tackles (24 solo), 5.5 TFLs and 1.5 sacks. He also showed his ability to drop into pass coverage and disrupt an opponent's passing strategy as the Pacific Palisades, Calif. native co-led (with former defensive back Bryan Arguello) the team with two interceptions a season ago. His first came in the season opener at San Diego and his second came at Princeton when he literally picked a dart out of the air.

Covering All Corners
The other key defensive position for the Quakers is in the defensive backfield. Seven letterwinners return, including five seniors and a pair of All-Ivy honorees. Edgar and Johns combined for 95 tackles and nine TFLs en route to receiving honorable mention for All-Ivy League during their respective junior campaigns.

The quality and experience does not stop there. Vic Davanzo, who appeared in nine games at cornerback, is joined by Adam Francks, Brad Martinez, Scott Williams and senior captain Doug Middleton. Davanzo registered 31 stops and one interception, which he returned 61 yards for a score — one of only two pick-offs returned to the house by the Quakers' defense in 2004. Martinez matched Davanzo with 31 defensive stops and had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in key moments of the Yale and Princeton games. Williams returned to the Red and Blue in 2004 to record 21 tackles, 1.5 TFLs and 1.5 sacks from the safety position, while Middleton equaled Williams with 21 tackles and forced one fumble, recovering two.

Juniors Rob Lombardi and Matt McConville and sophomores Gregory Ambrogi, Patrick Kimener and Matthew Williams are a quintet of defensive backs that will vie for time alongside their compatriots in the backfield in 2005.

Kicking It Into Gear
Penn's special teams unit will have a new look in 2005 as unanimous first-team All-Ivy punter Josh Appell finished his career last season. John D'Agostini and Anthony Melillo will compete to fill that position for the Red and Blue.

Derek Zoch will return as Penn's place kicker after a freshman season that saw the rising sophomore make pressure kicks, namely on the road. Zoch knocked his first-career field goal through the uprights from 27 yards out to give Penn a 16-15 win at Princeton. Zoch also made a 24-yarder against Harvard and finished the season 6-for-7 in extra points.

When Penn is returning the ball, the Quakers will have four returning letterwinners to choose from, all of whom spent time returning punts and kicks in 2004. When an opponent is forced to punt, Francks and Carre will most likely line up to receive. Francks pulled down 39 punt receptions for 343 yards. Carre returned four punts during his sophomore campaign.

On kickoffs, Pisarri and Bryant will take up their post on the 10-yard line. Bryant returned three kicks for 50 yards, while Pisarri did not register a kickoff return but did return one punt as a junior.

Under Their Direction
Bagnoli is in pursuit of his seventh Ivy League title with the Red and Blue in 2005. If he and his coaching staff are able to achieve the former goal, Bagnoli would join George Woodruff as the only Penn coaches to have 100 victories with the program. One more League win, and Bagnoli would eclipse the 70-win plateau in Ivy competition, solidifying his hold as the third winningest coach in Ivy League history.

Bagnoli holds a 76-27 record against teams on Penn's schedule in 2005. Breaking it down further, Bagnoli-coached teams are 7-5 against the Quakers' non-conference opponents this season (Duquesne, Villanova and Buknell) and an impressive 69-22 against Ivy League rivals.

Not only is Bagnoli a staple in the Penn football program but his staff boasts three members with more than 13 years of service with the Red and Blue. Defensive coordinator Ray Priore enters his 19th year in the program, while defensive line coach Jim Schaefer and quarterback coach Larry Woods each enter their 14th season at Penn.

Running back coach Steven Downs and linebacker coach Cliff Schwenke are each entering their seventh season, while offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Andy Coen will begin his sixth season with the Quakers. Wide receivers coach Trey Brown is entering his fifth season, Shawn Daignault joins the Quakers’ staff as the cornerback coach and Brett Sawyer will enter his second season as the Red and Blue's tight end coach in 2005.

A Return to Supremacy
Penn looks to capture its 14th Ivy title in League history in 2005. As always, the Ancient Eight will be a highly competitive conference with the Quakers playing the role of pursuers instead of the team being pursued as it has been in three of the past five seasons.

In order to prepare for a challenging Ivy schedule, Penn has three non-conference opponents on the docket that will test the Red and Blue as they prepare for a possible third Ivy championship in four years. Penn opens the 2005 calendar in Franklin Field against Duquesne. The Quakers follow with another game at the historic stadium but this time as the visiting team. Villanova comes to Franklin Field and will be the home team in the match-up. Penn wraps up its non-League schedule with a tilt against Bucknell, also a home game, as the two programs will attempt to match the excitement of last season's double-overtime thriller.

Whether Penn wins by one point in double overtime or has a game in hand by the middle of the third quarter, one fact remains - a win is a win is a win. Penn student-athletes put on the pads every day for practice and every Saturday for games to be a part of something special. Being members of the Penn football program is special in and of itself, but hoisting the Ivy League trophy at the end of November would give each drop of blood and sweat along the way a true and memorable purpose.