PHILADELPHIA - Head coach Bill Wagner's former players certainly did not make it easy on his current squad Saturday as the alumni gave the sprint football team everything it could handle. Up until 50 seconds remaining in the game, the outcome was still in doubt. It was not until Nick Rush intercepted a pass on the defensive's 32 yard line that sprint secured the win in one of the closest alumni games in recent history. Todd Busler threw for 151 yards on the afternoon and rushed for another 63 to pace the Quaker offense. Keith Braccia also threw for 36 yards and ran for another 60, splitting time with Busler at quarterback. All-CSFL wide receiver Whit Shaw also added 104 yards to the offense.
Both opening drives resulted in defensive stops with neither offense being able to gain any traction. In the alumni's second drive, the sprint football defense once again forced the punt and would turn up the special team's heat with a blocked punt in the first game-changing play of the day. However, the alumni defense showed its grit and did not allow the current team to score as the game remained 0-0.
Playing with the two halves that were each 45 minutes long, sprint football took over for its third drive with 24 minutes to play in the first half and the ball on its own 14. From there, sprint would start a drive that covered nine plays and 86 yards, taking 6:05 off the clock in the process. The drive got started with a second-down pass from Busler to Shaw, giving Penn some breathing room to work offensively. However, the big strike of the drive came when Busler connected with Shaw on a third-down play that went for 41 yards, all the way down the 15 yard line, setting up the first points of the day.
From there, Busler capped off the drive with a 15-yard quarterback keeper and Michael Bass added the extra point to give sprint the early 7-0 lead.
However, the alumni were not going to back down on this day as they answered with a scoring drive of their own. Mike D'Angelo took over with the ball at the 30 and got the team out to around midfield with three consecutive completions. An eight yard scamper by Mike Bagnoli prefaced the big play of the drive, a 41-yard completion from D'Angelo to Greg Bagnoli for the alumni's first touchdown of the afternoon. The extra point attempt would fail and sprint held on to the 7-6 lead.
After another drive by each squad did not produce any offense, the Quakers took the ball over at their own 38 and embarked on another scoring drive; this time being led by Braccia. This drive was much more methodical as sprint took 14 plays to cover the 62 yards. The drive was finished by a Braccia pass to Freddy Ordonez in the end zone, giving sprint the 14-6 lead heading into halftime.
The current sprint team started with the ball in the second half, but the alumni forced the early punt and took over at their 20, following a Kai Peng touchback. After an incomplete pass, Mike Bagnoli showed glimpses of his 2010 CSFL MVP season as he made a spectacular 74-yard run that included a cut-back across the entire field at one point before he was taken out of bounds at the six yard line. Patrick Monaghan would pound the ball into the end zone on the next play, getting the alumni to within a two-point conversion. Sprint stopped the two-point conversion and the score remained 14-12 with 38 minutes to play.
Two offensive drives later, the Quakers' offense, led by Busler on this drive, went 57 yards for the touchdown to stretch its lead to 21-12. The Busler to Shaw connection accounted for 40 of those yards through the air on this particular drive and freshman Bronson Carpenter would finish off the drive with a five-yard carry for the touchdown.
Both defenses held their opposing offenses off the board for each of their next two drives and with 7:12 remaining in the game, the alumni took over at the own 10, needing to get something going offensively to get back in the game. The Bagnoli combination got the alumni offense out to midfield and on the very next play D'Angelo took off for a 42 yard run from the pocket, taking the ball down to the Penn eight. Right after the long scamper, D'Angelo hit Tim Murphy in the endzone, drawing the game to within three. Raiam Dos Santos converted the extra point, but with just 1:58 remaining the alumni needed a stop defensively since the on-side kick was not allowed in the alumni game.
The alumni would get just that in the next sprint drive. On two consecutive running plays, the alumni held their ground defensively, calling time-out after each play. The Quakers attempted a pass to no avail on third-down and were forced to punt.
The alumni would get one final chance, starting from their own 37 with 1:16 remaining in the game. A D'Angelo pass to Greg Bagnoli got the team out to midfield, but the alumni would soon find themselves facing a third-down following an incomplete pass and a rush for negative yards after the pocket broke down and D'Angelo tried to escape pressure. On the third-and-14 play, Rush saved the day for the sprint team as he picked off the pass with just 46 seconds remaining and Penn kneeled on the ball to run out the remainder of the clock.
For the alumni, D'Angelo finished with 143 yards passing, while Mike Bagnoli churned out 109 ground yards on seven carries. In addition to Rush's interception, Justin Bass played a solid game defensively, getting three solo tackles to go along with 1.5 sacks. Alexander Starr led the Quaker defense with four solo tackles. For the alumni, Zak Klinvex returned and made five solo tackles and assisted on two more.
The Alumni Game capped off a spectacular weekend for all involved. In addition to the game and the post-game barbeque, networking events were held to allow the current student-athletes to build important relationships with various members of their professional fields.
Sprint football will get the season officially underway next Friday as Princeton comes to Franklin Field for the non-conference game between the two schools. Once again, the Penn Sports Network will be there to cover all of the action live.
Download: Alumni Box.pdf