Winning Ways Continue for Penn Football in 2004

Philadelphia - Successful teams are, at times, determined by heart and perseverance. More often than not a team is deemed to be successful by totaling up wins and championships. The 2001-04 Penn Quakers football teams meet the criteria on both fronts. The Class of 2005 leaves Franklin Field as the winningest group of football players, not only during the modern era (post 1956) of Penn football, but also since the inception of the Ivy League.

Let's first look at the criteria of success in terms of domination on the grid iron. These 21 seniors have amassed 35 wins versus just four losses, a winning percentage of .897. That is better than the great Penn teams that ran off four-consecutive Ivy championships in succession and better than the classes that captured back-to-back Ancient Eight crowns in the mid-1990's. This class also has a pair of Ivy titles on its resume as well, winning the 2002 and 2003 conference championships in perfect style. Those teams were the first in League history to go 7-0 two straight years. This group of Quakers has won more games in four years than the Dartmouth Class of 1973 (32-3-1; .889), the Princeton Class of 1967 (31-5-0; .861) and the Harvard Class of 2005 (33-6-0; .846). In fact this year's graduating class helped to amass the longest Ivy winning streak in the nearly 50-year existence of the League. Penn's 20-game Ancient Eight winning streak bettered the former record by three games and it took the only Division I-AA team to finish the 2004 season undefeated to bring it to a conclusion.

Now let's look at the more intangible qualifications for success - heart and perseverance. These Quakers have both in large quantities. Depictions of some examples of this team's quality are shown to the left but these moments in time are only a glimpse into the heart and soul of this team. A League-opening shutout where two defensive touchdowns stole the show, a late game fumble recovery on the one-yard line followed by a touchdown run from the same spot to seal a victory, one clutch field goal on the road to capture a win in double overtime and a pair of rookies proving their worth on separate occasions. Each of these moments showed the heart of this team and captured the hearts of its fans. Combine these individual moments into one season and you have the 2004 Penn Quakers football team.

Head of the Class
The Class of 2005 has performed on the field better than any team in the modern era at Penn and its .897 winning percentage ranks fourth all-time at the University. The group began its tenure in the Red and Blue with a near perfect 8-1 season, falling one touchdown short of perfection. The next two years put Penn football in the record books as the Quakers rattled off 14 consecutive Ivy wins, bringing the Ivy League title back to Philadelphia in 2002 and keeping it there in 2003.

The back-to-back perfect League seasons saw Penn drop only one game on the road during a golden age for fans of the Quakers. The domination by these squads allowed the 2004 team to be in position for a run at the most consecutive wins ever by an Ivy League team. The record was broken in a defense-dominated win at Yale on Oct. 23 and extended until the next to last game of the season. The Class of 2005 leaves Penn with a record of 26-2 (.929) in Ivy contests, equaling last year's Penn class for the best Ivy winning percentage in League history.

The 21 seniors who comprise this year's graduating class made opponents feel very unwelcome during their time at Franklin Field. From 2001 through this past season, the Quakers amassed a 17-2 record (.895), going undefeated at home during the first three seasons of their time wearing the Red and Blue.

On a National Level
The Quakers began the season and ended the 2004 campaign ranked in the top-25 according to the Sports Network, finishing the year ranked No. 21 by the Sports Network and ESPN/USA Today. Penn opened the season ranked No. 20 and owner of the longest active winning streak in Division I-AA football at 17 games. The Red and Blue also held a 19-game home winning streak to begin the season, the fifth-longest in program history.

Penn also spent much of the season among Division I-AA's best statistically, ranking in the top-25 in three categories at season's end. The Red and Blue were ranked 23rd in net punting (35.42 ypp), 21st in passing offense (246.20 ypg) and fourth in scoring defense (14.50 ppg). Penn just missed the top-25 in rushing defense (128.70 ypg), ranking 28th in the country.

Postseason Accolades Abound
Fifteen Quakers were honored after the season for their efforts on and off the field. Penn boasts 14 All-Ivy selections, including five first-team honorees with a pair of unanimous selections. Josh Appell (P) and Duvol Thompson (DB) were unanimous first-team All-Ivy honorees when the announcement came down in late November.

The two seniors were joined on the first-team by classmates Dan Castles (WR), Luke Hadden (LB) and Michael Sangobowale (DL). Seniors Bobby Fallon (DE) and Michael Pierce (OL) as well as junior Sam Mathews (RB) earned second-team All-Ivy nods, while senior Kevin Stefanski (DB), juniors Michael Johns (DB), Pat McDermott (QB) and Don Snyder (OL) and sophomores Casey Edgar (DB) and Chris Mizell (TE) received honorable mention for All-Ivy.

Members of the Red and Blue also received honors outside of the Ancient Eight as Appell and Castles were named as Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) All-Stars. Appell was one of only three special teams selections and Castles received honorable mention.

Awards for Appell were not finished as the senior was honored for his performance in the classroom. The Woodmere, N.Y. native was one of only four Ivy Leaguers to the 2004 Division I-AA Athletics Directors Association (DI-AA ADA) Academic All-Star Team.

Junior Brad Martinez's actions away from the football field also did not go unnoticed as the junior defensive back and philosophy, politics and economics major was named CoSIDA Academic All-District II.

What a Week it Was
All-Ivy recognition was not relegated to just the postseason for the Red and Blue as six Quakers earned Ancient Eight player or rookie of the week honors. Pat McDermott was the first to be named Offensive Player of the Week for his performance at Bucknell on Oct. 9. He was followed by Sam Mathews who received the award on Oct. 25 for his two scores at Yale. Michael Sangobowale earned Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 18 for his career-high eight tackles and three and a half tackles for loss against Columbia. Josh Appell was named Special Teams Player of the Week during the same week for booting five punts for an average of 41.4 yards, including a then-season long 56 yard punt. Freshman Naheem Harris was Penn's first Rookie of the Week honoree, receiving the award on Oct. 11 for his five-tackle effort at Bucknell. California native Bryan Walker capped the 2004 season with a Rookie of the Week selection for his 257 yards through the air on 19-for-36 passing, all career highs, against Cornell.

2004 at a Glance
Penn headed to the West Coast for the first time in 50 years to kick off the 2004 season. Facing the Toreros of San Diego, the Quakers scored the most points since 1946, most in the modern era, in a 61-18 win. Running backs Sam Mathews (102 yards, three TD's), Von Bryant (111, yards, one TD) and Michael Recchiuti (58 yards, 2 TD's) contributed six of the Red and Blue's season-high eight touchdowns. Pat McDermott made his season debut with 181 yards and two touchdowns on 13-for-27 passing.

The Quakers showed no ill effects from a 16-13 loss to No. 11 Villanova when Dartmouth came to Franklin Field for the Ivy League opener. Penn blanked the Big Green, 35-0. It was the first shutout by a Penn team since Nov. 23, 2002 (31-0 vs. Cornell). The defense cracked the goal line twice on this day with Luke Hadden ripping off a 35-yard interception return for a score and Victor Davanzo scoring on a 61-yard interception run back eight minutes later.

Penn went on the road for the year's most thrilling game, a 32-25 double-overtime win at Bucknell. Evan Nolan came off the bench to nail a 42-yard field goal to take the game to a second overtime where junior signal-caller Pat McDermott won the game on a one-yard keeper. McDermott was prolific from the air, throwing for a career-high 384 yards and one score on 32-for-55 passing. It was the fifth-most passing yards by a Quaker in program history.

Touchdown receptions by Dan Castles and Matt Carre, the first of his career, gave Penn a 14-3 victory vs. Columbia. It was the third time this season that the Red and Blue kept an opposing offense out of the end zone as Michael Sangobowale led with eight tackles (six solo).
Another multi-touchdown day for Sam Mathews helped Penn to a 17-7 win at Yale but it was again the defense that secured the victory as the Lions possessed the ball on offense for a mere six minutes, six seconds during the second half.

A late defensive play loomed large for the Red and Blue in a 20-16 victory over Brown as Bobby Fallon stripped the Bears' Nick Hartigan at the goal line to keep Brown out of the end zone. The forced turnover allowed Penn to keep the deficit under a touchdown and allowed Sam Mathews to give his team the decisive score from two yards out with 50 ticks remaining on the clock.

Penn's 16-15 win at Princeton was a heart-stopper and nail-biter from start to finish as freshman kicker Derek Zoch booted his first collegiate field goal with under three minutes in regulation. Penn's defense did the rest, stopping the Tigers' final drive when a field-goal attempt wound up off target.

The Quakers closed the season at Cornell after its only League loss of the season. Penn showed the resiliency of a true champion, defeating the Big Red, 20-14. The game was highlighted by a Bobby Fallon 17-yard interception return for a touchdown, a Gabe Marabella to J.J. Stanton touchdown on a fake field goal and a game-ending interception by Michael Johns in the end zone.

Through the Air
Pat McDermott entered the 2004 season looking to fill the shoes of a graduated Ivy League Player of the Year. All he did was go 7-1 as a starter and throw for the ninth-most yards in a season in program history. McDermott, despite missing the final two games of the season due to injury, threw for 1,995 yards and 12 touchdowns on 159-for-294 passing, missing the chance to become Penn's ninth 2,000-yard passer by a miniscule five yards.

He threw for over 300 yards twice this season, hoisting 384 yards at Bucknell, the fifth-most single game passing yards in school history, and 341 yards against Brown, good enough for 12th-best on the all-time list. The junior had four multi-touchdown games, including three scoring tosses against Dartmouth. He finished the season ranked second in the Ivy League in total offense (226.89 ypg), 33rd in the nation, and third in the Ancient Eight in passing efficiency (120.74), 49th in the country.

McDermott's eight touchdown passes were spread out among eight receivers as Dan Castles led with eight scoring grabs, Gabe Marabella hauled in a pair of touchdown catches and Matt Makovsky and Matt Boyer each caught a touchdown from McDermott.

Simply the Best
Dan Castles will hang up his No. 18 jersey after four years of unparalleled success at the wide receiver position for the Red and Blue. In the next to last game of the season, Castles hauled in eight touchdown receptions, the second-highest season total in his career. Eight wasn't the number that should stand out to Quakers fans. It may be the only time in the history of mathematics that eight equals 27 and 27 equals one. His five-yard scoring reception from Bryan Walker in the fourth quarter against Harvard gave Castles his 27th career touchdown, making him the leader in touchdown receptions all-time at Penn. The scoring grab passed Miles Macik (1993-95) for No. 1 on the list. Macik had previously held the top spot with 26 TD receptions for nearly a decade.
Castles' assault on the record books was not complete. The following week at Cornell, the Toms River, N.J. native caught eight balls for 124 yards. It was the fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season and this total placed him second on the Penn all-time list in career receiving yards (2,444) and third on Penn's all-time receptions list with 167. His 2,444 yards receiving also ranks 11th in Ivy League history, passing Penn graduate Don Clune (1971-73).

The senior's name is also in the Red and Blue record books for the most touchdowns in a game (four vs. Cornell - Nov. 22, 2003) and the most touchdown receptions in a season (13 - 2003), tied with Miles Macik (1993). Castles is also only the second Quakers wide receiver to register over 1,000 yards receiving in a season with 1,067 during the 2003 season.

Castles finished the 2004 season ranked second in the Ivy League in receptions (7.00 per game) and yards (96.60 per game), ranking eighth and 13th in the country in those respective categories. He also ranked sixth in the Ancient Eight in scoring (4.80 ppg).

Air Apparent
Castles and Gabe Marabella receiver corps, who led the Quakers with 966 and 307 yards receiving, respectively, may be leaving Franklin Field but there are receivers on the wings that are more than capable. Matt Carre had a breakout sophomore campaign, catching 21 passes for 308 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Chris Mizell also stood out, hauling in 10 balls for 132 yards en route to receiving honorable mention for All-Ivy.

In the Trenches
Penn started an offensive line that had started zero games as a group prior to this season. The five offensive linemen paced Penn to the fourth-best rushing offense (129.60 ypg) in the Ivy League and protected the Quakers quarterbacks all the way to the best passing offense (246.20 ypg) in the Ancient Eight, ranking 21st in the nation. This corps of linemen also produced a pair of All-Ivy selections in Michael Pierce and Don Snyder.

Ground Attack
Penn boasted a solid corps of running backs during the 2004 campaign led by junior Sam Mathews. His 716 yards on 178 carries (4.0 ypc), coupled with his 1,266 yards a year ago gives him 1,982 rushing yards for his Penn career, placing him ninth all-time at Penn.

The backfield is not empty when Mathews is taking a breather on the sidelines as three other Quakers found the end zone this season. Junior Kyle Ambrogi was the second on the team in rushing with 231 yards and a pair of scores. Newcomer Von Bryant showed his speed and nose for the end zone, rushing for 153 yards and two scores on just 10 carries (15.3 ypc) and senior Michael Recchiuti shined in the California sun, scoring twice in the season opener at San Diego.

Line 'Em Up, Knock 'Em Down
Penn's defense served as a catalyst for the Quakers this season, holding opponents without a touchdown in three contests en route to national ranking of fourth in scoring defense (14.50 ppg). This unit, the most seasoned of any on the Red and Blue was led by veterans on the line and in the flats.

The senior trio of Bobby Fallon, Michael Sangobowale and Kevin Junge combined for 110 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks. Sangobowale and Fallon shared the team sack lead with 4.5 each and Fallon led the team in tackles for loss with 10.5, dropping ball carriers back a combined 67 yards.

Senior linebacker Luke Hadden paced Penn with 66 total tackles this season (32 solo). The Moorestown, N.J. native also recorded 5.0 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and an interception returned 35 yards for his first-career touchdown.

Tri-captain Ric San Doval, lost for the season due to injury left a hole next to Hadden that was quickly and adequately filled by transfer Kory Gedin. The sophomore was second on the team in tackles with 61 (41 solo) and recorded 4.5 tackles for loss for a combined eight yards. Chad Slapnicka also filled in, recording 41 tackles (24) and a pair of interceptions.

On Second Thought
Penn's secondary was also laced with veteran players with the likes of unanimous All-Ivy selection and preseason All-American Duvol Thompson, classmates Kevin Stefanski and Bryan Arguello and Michael Johns, Seth Fisher, , Doug Middleton, Brad Martinez, Scotty Williams, Victor Davanzo and Casey Edgar roaming the defensive backfield. Thompson broke up six passes, the second most of his career, intercepting one to give him five for his career. His six deflections tied for the team lead with junior Johns who also recorded an interception, a game saver at Cornell. Johns tied Stefanski for third on the team in tackles with 49, while Thompson registered 29 stops (23 solo). Thompson's senior-season productivity also earned him a spot on the 2005 Hula Bowl roster, one of only two Ivy Leaguers to make the trip to the Island of Maui. Davanzo also recorded a pick, returning it 61 yards for a score against Dartmouth, to go along with 31 tackles (18 solo). Fisher recorded 13 tackles, two break ups and one interception in six games played.

The last line of defense for the Red and Blue were their safeties. Stefanski, Arguello, Williams, Martinez, Middleton and Edgar combined for 194 tackles, 17.0 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 10 pass deflections and three interceptions.

Defensive backfield leaders included Arguello who tied with linebacker Chad Slapnicka for the team lead with two interceptions. Arguello finished his career with eight picks. Edgar led the secondary with eight tackles for loss and Williams led all defensive backs with 1.5 sacks.

Worthy of a Special Mention
The Quakers' special teams unit was highlighted by the play of punter Josh Appell. The two-sport student-athlete (football and baseball) recorded 12 punts of 50 yards or more, twice booting kicks a distance of 56 yards and once hitting a season-long 58-yard bomb. Not only did Appell have a strong leg, he had an accurate one. Appell pinned the opponent within its own 20-yard line 17 times, forcing seven fair-catch signals. Only twice did Appell average under 40 yard per punt in a game, with his season average ending at 40.9 yards per punt, which ranked him atop the Ivy League and 19th in the country.
Four Quakers attempted field goals in 2004. Evan Nolan finished the year a perfect 2-for-2 from 40-49 yards out. Nolan knocked in a line drive 49-yard field goal at San Diego, tied for the fifth longest in Penn history, and nailed a 42-yard attempt to send the Bucknell game into double overtime. Peter Stine and Bryan Arguello were a combined 2-for-4 from 20-29 yards out and rookie Derek Zoch hit the biggest and first field goal of his young career against Princeton. Zoch made a 27-yard attempt to give Penn the lead and eventual win over the Tigers.

Duvol Thompson led the team with 10 kick returns for 235 yards and Adam Francks paced the punt return unit with 39 returns for 343 yards. His 8.8 yards per return average ranked fourth in the Ivy League and 45th in the nation.

Welcome to the Family
The Class of 2008 was welcomed into Franklin Field this season and performed well on both sides of the ball. Defensively, Naheem Harris filled in on the defensive line and registered 18 tackles (10 solo) and 3.0 tackles for a loss. On the offense, rookie quarterback filled in for injured signal-caller Pat McDermott for the final two games of the season. The freshman racked up 435 yards and one touchdown on 37-for-66 passing. He will also forever be linked to Dan Castles, having thrown the senior standout his record-breaking 27th touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against Harvard on Nov. 13. Both Harris and Walker earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors once this season. Derek Zoch proved to be a special teams highlight, coming on at the end of the season as Penn’s field-goal kicker. Zoch’s 27-yard boot gave Penn its 20-consecutive Ivy win, 16-15, over Princeton.
The freshmen were not the only new faces to make an impact in 2004. Newcomer Andrew Allen recorded nine tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks when filling in on the defensive line.

Transfers Von Bryant and Kory Gedin also proved to be stars of the future. Bryant carried the ball five times in his first game in the Red and Blue and rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown. He would add another score at Princeton. Gedin was second on the team in tackles as he came into the season looked upon to fill a hole at linebacker and wound up starting all 10 games aside senior Luke Hadden.

The Legend Grows
Not much else can be said for the coaching job that Al Bagnoli and his staff have done this and every season they have been in place. The players put the plays into action but they begin in the war rooms on Sunday after game day. Bagnoli and his staff are huge reasons the past two graduating classes are ranked first and second in winning percentage at Penn in the modern era and in the Ivy League all-time.

Two-thousand four was the 10th winning season under Bagnoli since his tenure began in the fall of 1992. He is second all-time in wins at Penn with 94, third in the Ivy League in Ivy wins with 69 and the second-winningest active Division I-AA coach with a record of 180-53 (.773). To date, Bagnoli has coached three players that have been drafted into the National Football League (NFL), 11 players that have signed free agent contracts with NFL teams and 78 All-Ivy League selections.

What the Future Holds
Penn will say good bye to a corps of seniors that are as prolific as any class to wear the Red and Blue, much as it was a year ago. When the sun rises on the 2005 season, positions will need to be filled on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. If history has any bearing on next season and if the 2004 Penn Quakers have taught us anything, it is that no matter how many positions on the field need to be filled, the heart of the team lives on in everyone that dons the Red and Blue and a winning attitude, much like heart, is not taught. It is born within you.

Written by Mat Kanan, associate director of athletic communications