HANOVER, N.H. — All the Quakers needed to get into sync was an Ivy League road trip.
After two losses to open the season, Penn earned its first win of the year with a 28-21 victory over Dartmouth on Saturday.
Senior running back Jeff Jack and senior fullback Greg Schuster led Penn in the opening half with one-yard rushing touchdowns in the first and second quarters, respectively.
Sophomore kicker Connor Loftus added 28- and 25-yard field goals in the second, increasing Penn’s lead to 20 and putting the onus on Dartmouth to produce in the second half.
“[We] make them much more predictable on what they can do on offense if they’re fighting the clock and the score,” Penn coach Al Bagnoli said.
After shutting out the Big Green in the first half, the Penn defense allowed them to get back in the game. In the third quarter, Dartmouth quarterback Alex Park got his team on the board with a pitch to Dartmouth wide receiver Michael Reilly, who went in for a 31-yard touchdown.
But Penn’s defensive coordinator Ray Priore “made some good adjustments,” according to junior defensive back Dan Wilk, that allowed the Quakers to contain Dartmouth’s comeback effort.
On the Big Green’s third possession of the half, sophomore linebacker Dan Davis hit Park with a monstrous sack. Another sack pushed Dartmouth back a total of 12 yards and out of Penn territory in what could have been a crucial scoring drive.
Though Dartmouth’s Dominick Pierre ran for a 33-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, senior running back Lyle Marsh responded three minutes later with a weaving 51-yard rush for a touchdown of his own. Quarterback Billy Ragone completed a pass to Joe Holder for a successful two-point conversion.
With the Red and Blue leading, 28-14, with five minutes left to play, the Big Green drove down the field and Park completed a touchdown pass to Ryan McManus to get Dartmouth within seven. The Quakers, however, were able to run out the clock to seal their first victory of the year.
While happy with the win, Bagnoli noted that Penn still has plenty of work to do.
“We’re still a work in progress … trying to find all the pieces in this puzzle,” he said.
One of those pieces is who takes snaps under center for the Red and Blue. Against Dartmouth, Ragone played all but one series, and Bagnoli said senior quarterback Andrew Holland would be used only when Ragone needs a break or has an injury.
Ragone had zero interceptions against the Big Green while throwing for a season-high 165 passing yards and adding 60 yards on the ground. Junior wide receiver Conner Scott was his top target, with eight catches for 89 yards.
“We threw the ball quite a bit on first down,” Bagnoli said. “And we made seven or eight yards, and now we’re finding ourselves in the best position we can.”
After two tough non-conference games, the Quakers will have to continue to prove that their schedule will help them in league play.
“Our kids have been in battles against good athletes and are really in a situation where they can take the challenge,” Bagnoli said. “Hopefully the residual of that is that we can take that over and use it as a benefit as we move into Ivy League play.”
While the Red and Blue passed their first test, they still have a lot of work to do before Ivy play continues on Oct. 13.
“We’re still trying to find our total identity,” Bagnoli noted. “But today was a good step forward.”