Penn football defeats Columbia in ugly affair, 21-7
The Quakers stifled the Lions' offense while Billy Ragone struggled in the Red and Blue's victory
October 19, 2013, 4:41 pm·
Carolyn Lim | DP
NEW YORK — Winning ugly seems to be a habit for this Quakers football team.
In a surprisingly packed Wien Stadium, Penn (3-2, 2-0 Ivy) played a surprisingly close game at Columbia (0-5, 0-2), pulling out a 21-7 win in a game that saw the teams combine for 190 yards on penalties.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Billy Ragone left the game with an ankle injury with under 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“We’re not sure, we didn’t want to chance [Billy]. We felt we were in good hands with [senior quarterback] Ryan [Becker],” coach Al Bagnoli said. “I don’t know if it’s an ankle sprain.”
The Quakers opened up the first quarter with a rather stagnant offensive performance, unable to sustain any lengthy drives despite consistently making it into Columbia territory.
Penn’s struggles early on included a missed 31-yard field goal from junior Connor Loftus and a Ragone fumble, recovered by the Quakers, which halted a promising drive.
Meanwhile, the Lions capitalized on a stunning 46-yard gain on a flea-flicker pass from freshman quarterback Kelly Hilinski to fellow freshman wide receiver Cameron Dunn.
Columbia star running back Marcorus Garrett punched it in from six yards out to put the Lions up 7-0. However, this was the only daylight Garrett would see in the first half, as the Quakers held him to just 2.2 yards per carry.
“You’ve really got to be disciplined in controlling your gaps against him,” Bagnoli said. “He is such an instinctive guy that a play starts one way and he’s got great vision and patience when it comes back the other way.”
The Red and Blue forced Columbia to put its chances into the hands of Hilinski on offense. This backfired in the first quarter when Hilinski burned the Red and Blue defense.
However, Penn flipped the script in the second quarter. Penn rebounded behind a resurgent defense to hold Columbia to just nine yards on 15 plays after allowing 87 in the first. The Quakers prevented the Lions from converting a single third down in the entire half.
On offense, coach Al Bagnoli made a change at quarterback early in the second quarter, bringing in fifth-year senior Ryan Becker.
Becker provided instant offense for the Quakers, leading them on a 46-yard game-tying drive, capped by a perfectly placed touchdown throw to tight end Mitchell King.
Ragone returned under center two drives later and led the Quakers on a six-play, 64-yard drive in only 40 seconds to put the Red and Blue ahead by seven going into halftime.
The Quakers’ offense began the second half just as it began the game on offense, missing another field goal wide right and turning the ball over on a Ragone interception.
But the Penn defense would respond immediately as senior defensive back Evan Jackson intercepted a Hilinski pass on the next play, leading to a Spencer Kulcsar touchdown run as Becker re-entered the game for the Quakers.
“We knew they were going to come out firing downfield after their big play,” Jackson said. “We were just told to stay on top of routes and read our keys. My guy did a 10-yard out and I jumped in front of it and luckily came down with the ball.”
In a game marred by offensive ineptitude, the Lions found a bright spot in their punter Paul Delaney, who consistently pinned Penn deep in their own territory. Delaney averaged 44.1 yards on his 11 punts, a full 10 yards higher than Max Kurucar’s punts for Penn.
After its ugly win, Penn takes on Yale in its return to Franklin Field next Saturday.
“We’ve just got to become a better and more consistent football team from top to bottom,” Bagnoli said. “And learn how to finish things and just understand how difficult it is to overcome penalties and inconsistent play.”