With Billy Ragone out, Penn football takes down Yale, 28-17
Ryan Becker replaced Ragone, throwing two touchdowns and leading Penn to victory
October 26, 2013, 3:39 pm·
Carolyn Lim | DP
No Billy? No problem.
With starting quarterback Billy Ragone out, Penn turned to fellow fifth-year senior Ryan Becker at QB and didn’t miss a beat, defeating Yale, 28-17, to avenge the Quakers’ only loss in Ivy play from last season.
While Ragone’s ankle injury put Penn (4-2, 3-0 Ivy) at a disadvantage, the Elis (3-3, 1-2 Ivy) were missing both their starting quarterback and running back, as senior Henry Furman and junior Tyler Varga both missed the matchup with injury.
So with all those injuries, both sides began the first half with uncharacteristically sloppy play.
Penn’s second drive of the game began with a fumble by junior running back Spencer Kulcsar, leading to a Yale field goal.
But after Penn’s offense couldn’t get into Yale territory on its next drive, a Donald Panciello punt bounced off a Yale player, and the loose ball was recovered at the Bulldogs’ 33-yard line by Penn’s Ian Dobbins.
Two plays later, Becker faked a handoff to junior tailback Kyle Wilcox, who Yale’s defense subsequently lost in coverage. Becker hit the junior back on a wheel route down the left sideline and Wilcox easily got into the end zone, giving Penn a 7-3 lead.
“[If] you win the turnover battle, you give yourself opportunities to score and win the game,” coach Al Bagnoli said.
“So that was a short field, we were able to take advantage of it, go ahead, get a little momentum and we never really looked back.”
After that touchdown, the Red and Blue took over defensively. The Quakers’ defense held Yale without a first down in the second quarter, and forced another fumble that was recovered by senior defensive back Sebastian Jaskowski.
But after Penn’s subsequent drive stalled at Yale’s 11, Connor Loftus’ struggles continued as he missed a 28-yard field goal, making him 3-for-10 on the season.
However, Penn’s offense would pick up the junior placekicker two drives later. After freshman quarterback Adam Strouss converted a fourth down, Becker came back in and hit Conner Scott in the back of the end zone.
Scott pulled the ball down with one hand, making Penn’s lead 14-3 in his first game back since he got injured against Villanova.
“Having Conner back is a dream come true,” Becker said. “He’s a special weapon, one of the best weapons in this league, so having him back gives us an extra luxury.”
In the second half, Penn opened up the playbook for Becker, who was firing on all cylinders. On consecutive plays, Becker completed passes for over 20 yards, leading to a touchdown run by Kulcsar to put Penn up 21-3.
And after a Yale failed fourth down, the blowout was on as Penn methodically went down the field, finishing off a six-minute drive with a Strouss touchdown to extend the lead even farther.
Yet Yale refused to go down without a fight, as sophomore quarterback Morgan Roberts led two poised drives sandwiched around a drive-killing fumble by Wilcox, cutting the Penn lead to 28-17 in the final five minutes.
But after Yale recovered an onside kick, senior Sam Chwarzynski came up with a game-sealing interception that finished off the Elis’ late rally.
And that wasn’t enough for Chwarzynski, who made another interception to put a bow on the Penn victory.
“He’s been playing great all year, whether it’s sacking the quarterback or tackling people in open space or in coverage,” Bagnoli said. “He came up with two big plays when we need him to and that’s what good players do.”
Overall, in a game without Ragone, Becker and Penn’s running game picked up the slack for Penn. Becker made all the throws he needed to, completing 10 of 13 passes for 167 yards.
“Obviously, Billy Ragone is a guy that I respect for what he has accomplished in this league,” Yale coach Tyler Reno said. “But we look at Ryan as if Penn had two starting quarterbacks.”
And the Quakers’ backfield, led by Wilcox and Kulcsar, gained over 200 yards on the ground.
At the same time, Penn’s defense held its own as well, forcing big turnovers while holding Yale’s defense without a touchdown until the final quarter.
And with Penn going to Brown next Saturday, the Quakers’ current momentum may receive a boost from the return of Ragone.
“I think there is a reasonable chance he’ll be back,” Bagnoli said. “He was jogging around on Friday, so we’ll wait and see. But we’re reasonably optimistic at this point.”