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Penn football Alumni Q&A: All-Ivy Quarterback Billy Ragone

In his time with the Quakers, former Penn quarterback Billy Ragone set a school record for touchdowns.

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To Penn football, winning Ivy games in impressive fashion is nothing new. After defeating Columbia last Saturday, Penn looks to continue its recent success going into the weekend in a showdown against Yale.

In preparation for the game, we took the time to connect with former Penn quarterback Billy Ragone. A three time Ivy champ, Ragone credits a lot of his success on the field to good leadership that came from Coach Bagnoli. Over five years at Penn, Ragone started 35 games at quarterback and was named first team All-Ivy in 2010. He also set the career touchdown record at Penn with 56 total (36 passing, 20 rushing). Here’s what he had to say.

Daily Pennsylvanian: What were your football experiences like at Penn? What was it like returning for that fifth season?

Billy Ragone: Having a bonus semester is not something that everyone gets to have. While that didn’t lead to an Ivy championship we were certainly successful in the five years that I was there. … I thought the culture of the team was great. We were fortunate enough to be successful and that always makes your experience a little better. I couldn’t have asked for anything different in your college career.

DP: Do you think the leadership helped you to be successful?

BR: Absolutely. My first two championships were freshmen and sophomore years so having those older guys helping you through the process. And then my class and the class above me were used to winning and we did not take that for granted. We were looking to add to the unbelievable resume that Penn football has.

DP: What did you think of Al Bagnoli as a coach?

BR: His resume speaks for itself. He’s one of the most accomplished coaches in Ivy history so to play for a guy like that was something special in itself. A lot of the kids he attracted were hard-working kids who wanted to win, had good character – that was something we all bonded over, which made it easier to play for each other in a way. That all starts with Coach Bagnoli. His way worked and we were fortunate enough to be a part of his success.

DP: What about Bagnoli as a Coach was most memorable for you?

BR: One of the most memorable things for me was his ability to find success in every game. He challenged us to be better and build upon things that we were successful doing, while fixing our mistakes. … He didn’t care about how successful he was in the past. He didn’t want his players to hang their heads over an Ivy championship the year before. And that trickled down through the coaches: it’s a new day, new week, new year, and you’re only as good as your last game.

DP: Do you have a favorite memory from Penn football?

BR: One of my favorite games was at Princeton in my senior year (2012). We kind of had a bumpy road up to that point and we were able to rattle that off with a victory. We had a pick-6 from a defensive lineman to tie the game. Then we were able to punch one more score in, recover a fumble inside our own 10, and win the game. We were on the verge, we made a couple of great plays and we had to keep our season alive. We followed that up with a win at home against Harvard in similar fashion. But in that Princeton game, we all really came together and we had some unsung heroes. But really everybody contributed to give us a shot at that championship.

DP: You’ve done a lot of practicing against Coach Priore’s defense. What do you think of him as a coach?

BR: Coach P is – like Coach Bagnoli has the respect of every player and every coach in the League – [revered for] his defense. I know they’re struggling this year and he’s taking a bit of criticism but he always puts a polished product on the field. It was something difficult to go up against every practice. I certainly looked forward to going against other teams on Saturdays than going up against his defense. As far as coaching goes, the energy and passion he brings is second to none and he does a really good job motivating his players on game day, getting them to do what they need to be successful.

I have the utmost respect for him as far as defense is concerned. Competing with him on the practice field we had a good relationship. A little bit of trash talk here and there but it was good fun and all for the better of the team. I enjoyed sharing the football field with him for five years.

DP: Do you think that he will provide for a smooth transition?

BR: [Priore] has been there longer than Coach Bagnoli has so if there is anybody to succeed such a storied coach, I think he’s definitely the right person. He’s been a part of the program. He knows the alums. He knows the League. He knows what type of players he needs to be successful and we’re looking forward to him taking the reins and making a mark on the program instead of being a piece of the puzzle. We’re looking forward to him taking the reins and hopefully we can rebound a little bit and let Coach Bagnoli leave on a high note. Congratulations to Coach Priore for getting the opportunity and we are all expecting him to take advantage of it.

DP: So, what are you up to now?

BR: I’m currently working in New York for a startup innovation and marketing agency with another former Penn football player, Matt Makovsky. He graduated in 2005. He’s also a multiple Ivy champion, so that’s what I’m up to now and I’m looking to continue my career in the marketing field and enjoy myself.

…And my body is happy that I’m not playing football anymore

 



Why Yale will beat Penn | Greg Cameron, Yale Daily News

Upenn football falls to Yale, 27-13

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Welcome to the third edition of "Why Penn will lose" as Greg Cameron of the Yale Daily News explains why the Elis will beat the Quakers on Saturday. Disagree? Comment below.

A year ago Sunday, in the matchup we’re about to see tomorrow, Penn football took a game from Yale, 28–17, at Franklin Field.

Decisively so, as the Bulldogs found themselves down 28–3 at the end of three quarters, and their two touchdowns in the fourth were not nearly enough to overcome the deficit. The loss, perhaps the only one in the Elis’ last five games of the season that reasonably could have been avoided, dropped Yale’s record to 0.500 for the first time and did serious damage to the team’s position in the standings.

Though Penn and Yale finished the season tied with a 3–4 conference record, the 28–17 final showed that at that moment, the Quakers were the better team.

But that Yale squad was nothing like the one that the Bulldogs are bringing to the Yale Bowl tomorrow.

A year ago, running back Tyler Varga ’15, the Ivy League rushing and touchdown leader who requires roughly four or five defenders to take down, was sidelined with a foot injury.
A year ago was the first start for quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16, who was still adjusting to head coach Tony Reno’s hurry-up spread offense after his transfer from Clemson. You could say he’s adjusted now — he’s averaging 331.8 passing yards per game, leading all Ancient Eight quarterbacks by over 70 yards. Last week against Colgate, he went off for 379 while still leaving room for partner-in-crime Varga to score five touchdowns.

A year ago, Yale wasn’t leading the entire 124-team Football Championship Subdivision with 46.0 points and 601.2 total offensive yards per game.

No one has been able to stop this offense in Yale’s first five games, and Penn’s seventh-best defense has not given much reason to believe that it will reverse that trend. Dartmouth came closest, holding the Elis to 31 points while quarterback Dalyn Williams led his team to a narrow 38–31 victory.

That isn’t to say that a win in this contest won’t be easy. After last year’s loss and Penn’s Ivy championship two years ago, no one doubts head coach Al Bagnoli’s ability to win big games.

But if Penn wants to steal an important victory in Bagnoli’s final year, it’ll likely have to do so the same way as Dartmouth did: on the offensive side.

Admittedly, Yale’s young defense has its holes, despite strong individual talent scattered around the field. This year’s defense has followed a consistent theme: allow big numbers for three quarters, and then make a few major stops when it counts.

Penn’s offense, currently ranked fifth in the Ancient Eight in points scored and riding momentum from its first win, may have what it takes to walk over the Bulldogs for all four quarters. None of its performances thus far have been particularly noteworthy, but this could be the breakout game for quarterback Alek Torgersen and his offense.

We at the YDN see this game as one that Yale should and must win to remain a legitimate power in the Ivy League. But it’s not one that the Bulldogs can’t lose, especially considering the Quakers’ motivation to turn their season around with a statement in this game.

If the Quakers can limit the damage that Roberts, Varga and captain and wide receiver Deon Randall ’15 create, and if Torgersen can lead his offense to another strong performance, we could see a completely different game from the one projected on paper.

All there is for our two newspapers to do, then, is wait and see.



Where are they now? | Miles Jackson-Cartwright

Over the summer, 2014 Penn graduate and former basketball captain Miles Jackson-Cartwright signed overseas with Dutch club Aris Leeuwarden.  And while we have to wait and see how the Quakers perform this season in his absence, basketball season starts a bit early overseas.

After serving primarily as a shooting guard for Penn, Jackson-Cartwright has taken on the role of point guard for the Dutch club and has found himself starting in three of the team's first four games.

It appears as though the transition was a smooth one for the Van Nuys, Calif., native at least on the court.  Jackson-Cartwright has led Aris Leeuwarden in points and assists per game with 17.8 and 6.5, respectively.

Jackson-Cartwright is one of four Americans with the team – all but one of whom graduated this past year.  Joining Jackson-Cartwright from the States are Marquise Simmons (St. Bonaventure), Ryan Watkins (Boise State) and Philip Bach (Santa Clara).

Aris Leeuwarden has started 2-2 in the Netherlands DBL with all four Americans starting alongside Dutch guard Dexter Hope.  The team struggled to a 13-25 record and seventh place finish last season, though with so much turnover in the league - only one of Leeuwarden's six most used players was with the team last year - team results vary greatly.



Takeaways from the Ivy men's basketball media teleconference

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The Ivy League men’s basketball preseason teleconference was held Wednesday, which gave each coach a chance to talk at length about their team’s prospects for the 2014-15 season. Here are some takeaways from four key Ancient Eight squads.

Harvard: Winning helps, but recruiting is still an uphill battle

The Crimson may be one of the fastest-rising programs in college hoops after winning in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season. But coach Tommy Amaker doesn’t think that the process of drawing top recruits into the Ivy League has changed much.

“I don’t think recruiting is ever easy,” he said. “Whether that’s at UConn, or Duke or some of the top programs at the country that have been amazingly successful, I don’t think they would equate recruiting with ‘easy,’ and [it’s the] same thing with us.”

Yale: Eager to get on the road

The Bulldogs haven’t forgotten their upset win at Harvard’s Lavietes Pavilion last year, nor have they forgotten the 70-58 loss to the Crimson on their home floor that ended the Ivy title race. Asked if the Bulldogs already knew the secret to taking down the conference’s three-time defending champs in their house, coach James Jones responded:

“If I knew that, we would have beaten them the second time.”

Yale travels to Cambridge on Mar. 6, 2015.

Dartmouth: Meet Mr. Maldunas

Big Green forward Gabas Maldunas missed most of the 2013-14 season with a torn ACL — including all but one game of Ivy play — but the 2012-13 Second Team All-Ivy selection has been progressing in his rehab effort and hopes to be fully healthy for Ivy play.

In the meantime, look for junior forward Brandon McDonnell to take on a bigger role in the offense while Maldunas rounds into shape. The 6’8” inside presence has earned raves from the Dartmouth coaching staff.

Penn: Blocking out the noise

By the end of a 2013-14 season that ended in turmoil on and off the court, message board pundits all over the city had taken to their keyboards to call for coach Jerome Allen’s job.

Now entering his fifth full season as Penn’s leader, Allen gives little regard to the charge that he’s on the hot seat.

“I pay no attention to the periphery,” he said. “I can only control what I can control.”

With a six-man freshman class that has impressed many with how quickly it has bonded together off the court, and two new assistant coaches on staff, Allen has his best chance yet to mold the Penn program however he wants.



Three up, three down: Penn volleyball vs. Princeton

Having won three of its last five matches — including its most recent contest against a strong Dartmouth squad — it looks like Penn volleyball’s young roster may be finding its footing. On Friday, the Quakers will hit the road to take on Ivy-rival Princeton and get back to .500 in conference play. Let’s look at some reasons why the Red and Blue may extend their recent success and some reasons why they may revert to old tendencies.

Three Up

Recent history:  While the Quakers (6-12, 3-4 Ivy) have taken positive strides as of late, Princeton (9-8, 4-3) has been digressing. The Tigers started their season strong, reeling off four consecutive Ivy victories. However, they have been in a funk lately, having dropped their past three games — all of which have been in conference.

Throwing a block party:  In their most recent victory over Dartmouth, the Red and Blue were propelled by 11 crucial team blocks. Senior Kendall Turner  — who has been credited for her leadership throughout the year — was a major part of the effort, chipping in five block assists herself. If Penn puts up a similar defensive effort on Friday, it could spell trouble for the Tigers.

A jack of all trades : It seems like Alex Caldwell  has done a little bit of everything for the Quakers this year, and she pretty much has. The junior captain continued her stellar campaign by recording her second triple-double of the year over the weekend. She and fellow junior Alexis Genske will be relied upon heavily once again against Princeton.

Three Down

Slightly less recent history : While recent results have comparatively favored Penn, the Tigers got the best of the Red and Blue earlier this season. In Penn’s Ivy home opener, the Quakers were swept by the Tigers, who were propelled by an impressive 29-assist performance from setter Lauren Miller . The Red and Blue will need to adjust if they want a different result this time around.

Setting the table : Miller has been a force for the Tigers all season. After finishing fourth in the Ivy League last year as a freshman, she has averaged an impressive 10.62 assists this season. The Quakers do not have a single individual averaging half of that mark.

On the road again:  Penn has struggled in matches away from home this season, having gone 1-4 on the road thus far. Admittedly, several of these have come against tough national opponents, but the Quakers will need to overcome their overall inexperience and improve on the road moving forward. They will get another shot this weekend against Princeton in a match that will start the Quakers on the second half of their Ivy season.



Roundtable | Did Saturday's win turn around Penn football's outlook?

Penn Football Vs. Columbia

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Penn football finally got its first win of the year on Saturday, taking down lowly Columbia. This weekend, a much greater test awaits in a strong Yale squad. Our editors debate: Does the Columbia game change the outlook for Penn football, or are the Quakers bound to fall to the Elis?

Senior Sports Editor Steven Tydings: Winning always changes things. Look, the Quakers aren’t going to look like world beaters overnight, but the team knows the formula to win now. They need to establish the running game, which should be easier with senior running back Kyle Wilcox back at practice this week and possibly ready to go to the Yale Bowl. Alek Torgersen will need to be just as strong with his decision-making, and the O-line needs to hold up its end of the bargain.

But the defense was the most important change on Saturday. Yes, I know, Columbia. But that defense had floundered for four games and now the D-line looks like it has things together. Senior linebacker Dan Davis is healthy. All of these factors means Penn is a strong competitor to Yale. Favorites? No, but Dartmouth proved these Elis are beatable, even at Yale. Game on.

Sports Editor Ian Wenik: I’m gonna have to be party pooper on this one. Penn’s secondary looked good against Columbia, yes, but I don’t see any reason to be confident in it until it shows up well against a competent quarterback. Yale senior quarterback Morgan Roberts is completing 69.4 percent of his passes this year, a ridiculously efficient clip.

If Penn wants me to believe it has a shot at the Ivy title, it’ll need to have that pass rush show up again in force on Saturday, to make the secondary issue irrelevant. After all, you can’t complete a pass if you’re pile-driven into the Yale Bowl turf. But that pass rush didn’t show up against Dartmouth, and I don’t see it showing up against the Bulldogs, either.

Sports Editor Holden McGinnis: I’m with Ian on this one. Sure, Dartmouth proved the Elis are beatable, but Penn and Dartmouth are far from the same team. And remember how close that one was. If Big Green quarterback Dalyn Williams had made one fewer heroic play in leading Dartmouth back in the fourth quarter, then we’d be talking about a Yale team undefeated in the league and holding a win over Army.

I don’t think a dominant win over lowly Columbia changes much of anything about Penn’s chances against one of the stronger teams in the league. Sure, it was by far the most complete game the Quakers have played all season, but the Lions aren’t a fearsome opponent. I think, if anything, Columbia helped cover up the flaws that doomed the Red and Blue in early games. We’ll see if Yale can expose them the same way that Dartmouth did, but either way Penn’s chances didn’t improve too much after a win that everyone saw coming.



Penn football Alumni Q&A: All-Ivy Quarterback Gavin Hoffman

After transferring from Northwestern, quarterback Gavin Hoffman became one of the best players in Penn football history, winning Ivy League Player of the Year in 2000. 

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As Penn football prepares for some strong competition at the Yale Bowl, we had the chance to speak with the legendary Ivy League quarterback, Penn’s own Gavin Hoffman, about this hectic part of the season. Hoffman broke Penn’s main passing records – those for yards, completions, attempts and touchdowns – after transferring to Penn from Northwestern in 1999. As a freshman at Northwestern, Hoffman started the entire season, including eight games against Big Ten teams.

He transferred to Penn because of a coaching switch at Northwestern but ultimately loved the time he spent at Penn quarterbacking the Quakers.

Daily Pennsylvanian: As Penn football’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, what is that feeling like when you return to Franklin Field and Penn in general?

Gavin Hoffman: [It] makes me miss the place and wish I was still in college!

DP: In what ways do you credit Coach Al Bagnoli with your successes while quarterbacking Penn?

GH: I always respected Coach Bagnoli for his professional approach to managing the team. He played no favorites, you were only judged on results. That atmosphere of accountability is new for lot of young guys coming into college, and I think that environment he fostered explains a lot of his sustained success at Penn.

DP: What was your favorite memory as a part of Penn football?

GH: Coming back to beat Brown after we were down 18 points with 4 minutes left.

DP: With the team in the middle of Ivy play, could you share your thoughts when you were going into these high pressure contests?

GH: I remember thinking that the Ivy League teams were generally equal in talent, so the winner was usually decided by the better prepared team and the one that rose to the occasion on that particular Saturday. Because the margin of victory in the Ivy League is so slim, I really enjoyed the week long process of preparing for the opponent and making sure my play was ready to peak on Saturday. The three hours on Saturday are just the public display of a week long effort.

DP: What about Penn football helped your decision to transfer?

GH: I had started at QB for Northwestern but was no longer having fun playing football. I came to Penn because I wanted to get back to enjoying football and got the sense that everyone was serious about football, but also had fun playing it. I was right.

DP: You’ve spent a lot of time in practice learning from defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Ray Priore. Coach Priore will be taking over Quaker football in 2015. What do you think of Priore as a coach and do you think that the team is in good hands during this transition?

GH: I am very happy for Ray, I don’t think it’s possible to find a better person in football. He has been very loyal to Penn and has produced all-time defenses in the Ivy League. He deserves this spot and will be a great new leader for Penn Football.



Penn Women's Basketball Recruit Roundup: Class of 2019

With the season on the horizon for Penn women’s basketball, it only seems appropriate to take a look ahead at the future of the team. With coach Mike McLaughlin’s prowess for successful recruiting – all four of his classes have produced the Big 5 Rookie of the Year – it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the commits for the Class of 2019 have been strong so far.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the five verbal commits.

Kristen Daley (6-foot-0, G, Weston, Ma.) – A standout performer for The Rivers School over the past three years, Kristen Daley comes from a family of basketball players. Daley has earned three All-ISL selections and two All-New England selections through her three years of high school ball. Though she played point guard primarily in high school, the Massachusetts native is projected as more of a wing player at the college level.

Princess Aghayere (6-foot-1, F, Reston, Va.) – The most recent commit in the Class of 2019 (and by far the recruit with the coolest name), Princess Aghayere will add to an already deep stable of post players for the Quakers. While at South Lakes High School, Aghayere has already shown a strong ability to crash the boards. As a junior, she was named to the 2013 Virginia AAA All Northern Region first team.

Jameira Johnson (6-foot-3, F, Tamytown, Md.) – With reigning Ivy League defensive Player of the Year Sydney Stipanovich and highly touted recruit and now-freshman Michelle Nwokedi already with the program, one might figure that recruiting post players would be less of a concern for McLaughlin and co. Yet with Aghayere and Jameira Johnson, the team will find itself with two more forwards capable of dominating the glass. At McDonogh High School, Johnson established herself as a strong inside presence and helped lead her team to a 29-2 record last season.  Though we aren't sure if she's achieved her goal of dunking yet, the athletic forward should help bolster an already-strong frontcourt.

Ashley Russell (5-foot-10, G, Braintree, Ma.) – Russell – who committed in June – helped lead her high school (Braintree) to a state championship by averaging 13 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and four steals per game. She is currently Massachusetts’ reigning Gatorade Player of the Year. With the graduation of Alyssa Baron and Meghan McCullough, the Quakers are certainly in need of strong ball handlers for the future and Russell seems to fit that mold.

Deja Jackson (5-foot-9, G, Grinell, Iowa.) – The third guard in a well-balanced Class of 2019, Deja Jackson was listed as a forward for her junior season and was named first and second-team all-state by various news organizations. As a junior, Jackson averaged a team-high 18.9 points per game and tied for the team lead in assists with 41. While she'll likely find herself playing more guard than forward at Penn (especially amid all the taller forwards McLaughlin has brought in), Jackson will hopefully provide some of the scoring touch that helped her lead Grinnell in recent years.



Liveblog | Penn football (0-4) vs. Columbia (0-4)

Penn football is back in action, taking on Columbia. Both teams carry long losing straks and winless records into the matchup, so something has to give. Seamus Powers, Riley Steele and I will bring you the action.

Live Blog Liveblog: Penn football (0-4) vs. Columbia (0-4)
 


Why Columbia will beat Penn football | WKCR Sports' Ryan Young

-The Daily Pennsylvanian

Penn football plays Columbia this weekend so as an introduction to the Light Blue, we asked WKCR Sports' Ryan Young to tell you why Columbia will beat Penn. For more information on Columbia, listen to WKCR's "The Firing Lion," in which Young interviews Lions coach Pete Mangurian. 

Why will Penn lose? Well, that’s a tough one. Let’s see.

Columbia’s head coach, Pete Mangurian, has been constantly vilified. His captain quarterback, Brett Nottingham — who transferred to Columbia, played three quarters and then spent nearly a year rehabbing from an injury —quit the team this week. The same team that Mangurian described as finally being on the same page this year.

Columbia has lost 15 games in a row, the fourth-longest losing streak in Ivy League history. It has dropped 19 road games in a row.

The Lions have lost 17 straight games against Penn, tied for the longest streak against one opponent in league history.

Since they faced Penn last year, the team has held one lead — for precisely 12 minutes and 52 seconds against Princeton two weeks ago.

Their average margin of defeat during this losing streak is by well over 30 points. Exactly zero of the games have been competitive.

So, I guess you could say … they’re due?

On the other hand, after what had to have been one of the toughest FCS schedules out there to begin Columbia’s season, this Saturday represents a chance to at least start turning the page. Penn, who likewise has faced a tough schedule, is winless as well.

And despite the record losing streak against the Quakers, the Lions have played them pretty tightly in recent years. In fact, the 21-7 loss against Penn on homecoming last year, was Columbia’s most competitive game on its current slide.

Columbia’s new starting quarterback, Trevor McDonagh, struggled mightily throwing the ball last season, but after replacing Nottingham at Monmouth last week, he threw for four touchdowns. During the losing streak, Columbia had not previously had a game where it had thrown for even multiple touchdowns (as a team). Maybe momentum can carry over — or maybe his success was just a result of playing the second or third team defense for the Hawks.

Nevertheless, the Lions have especially been successful with screen plays and short passes in recent weeks, so quick plays to running backs Cameron Molina, Chris Schroer or Turner DeMuth will be crucial for success. Penn has struggled defending the pass so far this year, but the Lions cannot rely on deep passes.

Otherwise, Columbia will need to force turnovers and keep the game close into the fourth quarter. Maybe Mangurian’s team will be world-beaters at winning close games —we clearly just don’t know yet.

Or maybe, Al Bagnoli will just feel so awful about going 19-2 against Columbia in his career, that he’ll finally let the Lions have one. He knows that regardless of what happens, his departure from his team this year will probably be a little more romantic than that of the one from across the sidelines.



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