Mike Wisniewski | Football makes strides in Fordham win
Team answers three big questions in non-conference victory
October 9, 2011, 10:48 pm · Updated October 12, 2011, 2:23 am·
How much can a non-conference game in early October really matter for Penn football in the grand scheme of the season?
Well, if their victory against Fordham over the weekend is a sign of what’s to come, it could potentially propel them to another Ivy League title.
Over their first three games, the Quakers have been surrounded by question marks: Are they one-dimensional? Can they close out a game? Is Billy Ragone the answer at quarterback?
Al Bagnoli’s squad answered all three of those questions as they put together their first complete, 60-minute game of the year.
It started with the offense. Penn, usually a run-heavy team, opened the game bombarding the Rams’ secondary — nine of its first 16 plays during Saturday’s 89-yard opening drive were passes.
The result? Six points.
While most teams use the run to set up the pass, the run-first Quakers must use the pass to set up the run. A threatening aerial attack will prevent opposing linebackers from cheating on short-yardage situations. The more balanced the Red and Blue offense is, the more frightening and unpredictable they will become.
Secondly, questions were raised about Penn’s ability to close out a game. In their first three games combined, the Quakers were outscored in the third quarter, 31-0.
But Penn responded in a big way against Fordham, winning the third quarter, 14-0. In Ivy play, it will be imperative for the Quakers to set the tone at the beginning of the second half.
Finally, the biggest bright spot was the play of Ragone at quarterback. The offensive line gave him plenty of time to throw, and he looked poised in the pocket, completing his first 11 attempts in the game.
As recently as two weeks ago, some claimed Penn had a quarterback controversy on its hands. Although Ryan Becker did play for a few drives, coach Al Bagnoli tipped his hand when the game was within one score in the fourth quarter, and he inserted Ragone back under center.
Stability at the quarterback position is important in a well-run offense. The line knows his tendencies and how to block for him, and the receivers establish a certain chemistry with him. Rotating running backs works fine, but a quarterback is the one who leads the offense into battle.
Ragone is the leader, and his team needs to trust in him. Following his stellar play against Fordham, along with the last-minute comeback he orchestrated last week, Ragone has cemented himself as the starting quarterback going forward.
One final aspect to consider: this weekend’s game against a non-conference opponent sandwiched between two Ivies certainly fit the bill of being a “trap game.” But instead of squandering the opportunity, the Quakers took advantage for a final tune-up before they embark on their six-game Ivy slate to finish out the season.
That says a lot about this team’s focus as they set their eyes on capturing a third-consecutive Ivy crown.
MIKE WISNIEWSKI is a junior classical studies major from Philadelphia. He can be reached at wisniewski@theDP.com.