Penn's Billy Ragone spoils Columbia football homecoming
Quarterback leads late drive to steal win in Coumbia’s ‘Superbowl’
October 15, 2011, 8:04 pm·
Rachel Bleustein | DP
NEW YORK — All week long, coach Al Bagnoli had billed this game as something big. With huge momentum shifts, big plays and a down-to-the-wire victory for Penn, the windy game in Manhattan lived up to the hype.
“I’ve been trying to tell our kids all week that this was going to be [Columbia’s] Superbowl, I really felt that they were going to come out fired up. It’s their opportunity on Homecoming, it’s their opportunity on national TV,” he said. “I thought they were going to play with tremendous energy and tremendous emotion and they didn’t disappoint.”
Nothing came easy against a scrappy Columbia team looking for its first win of the season. But with a seven-yard Billy Ragone touchdown run with 25 seconds remaining in the game, Penn came away with a 27-20 victory to keep its 17-game Ivy League winning streak alive.
“[The Lions] only had one linebacker in the box, in a quarterback draw play, and the line blocked it up real well up front and it was just getting in the end zone,” Ragone said. “That was a great drive.”
After Columbia’s (0-5, 0-2 Ivy) 70-yard drive resulted in a field goal to tie the game at 20 apiece, Ragone and the Quakers (3-2, 2-0) knew that they had to make every second of the 91 remaining count. With a pass interference call to bring Penn into Lions territory and a 26-yard completion to senior wide receiver Ryan Calvert, the Quakers marched down the field for a first-and-goal opportunity from the 10-yard line.
In front of a national audience watching on the Versus network, Ragone capitalized and sealed the victory on third and goal.
“We needed the full 60 minutes, but at least we were able to hang in there and persevere when things did not look overly good,” Bagnoli said.
Penn coughed up five fumbles in all, though the Red and Blue recovered three of them.
After a junior Greg Schuster fumble in the second quarter, the Lions found themselves at the Penn 14-yard line and quickly scored to go up 10-0.
It was the first time Penn had trailed an Ivy League opponent by 10 or more points since 2008.
“You just can’t put the ball on the ground the amount of times we put it on the ground,” Bagnoli said of the costly fumbles.
With 1:30 remaining in the half, the Quakers utilized a strong passing game to string together a 67-yard drive and tie the game before the half. Ragone hit both Calvert and sophomore wide receiver Ryan Mitchell to bring Penn into the red zone. On fourth and goal from the one, Bagnoli made the call to go for the touchdown and once again, Ragone followed through, rushing in as the clock read 0:00.
“I’m not sure a field goal would have given us enough juice,” Bagnoli said on his decision to go for the touchdown. “If we didn’t get it, we would have looked like the dumbest decision of the day. Fortunately, they made you look good on that play and we were able to pound it over.”
Ragone acknowledged his defense kept the game close, as Penn grabbed three interceptions.
And although it was certainly an interesting way to keep the record alive, Penn’s 17-game Ivy League winning streak — the longest active conference run in the FCS — is still intact.
“Once again, not a game for the faint-hearted and we’ve got to quit playing these games. I’m getting too old for this,” Bagnoli said.