Penn football out for respect against Brown
Midway into third-straight title run, Quakers still feel like they're being underestimated
October 27, 2011, 10:39 pm·
Rachel Bleustein | DP
Facing a dominant Brown team on the road, the Penn football team might be slapped with the ‘underdog’ tag in an Ivy League matchup for the first time since its 2009 title run.
But don’t count the Quakers among those who see this pivotal game that way.
“I don’t think we’re getting the respect we deserve,” coach Al Bagnoli said.
Bagnoli and Co. certainly have a case to be favored, even if they’re facing their toughest test yet.
While Brown (5-1, 2-1 Ivy) has only dropped one game this season, the Quakers (4-2, 3-0) have yet to suffer a loss in the Ancient Eight this year — or since Nov. 2008, for that matter.
Saturday in Providence, R.I., Penn will be looking to extend the longest active conference winning streak in the Football Championship Subdivision to 19 games.
And although the Quakers will be on the road against a team that is undefeated at home, they’re channeling that hype into a positive — not an underdog — mentality in order to set a school record with a 13th-straight Ivy League road victory.
“People are kind of disrespecting us,” senior wide receiver Ryan Calvert said. “We’ve won the last two championships, so if people want to view us as the underdog, that’s just some extra fuel, which is good on the road.”
Penn will need all the fuel it can get if the team hopes to contain Brown quarterback Kyle Newhall-Caballero. Last week against Cornell, the senior proved once again he is a multi-dimensional threat, scoring four touchdowns — two in the air and two on the ground — to lead his squad to a 35-24 Ivy victory.
It’s been two years since the Quakers have faced the Bears’ two-year team captain, as he was injured last season.
“I think we’ve got to try to control him,” Bagnoli said of Newhall-Caballero. “He makes a lot of plays with his arm and he extends a lot of plays with his feet, so that’s a bad combination.”
But Penn is not one to be outdone. Billy Ragone had a four-touchdown game of his own last weekend to seal a late-game victory over Yale.
“If they have a really good quarterback [and] good offense, they’re going to score points,” Calvert said. “We have to match them and even beat them, especially with a good quarterback on their side. When we have Billy, we hope Billy has the better game.”
In recent weeks, Ragone has stepped up to the challenge. Entering Saturday’s matchup, the junior quarterback has thrown for five touchdowns this season and is just 56 rushing yards shy of 1,000 for his career.
Ragone and his receiving corps have proven they are experts in late-game heroics, although Bagnoli would prefer that not be the case.
“Ideally I’d love to get off to a three or four touchdown lead and cruise in the fourth quarter,” he joked, “but it just hasn’t unfolded that way, but hopefully at some point it will.”
Wide receivers Ryan Calvert and Ryan Mitchell, who have tallied well over 300 receiving yards apiece, can lay the framework for an early lead. Bagnoli is pleased with the fact that the Quakers have emerged as a legitimate point-producing threat through the air.
“We’re starting to round into form there, and I think that’s going to be huge for us because all along we wanted to be a balanced team,” Bagnoli said.
With increasing confidence in the passing game and a well-established ground attack, the Quakers are out to win the respect they feel they deserve.
“We have to respect their program, but at the same time I’m not sure we’re getting the same amount of respect that we should be getting,” Bagnoli said. “So hopefully that will get our kids’ attention and we’ll play well.”