Penn football dominates Princeton on Homecoming, 37-9
Quakers break game open in second half to rout Princeton for second-straight year
November 5, 2011, 4:21 pm · Updated November 7, 2011, 5:34 pm·
Rachel Bleustein | DP
The Penn football team gave the alumni quite a show — complete with big plays in all three phases of the game — Saturday at Franklin Field.
In front of a large and spirited Homecoming crowd, the Quakers defeated Ivy League foe, Princeton, 37-9, to bounce back from last week’s Ivy League loss to Brown.
“You’re coming back home to a Homecoming game, you’re coming against a traditional rivalry,” coach Al Bagnoli said. “Hopefully those were some factors that would help us and I thought we’d be ready to play and fortunately, we were.”
The late-game heroics that have kept Penn (5-3, 4-1 Ivy) in contention for a title all season long came a little bit earlier against the Tigers (1-7, 1-4). The Quakers had an explosive three-touchdown scoring spree in the third and fourth quarters.
Senior nickelback Matt Hamscher’s pick-six of Princeton quarterback Tommy Wornham gave the Red and Blue a commanding 30-9 lead, while junior quarterback Billy Ragone’s 23-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Ryan Mitchell — who had two touchdowns on the day — provided the exclamation point.
“Everybody’s had a couple big plays against them and that was going to be the key,” Bagnoli said. “We were hopeful that we could get a couple big plays and that’s the way, fortunately, it turned out for us.”
Not only were big plays a part of the Quakers’ game plan, but, according to Bagnoli, Penn was looking to counter the strength of the Tigers’ run defense. By putting their faith in Ragone and his receiving corps — which totaled 254 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air — Penn was able to capitalize on its opponents’ young secondary.
“We wanted to throw the ball early and often, and when the smoke cleared, we threw it 34 times,” Bagnoli said. “But we were probably going into thinking maybe if the score weren’t what it was, we probably would have thrown it even more.”
In the beginning, however, the Quakers looked shaky with two consecutive three-and-outs to start the game. The Tigers also blocked not one, but two, of junior Scott Lopano’s punts in the first quarter, both of which put them in scoring position.
“You’re not expecting the first time you’re on the field to be at the 20 yard line, actually the first two times,” said senior linebacker Erik Rask, who had a career-high 16 tackles on the day. “When that happens, the defense has to step up and we just got to do whatever we can to keep them out of the end zone so the fact that we were able to hold them two field goals right from the start, that was huge.”
In addition to field position, Penn’s defense also had to contend with Princeton’s star freshman running back, Chuck Dibilio. Because the Quakers were focused on stopping the Tigers’ outside run game, Dibilio was able to run for 93 yards in the first half, primarily up the middle. With adjustments made at halftime, the Penn defense was able to hold Dibilio to just 37 rushing yards in the second half.
“That first half, they were pretty much creasing up right up the middle so a couple plays, minor adjustments, changing the gaps up a little bit, I think just flying to the ball … That’s how we like to play run defense,” Rask said. “Our first goal is always to stop the run but [in the] first half, we gave up way too much. We got to give it up to our ‘D-line’ — our linebackers nickels took pride in stopping the run, so we could do that in the second half.”
Harvard held onto sole possession of first place with a 35-21 win over Columbia. Meanwhile, Brown kept pace with the Quakers for second place with a 34-28 win over Yale that dropped the Bulldogs into third. Penn travels to Cambridge, Mass., for the biggest game of the season next Saturday against the undefeated Crimson.