Turn Back the Clock | Loftus leads Penn football past Brown on 2012 Homecoming

Penn football defeated Brown in its 2012 homecoming game, 20-17, in the last two minutes with a field goal from then-sophomore Connor Loftus (left). After the game, Loftus celebrated with the team, having drilled the game-tying and game-winning field goals.

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Despite the recent struggles of Penn Football’s 2014 campaign, with Brown in town this weekend for homecoming we look back to 2012 when Penn inched a win out of Brown

On October 27, 2012, the Quakers hosted the Bears. Though the Red and Blue sat near the top of the Ivy League, the team’s homecoming matchup was Brown, which held one of the league’s top defenses.

Penn didn’t dominate on either side of the ball. Fortunately for them, neither did the Bears.

The game was run not by the offense or the defense, but by the special teams as the matchup featured 14 total punts between the Ancient Eight foes.

Fortunately for the Red and Blue their special teams was that much better.

Penn managed to punt the ball within the 20-yard line five times. Which, more often than not lead to long scoreless drives for the Bears.

Following a Brown field goal in the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Bears lead 17-14. Defensive back and kick returner Dexter Davis returned the proceeding kickoff to the Bears’ 49-yard line.

Unfortunately for Brown, Davis wasn’t the only special teams stud that weekend; as Connor Loftus drilled a 45-yard game tying field goal. A few minutes later he hit a 35-yard game winning field goal.

“In any close game, special teams play tilts field position,” Bagnoli said, “Ultimately it’s how tight games are won.”

The Red and Blue would go on to take the Ivy crown for the third time in four years.

If you ask anyone, Penn’s strength, and only consistent unit, that season was its special teams.

Though this time around Penn isn’t atop the Ivy League, just like two years ago, Penn’s homecoming opponent is Brown, and like two years ago, The Quakers’ special teams looks good.


Turn Back the Clock | Rudy Fuller's first Ivy game for Penn men's soccer

Penn men's soccer coach Rudy Fuller coached his first Ivy game a little over 16 years ago for the Red and Blue. In his first Ivy game this year, the Quakers won over Cornell, 1-0.

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There was a lot going on in the sports world on Sept. 19, 1998. Untainted by the steroids scandal that would break later, the nation was enthralled by the home-run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

But it was also a day for Penn sports, as it featured the Ivy debut of one of its current coaches.

In last week’s edition of “Turn Back the Clock,” we took a look Al Bagnoli’s debut, so it’s only fair that we take the opportunity this week to recognize another of Penn’s longest tenured coaches: men’s soccer’s Rudy Fuller.

As of late, Fuller has been most well known for bringing home Ivy championships, as recently as last year. However, leading up to his Ivy debut with Penn against Darmouth, Penn men’s soccer was in a far different state.

The Quakers were coming off of a 1-6 Ivy campaign in 1997, and Fuller — always known for his tough nonconference scheduling tendencies — had lost the first two nonconference matchups of his career with Penn, 0-1 in each against William & Mary and Old Dominion.

And with the team on the road in Hanover to take on No. 15 Dartmouth, prospects were not looking strong that the trend would change anytime soon.

In fact, the Red and Blue may have even surprised themselves with the start that they were able to put together.

In the 17th minute, then-freshman striker Evan Anderson put the Quakers up 1-0, giving Penn its first goal of the season as well.

The Big Green — who came into the match 1-1 on the season — threatened to equalize for the remainder of the half, but goalkeeper Michael O’Connor and defender Tom Hughes kept Dartmouth’s dangerous offense of the board.

However, Dartmouth — a team returning 10 starters and plenty of experience — maintained its composure, and the second half was an entirely different story.

Keeping the offensive pressure on the Quakers, the Big Green tied it up by the 51st minute. By the 68th minute, they had taken a commanding 3-1 lead.

Dartmouth then proceeded to hold the Red and Blue at bay for the rest of the match en route to a relatively comfortable victory.

The Quakers would go winless — only managing a single draw — in Fuller’s 1998 Ivy campaign, but that would not be indicative of the rest of his career.

In his 17 years at the helm of the program, Fuller has won three Ivy championships and made four NCAA Tournament appearances, fully turning the program around.

He and the rest of the current program will continue their quest for a repeat of last year’s Ivy championship this Saturday at home against Columbia.


Turn Back the Clock | Al Bagnoli's first game as Penn football's head coach

Al Bagnoli's first game as Penn's head coach did not go quite as planned as then-Penn quarterback Michael Barthlow struggled against a strong Dartmouth squad.

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On Saturday in Hanover, Al Bagnoli will be on the sidelines for his 221st game as Penn football’s head coach, facing Ivy-rival Dartmouth. 220 games ago, Bagnoli and the Quakers made the same trip to New Hampshire to take on a very different Big Green squad.

Bagnoli’s first game as Penn coach began well but ended badly, as the Red and Blue fell, 36-17, to the defending champion Big Green.

In 1991 — the year before — Dartmouth was an offensive juggernaut, having averaged an impressive 28.3 points per game.

Bagnoli entered the program promising a new spread offense based on a one-back, four-wide receiver attack. With the new system, there was some hope that the Red and Blue would be able to increase their offensive production from the year before, but few expected that the Quakers would be able to keep up with the Big Green.

However, it was Penn’s new defensive system — designed by Bagnoli and then-defensive coordinator Mike Toop, both of whom worked together at Union College previously — that stole the show.

At least in the first half.

The Red and Blue’s defense dominated in a low scoring first half to start the season, shutting out the Big Green. One touchdown was good enough to give the Quakers a 7-0 lead going into halftime.

Once the third quarter started, though, it didn’t last long.

Then-Penn quarterback Mike Barthlow got the second half off to an inauspicious start for the Quakers when he threw an interception on third down that was returned deep into Penn territory.

“I think the momentum changed with the interception,” Barthlow said. “I think we kind of got down on ourselves.”

The mistake proved to be the ignition that would get the Big Green offense going for the remainder of the game, as then-Dartmouth quarterback Jay Fiedler caught fire.

Two plays later, Fiedler was able to connect with wide receiver John Hyland for a 13-yard score, and it was all downhill from there for the Quakers.

When all was said and done, the Big Green torched the Red and Blue for 273 yards and 22 points in the third quarter alone. The sleeping giant had been awoken, and there was nothing that the Red and Blue could do about it.

“Obviously, it’s not the way you would want to script it,” Bagnoli said. “I’m not sure what went wrong after halftime ... All of a sudden we stopped doing the things we were doing before.”

Fiedler’s efficiency in the second half was almost unheard of. He only threw the ball 11 times in that span, but he completed eight of them and tied an Ivy record with five touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Barthlow wasn’t nearly as efficient, completing only 12 of his 33 total attempts.

The Quakers enter this weekend’s matchup with a different set of expectations, having defeated Dartmouth last year in a thrilling four-overtime contest.


Turn Back the Clock | Penn football's successful trip to San Diego

Then-junior Sam Mathews had a career day when Penn football visited San Diego in 2004, scoring three touchdowns and rushing for over 100 yards.

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Penn football will leave the friendly confines of the Northeast for the first time in 10 years, heading to the humid metropolis of Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday.

The last time the Quakers ventured out of the Northeast was 10 years ago, a trip that was extremely successful to say the least.

To kick off the 2004 season, the Red and Blue faced off against San Diego, making a cross country flight before taking the field. Penn came in with a 16-game winning streak dating back to 2002, as the squad was two-time defending Ivy League champions.

The Toreros had a former NFL quarterback as their first-year head coach with Jim Harbaugh – now the coach of the San Francisco 49ers – patrolling the sidelines. But his NFL background wouldn’t be any help that day as Penn trounced San Diego, 61-18.

Sixty-one points scored was Penn’s most points in a game since joining the Ivy League in 1956, and the most points allowed by San Diego in a game since 1956 as well. The Quakers’ devastating attack was led by then-junior running back Sam Mathews, who scored a career-high three touchdowns and added 152 total yards.

“He was terrific,” Penn coach Al Bagnoli said of Mathews. “He is definitely one of the marquee players in our league, and I think you can see why if you watch him. He does everything for us.”

Mathews wasn’t the only Red and Blue running back to reach the century mark, as Duke transfer Von Bryant had 111 yards on just five carries. Penn ended the day with 325 yards on the ground and 494 yards overall in a shocking offensive display.

Surprisingly enough, San Diego led in time of possession despite a 26-0 deficit at halftime. The Toreros’ four turnovers and inability to stop Penn’s ground game ultimately did them in.

“They’re a physically overpowering force, and they could stop the run,” Harbaugh said of Penn.

Under Bagnoli, Penn has recruited many players from the California area, so the trip was particularly nice for those players returning home.

“We’ve got a lot of players from California and they were really excited to play in front of their people who usually have to travel all the way out from California,” Mathews said.

Penn would have its 17-game winning streak snapped a week later by local rival Villanova. The Quakers would also not be able to repeat atop the Ancient Eight, as future NFL quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and Harvard would hand them their only Ivy loss.

On the other side of the ball, Harbaugh had a bright future in sunny San Diego. His Toreros would win their final five games of the year before back-to-back 11-1 seasons in 2005 and 2006.

Harbaugh would parlay those results into the head coaching job at Stanford, where he worked until joining the 49ers.