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Reds Bagnell had his share of incredible days at Franklin Field, but none eclipsed October 14, 1950, against Dartmouth. (Courtesy of Penn Athletic Communications)

He was without popcorn and a giant soda, but it didn't matter. Halfback Glenn Adams had one of the best seats in the house for one of the best college football shows ever. The then-Penn sophomore had broken a few ribs the week before in a game against California, so he only stepped on the field for a few plays on that day. But that might have been a blessing in disguise for Adams -- his view of the one-man show was immaculate. The setting was Franklin Field, October 14, 1950, a typical cool-and-cloudy autumn day. Perfect football weather. And the star was freckled, aptly named, red-haired Penn back Francis "Reds" Bagnell. The plot? Maybe it seemed a little far-fetched, but it was true. In a 42-26 whipping of Dartmouth, Bagnell set two national records with 490 total yards and 14 consecutive pass completions. "Reds had one of the greatest days of any athlete or any one football player," Adams said. "He just had it all going that day." Two hundred seventy-six passing yards. Two hundred fourteen rushing yards. No matter how you arrange them, those number are just plain huge. It's no wonder all accounts of Bagnell's performance glow with an almost-nauseating amount of praise -- on that day, he was just that good. "Bagnell put on what indubitably is the greatest one-man show Franklin Field has ever witnessed," New York Times reporter Joseph M. Sheehan wrote in his account of the game. And 50 years later, long after his national records have been broken and five years since he passed away, Bagnell's feats against Dartmouth still have their full coat of luster in Penn lore. Heck, Bagnell's total yards' record absolutely dwarfs Mark DeRosa's total of 387, the second-best in Quakers history. And unless current Penn signal-caller Gavin Hoffman has an unworldly outing in Saturday's Penn-Dartmouth game or any other contest this season, Bagnell's record will survive into its 51st season. "Reds just had one hell of a game," said Noel Schmidt, who intercepted a pass for Penn in that game. "Reds was hot that day. He was hot." But Bagnell didn't start out flaming. He had only two rushes and four completions in the first quarter for a total of 62 yards. The six-foot, 178-pound back began to heat up, though, in the second quarter. Bagnell scored two touchdowns in that second period and started his record-breaking streak of 14 straight completions with some under-the-coverage passes out of the tailback spot. "He had a whole bunch of short passes," Tom Hanlon said about the streak of passes. "Reds was deadly with short passes." Hanlon, a junior end for the Quakers, caught six of those short Bagnell passes for 75 yards in the first half alone. "I remember every time he called my pass play, the Dartmouth guys were nice enough to leave me alone. And there I was all alone and Reds hit me hard in the chest," Hanlon said. "If I didn't catch the ball, I would have hurt myself." Hanlon did end up hurting himself -- he suffered a season-ending broken ankle late in the second quarter -- but that wasn't the fault of Bagnell. And the loss of his star receiver didn't slow down the All-American tailback. Bagnell completed all seven of his passes in the third quarter for 60 yards. Still, that was just a precursor to the Germantown Academy graduate's stellar fourth quarter. Bagnell completed his first three passes of the final period -- including his only passing touchdown of the game, a 60-yard strike to John Moses. "It was a short pass," Moses recalled. "The guy went to tackle me. I got out of the tackle and kept going for a touchdown." Bagnell's next and final pass of the game fell incomplete, but he still had some running to do. The pass to Moses was effective, but the real highlights of that quarter were Bagnell's rushes. He only had two of them, but those pair of attempts resulted in 108 yards -- 27 more than Dartmouth totaled on the ground that October day. And the second of those rushes was a 64-yard touchdown scamper with 19 seconds remaining, giving Bagnell the record. But none of the Quakers were aware of the record at the time. "When you're in there over the course of the game, you don't realize at the time just how much yardage you've accumulated," Adams said. Still, a record from the ultra-competitive Bagnell, Penn's captain, didn't surprise the Quakers. "He was such a competitor," Schmidt said. "You couldn't play ping-pong with him without him driving you through the wall with the ball." And according to his teammates, that must-win attitude was the impetus for Bagnell's spectacular 1950 season. Reds finished third in the Heisman voting and eighth in the nation in total yards that year. "His whole accomplishment that whole year was because of his competitiveness and the fact that the guys just worked so hard for him," said Schmidt, a teammate of Bagnell's for two years at West Catholic (Pa.) High School. Bagnell, who was named the first-string quarterback on The Daily Pennsylvanian's All-Century Team despite the fact that his position was not called quarterback when he played, graduated in June of 1951. But he came back the following October to watch Penn maul Dartmouth --as usual. "It was a rare day when we lost to Dartmouth," Penn back Harry Warren said. "They were our favorites," Hanlon echoed. "They were always a strong team. But we always rose to the occasion against them." And in 1951, leading that rise was Glenn Adams -- Bagnell's successor. Adams completed 11-of-20 passes for 190 yards and four touchdowns in a 39-14 Penn victory. It was a blockbuster -- and this time Adams was the star, not the spectator. But it didn't quite measure up to Bagnell's performance in 1950. Eighteen rushes for 214 yards. Twenty-of-29 for 276 yards. Three touchdowns. Two national records. Little can measure up to those numbers Francis "Reds" Bagnell compiled. Even after half a century.

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