It’s time for Al Bagnoli to make a decision.
It made sense for the football coach to split quarterback duties between sophomore Billy Ragone and freshman transfer Ryan Becker in Penn’s season opener. The Quakers were up against a nonconference team and co-captain Keiffer Garton was still nursing a knee injury.
But the Red and Blue concluded their non-Ivy schedule on Saturday with a 31-10 victory over Bucknell, and the quarterback situation has yet to be resolved. Despite the score, Bagnoli stressed how concerned he was with how long it took the team to get into the game. It’s no mystery why the Quakers were slow to the uptake; Becker, the starter, hadn’t had significant playing time since he started against Lafayette in the season opener.
According to Bagnoli, Ragone and Becker will share most of the playing time this Saturday against Columbia.
But after Becker’s performance as the primary quarterback against Bucknell, where he threw one touchdown, went 14-of-22 for 194 yards and earned Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors, it seems detrimental to the team to continue splitting quarterback time.
Since 2008, the Quakers have won every game in which only one quarterback has played.
In a 2007 match at Brown, then-quarterback Bryan Walker threw 36 passes for 339 yards and a touchdown. Walker was the only quarterback in the game.
Though the Bears beat the Quakers that day, the connection and chemistry between Walker and wide receiver Braden Lepisto, who caught 10 catches for 141 yards, was clear.
And in a similar fashion Saturday — this time with the Red and Blue on top — Becker and senior wide receiver David Wurst had a connection.
Becker completed to Wurst nine times for 102 yards, making Wurst Penn’s first receiver to gain more than one hundred receiving yards in 27 games.
“Me and Becker have some pretty good chemistry,” Wurst said after the game. “Today was obviously working pretty well.”
Now, let’s not discount Ragone — he didn’t play (or travel) to Lewisburg, Pa., because he was serving a one-week suspension for violating a team disciplinary rule.
Had he traveled, he may have started the game and put up numbers similar to the ones he posted against Dartmouth.
Though Ragone threw two third-quarter interceptions that forced overtime for the Quakers, he still led the team to victory, posting 132 passing yards, three rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown — and justly, he was named Ivy co-Offensive Player of the Week.
Additionally, in Ragone’s two starts against Dartmouth and Villanova, senior Matt Tuten caught a total of 11 passes. And the two connected for a third-quarter touchdown against Lafayette.
Neither young quarterback has played a poor game thus far, and both have chemistry with the team. But if Bagnoli wonders why it takes his Quakers 30 minutes to play like champions, I wonder why he can’t make up his mind.
The coach is in a tough spot. He has a pair of young quarterbacks capable of carrying the Quakers to another Ivy title, as well as Garton, who is slowly returning to the lineup.
It must be difficult for Bagnoli to choose one primary quarterback and sideline two talented athletes. According to associate head coach Ray Priore, it has always been Bagnoli’s strategy to have the best players on the field as often as possible — a difficult task when only one man can be under center at once.
But one thing is for sure: the Quakers cannot play to their full potential or repeat as Ivy champions without a consistent quarterback.
“Going every other series, it’s hard to get a pace and just get a rhythm going,” Becker said.
So if all three QBs share roughly equal playing time against Columbia, the Quakers may never find that essential rhythm.
MEGAN SOISSON is a sophomore nursing major from Mechanicsburg, Pa. She can be contacted at dpsports@theDP.com.Comments powered by Disqus
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