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Taking to the field: With similar personnel, Baseball is looking up

(03/09/00 10:00am)

The good news is that there's nowhere to go but up. The Penn baseball team begins its 2000 campaign with new hopes, new goals and a new stadium, but with almost exactly the same lineup. Last year, the Quakers struggled with youth and inexperience, finishing last in the Ivy League with a 9-28 record, going 6-14 in Ivy games. But losing only first baseman Russ Farscht to graduation, the Red and Blue hope they are wiser for the wear. Last year, poor team defense did the team in and kept it out of games. Penn was the Ivy League's worst fielding team last year, committing 110 errors. Almost 40 percent of the runs the Quakers gave up were unearned. Penn coach Bob Seddon will try to shore up his infield with the help of two new faces. Freshman Nick Italiano will start at second base -- a position that produced 27 errors last year. Sophomore Oliver Hahl will get the nod at third, after spending the last two years away on a Mormon mission. "Just from seeing what happened in the fall and the last couple intrasquad games, it's a totally different team," said pitcher Mike Mattern, who posted six of the team's nine wins and a team-leading 4.02 earned run average as a freshman. "You just know when a ball is hit up the middle, people are making plays that last year would never have been made," Mattern said. The infield is keyed by All-Ivy selection and team MVP Glen Ambrosius. The tri-captain -- who hit a team high .331 with three homers and 22 RBIs -- has started all but one game in his three years at Penn. At first, junior Ron Rolph looks to be the opening day starter, although junior Chris May started 10 games there last season. Senior Jeff Gregorio will catch the lion's share of games and will also be expected to pick up where Farscht left off. Gregorio will likely bat cleanup and looks to follow up a breakout offensive year in 1999, in which he hit .303 with five home runs. Now that Hahl is occupying the hot corner, junior Jim Mullen will move from there to left field. Named last year's "Unsung Hero," Mullen's .311 batting average was second-best on the team. Seddon is looking for increased offensive production from his outfielders this year -- five regular outfielders combined for 36 RBI, the same total as Farscht last season. The addition of Mullen's bat in left should help; he led the Atlantic Coast Baseball League in hitting this summer with a .417 average. "Our outfield in the last couple years hasn't put up the numbers," Seddon said. "If you follow baseball, you know on a good team you look at the batting averages of your outfielders and they're the leaders of the team. That could be our Achilles heel." Senior tri-captain Kevin McCabe will start in center field for the second straight year. McCabe -- last year's Most Improved Player -- hit .291 with 15 RBI and only posted three errors in 35 starts. In right, a battle is brewing for the starting spot. Senior Jeremy McDowell and junior Randy Ferrell both saw time in the outfield last year. But Ferrell is out with a shoulder injury, and freshman John McCreery -- who will also pitch for the Quakers -- is making a strong bid for playing time. The pitching staff is hampered by a season-ending elbow injury to tri-captain Sean McDonald, Penn's workhorse over the past three years. Seddon remains optimistic, however, pointing to the emergence of Mattern as a No. 1 starter and a bevy of freshmen arms. The starting rotation, as well as the other eight starting spots, will be hammered out on the team's spring break trip to Florida, where it will play 10 games in nine days. "Last year at this time, I couldn't name but two guys [who were legitimate starters]," Seddon said. But this year Seddon expects contributions from Mattern, junior Matt Hepler, sophomore Mark Lacerenza, and freshmen McCreery, Benjamin Krantz and Benjamin Otero. The Quakers will use the Florida trip, which begins tomorrow afternoon at Florida Institute of Technology, as spring training for the Ivy League season, which begins the weekend of April 1 with a couple of tough doubleheaders against Rolfe Division foes Yale and Brown. "[The Rolfe Division] is loaded," Seddon said. "I think you can flip a coin to see who wins." Harvard, which has won the Ivy League the past three years, remains the favorite in the Rolfe Division, closely followed by the Elis, the resurgent Bears and a tough Dartmouth squad. In the Gehrig Division, Penn has its scopes set on defending champ Princeton. The Tigers are favorites to repeat as Gehrig winners, due to sophomore ace Chris Young -- who led Princeton with a sparkling 2.38 earned run average -- and the rest of the solid pitching staff. "I don't know if I fall in love with the rest of their team, but they are the team to beat in our division," Seddon said. "I feel we're certainly stronger than Cornell and Columbia. I don't think Cornell and Columbia stack up to any of the four teams in the other division." The Quakers hope the defensive modifications and the additions to the pitching staff plug the holes that caused Penn's ship to sink to the bottom of the Ivy League last year. Penn is relying on its older and wiser players, with the infusion of young talent into the starting lineup, to move back up to the top of the Gehrig Division -- a place it occupied just three seasons ago.

Wrestling falls short at EIWAs

(03/06/00 10:00am)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- It was a two-horse race all year, and in the final stretch the Lehigh wrestling team proved it had a better kick than Penn. In the EIWA Championships this past weekend at Navy, the Engineers' team balance spurred them on to 157 team points and a first-place finish, bringing the Quakers' four-year run of EIWA titles to a screeching halt. Penn got individual titles from its three captains -- Brett Matter (157 pounds), Rick Springman (174) and heavyweight Bandele Adeniyi-Bada -- but in the end, four individual titles and a plethora of bonus points from its other wrestlers made the difference for Lehigh. Penn and Lehigh both placed five wrestlers in the finals, but the Engineers already had a solid hold on the team race by that point. Once Lehigh 125-pounder Bruce Kelly took the first championship bout, the decision was almost automatic. "I think up through the quarterfinals, we were wrestling well. It looked to me like we tightened up in the semifinals," Penn coach Roger Reina said. "Even some of the matches we won, we didn't win in the style and the manner that we trained for." At 133, Penn's Jason Nagle faced Brown's Livio DiRubbo in a rematch of last year's final, which Nagle won in a 10-6 upset. Top-seeded DiRubbo -- who had a 7-1 victory earlier in the year against the No. 2 seed Nagle --jumped out to a commanding 7-1 lead early in the first period with a takedown and three back points. Nagle fought back hard in the remaining periods, bringing the score back to 8-5 at the end of two. In the final period, Nagle managed two takedowns, but DiRubbo sealed the 13-9 victory with a late takedown of his own. At 141 pounds, freshman Jody Giuricich earned a trip to the NCAAs as a wildcard with a third-place finish. In the third-place bout, third-seeded Giuricich bested No. 4 seed Mark Conley of Navy. After a scoreless first period, Conley used a takedown to go up 2-0 in the second period. Giuricich escaped and got in a takedown right at the end of the period to go up 3-2. Giuricich rode out the entire third period to hold onto the victory. The final at 149 featured the tournament's only Penn-Lehigh final, with Lehigh's national No. 6 Dave Esposito facing Penn's Jon Gough. Esposito notched his second major decision victory over Gough this year with a 16-6 win. Matter was the shining star for Penn. With his title at 157 pounds, Matter became the EIWA's first four-time champion in 17 years. Matter also picked up the Fletcher Award, which is awarded to the wrestler with the most career points at the EIWA tournament. Penn's all-time winning wrestler picked up the Outstanding Wrestler award to boot. Matter cruised to a 6-1 victory in the finals over Cornell's Leo Urbanelli to etch his name into the EIWA history books. Of course, EIWA success is nothing new for the Matter family. Brett's title is the ninth for the Matters -- father Andy won three as a wrestler for Penn State, and brother Clint picked up two for the Quakers. "It's kind of a good monkey off my back," said Matter, who is ranked No. 2 in the nation. "The more I warmed up for each match, the more I started thinking about it. Every match I wrestled today they were mentioning, the first [four-time champion] since blah blah blah. I didn't think it was that big a deal." Penn's other national No. 2, Springman, tore through a very deep 174-pound weight class en route to his first EIWA title. He recorded a pin in his finals match against national No. 6 Ed Mosley of Harvard -- the second time Springman pinned Mosley this year. For his efforts, Springman picked up the Sheridan Award for the most falls in the least amount of time. Mike Fickell earned a trip to St. Louis with a third-place finish. Seeded No. 2 at the EIWAs and ranked No. 14 in the country, Fickell held off a scare from fourth seed Matt Greenberg of Columbia to win the third-place bout. In the strong heavyweight class, Adeniyi-Bada closed out the tournament with a 3-2 win over Harvard's Dawid Rechul. Adeniyi-Bada hit a double-leg takedown in the second period to go up 3-0 on a very passive Rechul. After taking an injury timeout in the third period, though, Rechul came out with a sudden burst of energy and initiated more contact. He was unable to manage a takedown, however, and Adeniyi-Bada emerged the champion.

Wrestling wins Ivies, but falls to Lehigh

(02/21/00 10:00am)

A controversial call and a forfeit at 125 did not help the Quakers in their meet with the Engineers. In a battle of the top two teams in the EIWA, No. 12 Lehigh used an unlikely hero and an uncontested bout to snatch eastern bragging rights away from No. 15 Penn yesterday at the Palestra. After a stunning upset of Penn star heavyweight Bandele Adeniyi-Bada by Lehigh sophomore Shawn Laughlin and a Penn forfeit at 125 pounds, the Engineers (19-2, 8-0 EIWA) held on to defeat the Quakers, 19-15. The Quakers (9-5, 5-1) clinched their fifth straight Ivy League title the night before with a 30-15 win over Princeton. Penn, also looking for its fifth straight EIWA championship, now has to defend its title in the tournament next month as a No. 2 seed after yesterday's loss. Lehigh's Rob Rohn, ranked No. 11, started off the day with a 9-3 decision over Penn's Mike Gadsby in the 184-pound bout, but Mike Fickell evened the match score with his close 5-4 victory over Glauco Lolli-Ghetti. National No. 16 Fickell and Lolli-Ghetti both started the match furiously, with a Fickell takedown, a Lolli-Ghetti reversal and a Fickell escape making the score 3-2 in the first 30 seconds of the contest. After Fickell held on to win and tied the meet score 3-3, Penn seemed assured the driver's seat with No. 5 Adeniyi-Bada heading up against the sophomore Laughlin in the heavyweight bout. But Laughlin had other plans. With four seconds left in the first period, Laughlin turned Adeniyi-Bada for a crucial takedown and a 2-0 lead. After riding Adeniyi-Bada out for a large part of the second period and getting an escape point to start the third, Laughlin had a 3-1 lead plus a point for riding time. But Laughlin was hit for a stalling penalty with 29 seconds left, opening the door for Adeniyi-Bada to tie the bout with a takedown. At the end of the third period, Adeniyi-Bada had Laughlin's leg in his grasp, but could not pull the Lehigh wrestler in bounds to secure the takedown. Much to the dismay of Penn coach Roger Reina and the Penn fans in attendance, the referee did not award Adeniyi-Bada the two points, and Laughlin took the victory, 4-2. "[Laughlin's win] surprised me," a beaming Lehigh coach Greg Strobel said after the match. "I was hoping he'd keep it close, and he ended up winning the match. That was huge. Getting that first takedown made it all happen." To make matters worse, with Kevin Rucci still not fully recovered from an injured hand, the Quakers were forced to forfeit the 125-pound bout, giving up six big team points and handing the Engineers a 12-3 lead in the match. Things began to look bleak for the Quakers as Lehigh freshman Tristan Boyd came out blazing against senior Jason Nagle at 133 pounds. With 1:13 left in the first period, Boyd took Nagle down and turned him over for three additional back points, giving himself a 5-0 lead early in the match. But on Senior Day at the Palestra, Nagle was not to be outdone by the freshman. In the second period, Nagle worked his way back into the match, tying the score at six at the end of the period. Late in the third period, down 7-6, Nagle used a duck-under takedown with 10 seconds left to notch a victory for the Quakers before the intermission. Penn's 141-pounder, Jody Giuricich, brought the Quakers back into the match with an upset of his own. Managing to ride out the entire second period, the freshman used his riding time bonus to defeat No. 20 Matt Goldstein in a tight 3-2 win. The bout closed the Engineers lead to 12-9. Strobel decided to send out No. 5 Dave Esposito at 149 pounds, despite the ankle injury Esposito suffered at the NWCA All-Star Meet. "We vacillated on it," Strobel said. "When he warmed up on it today, he was moving real well. I talked to him and I said, 'Before you go to the Easterns, you really need another match.' And he thought, 'Yeah, I can do that,' and he went out and wrestled." And he wrestled well. The Lehigh standout overwhelmed Penn's Jon Gough en route to a 10-2 major decision victory. Down 16-9 but with a pair of No. 2 wrestlers left, Penn had a glint of hope remaining, provided captains Brett Matter (157 pounds) and Rick Springman (174) could get bonus-point victories. Matter controlled his match against Lehigh sophomore Chris Vitale, but Penn's all-time winningest wrestler could not get any bonus points, winning a 9-3 decision. At 165 pounds, Lehigh's Travis Doto, ranked sixth nationally, handled Tim Ortman, winning an 8-1 decision and putting the Engineers ahead 19-12, thus clinching the match. Springman added an 8-5 decision over No. 18 Mark Dufresne to make the final score 19-15. Penn had beaten Lehigh three out of the last five years and had not lost to the Engineers at the Palestra since 1957. But Reina thinks the loss will inspire, not deflate, his squad heading into the EIWA Championships. "To me, this is something that should really light a spark under our guys, to refocus and redouble their efforts," Reina said. "This group has the ability to respond in a very significant manner come the Eastern Championships."

Red and Blue roll over Princeton

(02/16/00 10:00am)

Hundreds of Penn fans made the trek to Princeton to cheer Penn on to a 55-46 victory. PRINCETON, N.J. -- Once Ugonna Onyekwe punctuated Penn's 55-46 victory at Jadwin Gym last night with a 360-degree dunk, Frinceton realized what Quakers fans knew all along -- the Tigers were pucked. Penn took the lead, 13-12, on guard Michael Jordan's one-footer with 9:04 remaining in the first half, and never looked back en route to the triumph over the archrival Tigers. The Quakers' defense was largely responsible for the victory, holding Princeton standout Mason Rocca and highly touted freshman Spencer Gloger scoreless through the first half of the game and shutting down the Princeton offense all night long. Last night's win gives Penn a two-game lead in the Ivy League standings. Princeton's hopes of taking the Ivy title away from defending champion Penn now rest on beating the Quakers in the teams' season finale meeting at the Palestra and hoping that Penn is upset by one of the league's six also-rans. But Quakers co-captain Michael Jordan said the race is far from over. "We're not satisfied," said Jordan, a College senior. "When we win the next seven, I'll be satisfied. We haven't done anything yet." The hundreds of Penn fans who made the trek to Princeton, however, certainly understood the significance of last night's game. Despite being mostly tucked away in the far northwest corner of Jadwin's upper balcony, the Quakers faithful cheered loudly throughout the game and stormed the court as the final buzzer sounded. Sporting "Red and Blue Crew" T-shirts and face paint, Penn fans belted out a chorus of "Airball!" chants and made sure to remind the Tigers which team beat Yale last week. "[The seats] suck. But sitting here with everyone else is amazing," Engineering senior Rob Jenkins said. "There's a lot of love and a lot of hate," said Jenkins, pointing first to the Penn student section and then to the Princeton students. With a healthy dose of Ivy League wit, the Penn fans also held up signs offering spelling tips -- "You Can't Spell Princeton Without NIT" -- and career advice, suggesting to Mason Rocca that "bricklaying" was his calling. And when the Princeton band tried to rally the crowd late in the game with a rendition of the "Hey Song," Penn fans inserted their own lyrics of "You Suck!" to take any last hope the Tigers may have had in reserve. At the end of the game, Penn fans swarmed the court, only to be met by a deluge of debris from some angry Princeton supporters. While at first the Tigers faithful threw mini-basketballs, the barrage soon escalated to include plastic water and soda containers for the second year in a row, drawing the ire of Jordan. "I didn't appreciate it at all. A couple of plastic bottles went past my head," Jordan said. "Call me whatever names you want, but after the game is over, it's just ridiculous to be throwing things onto the court." Despite the presence of extra security guards, two separate scuffles broke out between Penn and Princeton fans -- one before the game and one after. "We were walking around the stadium carrying our sign that said 'Can't Spell Princeton Without NIT,'" Engineering sophomore Bob Barsotti said. "And some angry Princeton person came down and attacked us -- actually followed us into the stands." Another confrontation was reported to have occurred outside Jadwin after the game let out, but it was quickly broken up. Still, supporters of both teams acknowledged that last night's contest failed to equal the legendary battles of the recent past. Princeton cheerleader Kacey Guy recalled the excitement of what Princeton fans like to call the "Miracle at the Palestra" -- or what Penn fans remember as the "Heartbreak at the Palestra" -- when the Tigers rebounded last February from a staggering 29-3 deficit. "Last year was great at the Palestra," she said. But Penn fans have a different conception of which of last year's contests was most impressive. "I was here last year at one of the best games of all time," Democratic National Committee chairman and longtime Penn basketball fan Ed Rendell said, recalling the Quakers' Ivy-clinching victory last March at Jadwin.

Crimson and Bears no challenge for Wrestling

(02/07/00 10:00am)

The Quakers look to be a lock for their sixth Ivy title in the past seven seasons. With victories over Brown and Harvard, the Penn wrestling team took a giant step toward securing its sixth Ivy League crown in the last seven years. In Providence, R.I., last Friday, the Quakers (7-4, 4-0 Ivy League) handed Brown (5-8, 1-1) a 23-16 defeat and cruised to a 24-13 win at Harvard (5-4, 1-1) on Saturday. Penn won its fourth dual meet in a row, all with a six-point handicap as 125-pounder Kevin Rucci sat out with an injured hand. Freshman Jody Giuricich (141) started out the weekend in good form, getting a major decision victory over Brown's James Casteneda, 11-2. After EIWA No. 3 Jon Gough lost a major decision to EIWA No. 4 Jason Mercado at 149 pounds, national No. 2 Brett Matter (157) recorded a technical fall over Brad Dewitt to give the Quakers a 9-4 lead. After a Tim Ortman win at 165, No. 2 Rick Springman blanked Nick Almeida for a 7-0 technical fall win to give the Quakers a commanding 17-4 lead, which turned out to be all they would need against the Bears. Heavyweight Bandele Adeniyi-Bada scored an important individual victory over EIWA No. 3 Bronson Lingamfelter, handling him 10-4. Penn's top-ranked EIWA heavyweight beat EIWA No. 2 Seth Charles two weekends ago in Penn's victory over Cornell. With the Cornell win, Harvard loomed as the Quakers' remaining threat to Ivy supremacy. "I think Harvard really might have expected to be close and possibly even thought they could win," Matter said. But the Quakers quickly erased any hopes of an upset at Cambridge, winning four of the first five matches, the loss being Rucci's forfeit. EIWA No. 1 Jason Nagle (133) rebounded from a 7-1 loss to EIWA No. 3 Livio DiRubbo at Brown in strong fashion, soundly beating EIWA No. 2 Matt Picarsic 7-2. Gough also made up for a loss at Brown with a thrilling last-second decision over Harvard freshman standout and former high school All-American Max Odom. In a frantic match that featured five lead changes, Odom took Gough down for a 9-8 lead with 10 seconds left in the bout. But just before time expired, Gough got a reversal to win the match 10-9 and put the Quakers up 12-6. "I'm usually getting ready for my match," said Matter, who normally prepares for his own match during the 149-pound bout but stopped to watch the exciting finish. "It's matches like that that take the wind out of the sails of the other team." At 174, Springman met national No. 4 Ed Moseley, whom he had pinned at the Midlands tournament earlier in the year. Once again, Springman got the best of Moseley, winning 7-1 when the match was called in the third period due to an injury to Moseley. In the first period, Springman had Moseley's leg in his grasp, and as Springman tripped him, Moseley's knee was twisted awkwardly. Moseley tried to continue, but early in the third period the referee decided to stop the bout. Springman's victory was one of many key EIWA victories scored by Penn wrestlers, with a dual meet against EIWA No. 1 Lehigh and the EIWA tournament lurking just around the corner. "You have to beat them all to win, in the end," Matter said. "But if you can make your route to the championship easier by beating people earlier, it's good." While most of the Quakers have the next two weeks to ponder upcoming dual meets against Princeton and Lehigh, Springman and Adeniyi-Bada compete tonight in the NWCA All-Star Meet at Michigan State University. Springman will take on Edinboro's No. 3 Josh Koscheck, a wrestler Springman beat at the Midlands in December. Adeniyi-Bada faces off against Minnesota's No. 1 Brock Lesnar, who lost a close match to Stephen Neal of Cal-State Bakersfield in last year's NCAA Championships. "For Bandele, it's a great opportunity to get himself back on track. He had a little bit of a slump there for a while," Matter said. "For Rick, he can send messages to everyone else in the country by beating this guy pretty good."

Wrestling grapples with Midwest elite over break

(01/17/00 10:00am)

Penn finished fourth at the Midlands, but lost duals to Michigan and Purdue. EVANSTON, Ill. -- While most of the Penn student body went home over break, awaiting the results of final exams, the Penn wrestling team still had a midterm to take. After two days of competition at the 37th annual Midlands tournament, held at Northwestern on December 29 and 30, the No. 8 Quakers looked to be well above the curve. On the strength of third-place finishes by captains Brett Matter (157 pounds) and Rick Springman (174), and a second-place effort from captain Bandele Adeniyi-Bada (heavyweight), Penn finished fourth -- its highest ever finish at the prestigious Midlands. Penn entered the tournament without the services of two place-winners from last year, Yoshi Nakamura and Justin Bravo. Undaunted, the young Quakers started strong and stood in second place behind No. 1 Iowa after one day of competition. Matter, seeded No. 4, cruised into the semifinals. In the semis, Matter encountered No. 1 ranked T.J. Williams of Iowa. Matter kept up with the defending NCAA champion, taking a 3-2 score late into the third period. But Williams scored a takedown with 0:20 left in the match to seal the victory. A late Matter escape made the final score 5-3. The match was not without controversy, as late in the third period Williams did not break contact with Matter as the wrestlers were hurtling well out of bounds. Much to Penn coach Roger Reina's dismay, no penalties were assessed. After the match, Reina exchanged words with Williams, who went on to lose in the finals to Chris Bono of the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club. "I told him he should concentrate on wrestling the match in the circle," Reina said. "Luckily, no one got hurt." Matter wrestled well after the loss, scoring a 10-0 major decision over Michigan State's Gray Maynard to put him into the third-place match against Nebraska's Bryan Snyder, then ranked No. 2 in the country. Matter squeaked out a tight, 3-1 victory to secure third place. "[The win over Snyder is] important for seeding, just having wins over guys like that," Matter said. "It's big. It was hard to gather back up after a loss, but like my coach said, it's a test of character." At 174 pounds, Springman fought through tough early round matches to work his way into the semis. Springman held off No. 17 Nick Mengerink of Pittsburgh, 2-0, and then won a 1-0 decision over No. 2 Josh Koscheck of Edinboro to get into the semifinals. There, Springman suffered a 6-3 loss to No. 1 Otto Olson of Michigan. With Olson up 5-1 in the third, Springman got a reversal, but could not get any closer than 5-3. In the wrestlebacks, Springman came back from a 7-0 deficit to eke out a 13-12 decision over No. 4 Ryan Cunningham of Central Michigan. Then in the third-place bout, Springman turned over Harvard's Ed Mosley for a pin at 3:30. Adeniyi-Bada had a tournament to remember, but a match to forget. The Penn heavyweight, seeded No. 8, wrestled well to get into the semifinals, where Iowa State heavyweight Trent Hynek gave him a medical forfeit win. In the finals, Adeniyi-Bada met Iowa's Wes Hand in front of a raucous crowd, laden with Iowa supporters who made the short trek to Evanston. Adeniyi-Bada quieted the crowd quickly, getting a takedown right off the bat and building a commanding 4-1 lead after one period. Adeniyi-Bada looked like a lock when he amassed a 7-2 lead in the third period. But with what Reina called a "lucky move," Hand turned Adeniyi-Bada for a shocking pin. While the stunning loss temporarily took a little wind out of Penn's sails, the fourth-place finish broke both Penn and EIWA records for Midlands results. After the Midlands, the new year brought a new No. 8 ranking and two more dual matches for the Quakers. But Penn could not parlay tournament success into individual success, as it dropped close meets to No. 24 Purdue, 18-16, and No. 9 Michigan, 18-17. At Purdue, an upset loss by Adeniyi-Bada started a string of four losses that put Penn in an early hole. A major decision win by Matter and a Springman pin brought the Quakers back, giving Penn a 17-15 edge with one match to go. But Purdue 184-pounder Jared Williams ended the meet with an 8-2 decision over Craig Melcher, winning the meet for the Boilermakers. At Michigan, Penn squandered opportunities as both Jonathan Gough and Tim Ortman lost matches in which they had leads. Matter scored a major decision over Tony Holifield, tying the Penn record for most victories at 110, but the Quakers fell behind 18-14 with only 197-pounder Mike Fickell left to wrestle. Knowing anything over a major decision would win the meet for Penn, Fickell pressed early and built a 7-1 lead, almost landing a pin, but Michigan's Joe DeGain fought back to close the gap. The match ended 15-10 Fickell, not enough to force a tie.

Wrestling performs beyond its years

(12/14/99 10:00am)

Freshman, shmeshman. Penn freshman Jody Giuricich handled the biggest moment of his brief college wrestling career with poise and confidence Saturday evening, beating previously undefeated Penn State fifth-year senior Jason Betz to seal a wild 22-16 victory for the Quakers. Penn had never defeated Penn State in 17 meetings, and the last time the Nittany Lions even scheduled a dual meet with Penn was 1954. But this intra-state rivalry got a big shot in the arm with Saturday's dramatic finish, in front of a raucous 2,010 at the Palestra. After the No. 10 Quakers (1-0) built a 16-0 lead, No. 20 Penn State (0-3) rallied to bring the score to within three points. With Penn up 19-16 and one match to go, the spotlight fell solely on the freshman Giuricich, who was facing Betz, the No. 13 wrestler in the country at 141 pounds. Giuricich took the offensive in the first period, scoring a takedown, but Betz got back the two points with an escape and a technical violation by Giuricich at the end of the period. With the bout tied 2-2 in the second period, Giuricich scored back points on Betz, nearly pinning the three-time NCAA qualifier and bringing the crowd to a frenzy. But Betz, who is renowned for his on-the-mat ability, came back with a reversal. A Giuricich escape and another Betz takedown left the match tied 6-6 with one period to go. Giuricich got an escape to go up 7-6, and managed to withstand a furious late charge from Betz to grab the victory, 8-6, his last point coming from a riding time advantage. But like any good rivalry, the match had its fair share of controversy. Betz very nearly had Giuricich turned around in the last 0:15 of the third period, but the referee made no signal. The no-call left a large Penn State contingent at the Palestra reeling and Penn State coach Troy Sunderland up in arms. "That's the second time this year that he's cost us the match," Sunderland said, referring to the Nittany Lions' encounter with the same referee in a 19-16 loss to No. 11 Lehigh earlier this season. "It shouldn't happen," said a visibly frustrated Sunderland. "Our guys work too hard to let it in the hands of some referee." For Sunderland and Penn State, it has been a frustrating haul so far in 1999. After starting the year ranked No. 11, the Nittany Lions have seen their ranking slip nine spots after dropping close matches to Lehigh and No. 13 Edinboro. And with Penn State's loss to the Quakers, last year's top Eastern finisher at the NCAA Championships has now lost three matches to teams in its own state. But for the Red and Blue, the match serves as another step in the right direction for a team that went undefeated in its dual meet competition last year, posting a 10-0-2 mark. The victory also solidifies Penn's growing reputation as one of the top programs this side of the Mississippi. "We've been in the shadow of Penn State for so long, so winning the match shows what Penn wrestling is all about and how we are the most dominant team on the East Coast," Penn tri-captain Brett Matter said. Matter, ranked No. 3 nationally at 157 pounds, was part of an early flurry of dominant performances for the Quakers. Penn senior Jonathan Gough (149 pounds) started off the dual meet with an impressive 12-4 major decision win over Penn State freshman Brent Narkiewicz. Matter followed with a 9-0 drubbing of freshman Nate Wachter. Yoshi Nakamura saw his first action of the season, beating Penn State junior Bill Dubler at 165 pounds, for Penn's third straight major decision. Penn tri-captain Rick Springman (174) gave the Quakers a commanding 16-0 lead with his 10-1 major decision over Mark Becks. But right before intermission, Penn State stopped the bleeding, as sophomore Jeff Knupp major decisioned Penn sophomore Craig Melcher, 12-3. Amazingly enough, Penn State had not even scored a takedown until Knupp's match. Coming out of the break, Penn junior Mike Fickell, ranked No. 10, lost a close 4-3 match to Penn State captain Russ Thatcher, ranked No. 15. At heavyweight, Bandele Adeniyi-Bada exacted revenge on Penn State's Mark Janus in a 10-5 win. Adeniyi-Bada, currently ranked No. 3, lost to Janus, currently ranked No. 15, at last year's Penn State Open in overtime. But this year, tri-captain Adeniyi-Bada was in control throughout the match. His win put the Quakers up 19-7 with three bouts remaining. Nittany Lions ace Jeremy Hunter, the top-ranked wrestler in the nation at 125 pounds, proved too much for Penn sophomore Kevin Rucci. Hunter pinned Rucci at 4:28, getting six important team points for Penn State and making the score 19-13. The 133-pound match saw two freshmen competing -- Penn's Brett Vanderveer and Penn State's Scott Moore. A close, 6-5 win for Moore pulled the Lions to within three points of Penn, and set up Giuricich's heroics. "[Vanderveer] was in on the shot against Moore, but he didn't go to finish the takedown and score," Penn coach Roger Reina said. "He just tried to hang on to the win, and that's not how you win college matches." The dominant performances by the team's veterans and the inspiring performances by the team's freshmen bode well for Penn, which next sees action at the prestigious Midlands Tournament, December 29-30 at Northwestern University. The Quakers finished sixth out of 52 teams at the Midlands last year.

Wrestling faces No. 20 Penn St.

(12/10/99 10:00am)

The Nittany Lions finished fourth in the nation last year, but have since slipped early this season. Call the networks -- the Penn wrestling team is ready for prime time. To go along with their prime time national ranking and their prime time schedule, the No. 10 Quakers take on No. 20 Penn State at 6 p.m. at the Palestra tomorrow night. The match kicks off the dual-meet season for Penn, which was one of only two Division I programs to emerge from last year's dual-meet season unscathed, going 10-0-2 in 1998-99. It also marks the first time since 1954 that the Nittany Lions will face the Quakers in a dual meet. Penn State (0-2) started the year as the 11th-ranked team in the nation, but has slipped nine spots following two close losses in dual-meet competition. The Lions fell 19-14 to No. 13 Edinboro and lost 19-16 to No. 11 Lehigh. Penn State still has holdovers from last year's squad that finished fourth in the country. At 125 pounds, the Nittany Lions' Jeremy Hunter, an NCAA runner-up last year, is widely regarded as one of the premier college wrestlers at any weight class. Since Penn junior Justin Bravo is taking time off to focus on academics, sophomore Kevin Rucci will get the nod on Saturday. Although Rucci's collegiate career is a bit thin compared to the highly decorated Hunter, the two have tangled before. "It's a great opportunity when you have a chance to wrestle the No. 1 guy in the country -- there's really no better experience," Penn coach Roger Reina said. "It's obviously a very big challenge for Kevin, but I think we've given him some things tactically that could be helpful." At the other end of the scales, heavyweight Bandele Adeniyi-Bada will be out for revenge against Penn State's Mark Janus. Adeniyi-Bada, ranked third nationally, lost to No. 12 Janus in sudden death at last year's Penn State Open. And, even though Janus just won his weight class at this year's Penn State Open, the Quakers tri-captain is confident he will exact revenge, as long as he stays on the offensive. "Janus is a somewhat experienced heavyweight, but I don't think he has near the ability or speed that Bandele has," Reina said. "If he lets the Penn State wrestler slow him down and isn't as aggressive, it could end up being a close match. "But it really shouldn't be a close match." Moving down to 197 pounds, junior Mike Fickell looks to build on his breakthrough performance this season, which garnered him Outstanding Wrestler honors at the Keystone Classic. He will match up against Ohio rival Ross Thatcher, a two-time state champion in high school currently ranked No. 12. "In terms of style, Fickell has an advantage," Reina said. "Clearly Mike has advanced more than his opponent and I think he's ready for this." Penn's lineup should feature a number of freshmen. Freshman Jody Giuricich, Chris Hanlon and Brett Vanderveer might all see action on Saturday night. Reina will send out Giuricich at 141 pounds, where he will face a tough test from No. 12 Jason Betz, a three-time NCAA qualifier. Giuricich is turning heads with solid performances early in his college career. He lost a 3-2 match in the finals of the Kickoff Classic and he placed second at the Keystone Classic, both at 149 pounds. Either Hanlon or Vanderveer could start at 133 pounds, facing Penn State freshman Scott Moore. Penn State will put out another freshman at 174 pounds in redshirt Mark Becks. Penn standout Rick Springman will weigh in at 174, according to Reina, but may wrestle at 184 if the need arises. The unusual amount of freshman wrestlers makes Saturday's match a bit unpredictable. It also puts a different spin on the growing rivalry between Penn State and Penn -- the top two Eastern finishers at last year's NCAA Championships. Adeniyi-Bada said the more experienced wrestlers have to help the younger wrestlers get over their nerves during the match. "Penn State has a big name, so it's not only that you're wrestling the guy across from you, you're going against this mythological force," Adeniyi-Bada said. "My role is to break through that whole mystique and just tell them it's just another dude." Reina said the Quakers have been working hard to get Penn State on their schedule. With Penn's national reputation growing tremendously in recent years, the Nittany Lions finally agreed to a two-year home-and-away series. "It comes down to respect for our program and the hard work we've done over the years," Adeniyi-Bada said. "It shows the national recognition that we've earned, that people actually want to wrestle us." But with success opening the doors to new opportunities, Penn no longer remains a Cinderella story. Wins against perennial national powers like Penn State would ensure that Penn not only goes to the ball, but has its name on the guest list.

Banquet celebrates Baseball

(11/24/99 10:00am)

After 30 years, Penn baseball coach Bob Seddon decided it was time for a party. And at the Penn Tower Hotel on Saturday, Seddon and assistant coach Bill Wagner celebrated their 30 years of coaching Penn baseball together. The banquet also featured the unveiling of Seddon and Wagner's All-Decade Teams -- made up of the best players from the 1970s, '80s and '90s, and the All 30-Year Team -- the 35 best players during the coaches' long tenure. The evening began with an invocation by Rev. Stanley Johnson, a retired Penn chaplain, an introduction by Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky and an appearance by the Glee Club. Then Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Ed Wade addressed the crowd of past and present Penn baseball players and their families. After speaking about his role with the Phillies and giving advice to the current Penn baseball team, Wade spoke of Seddon's and Wagner's dedication to the game of baseball. "All of you know everything about them," Wade said. "But the fact of the matter is that outside of this room, outside of the University of Pennsylvania community, they probably work a lot in anonymity. "They're willing to do that because of their love of the game and their love for the University of Pennsylvania." After Wade's speech, Seddon and Wagner honored their All-Decade Teams, sharing stories and statistics about each player. Phillies organist Paul Richardson provided background music for the evening's festivities. Afterward, Seddon and Wagner introduced the 24 members of the 35 All 30-Year honorees who were present. The evening also featured a silent auction of sports memorabilia to raise money to help the construction of the new baseball stadium at Murphy Field. The relationship between Seddon and Wagner began in 1969, when Seddon -- then Penn's baseball and soccer coach -- recruited a player who played for Wagner. Seddon recommended Wagner for the vacant lightweight football coaching spot -- a position Wagner still holds -- and took him on as a baseball assistant coach. Wagner said part of the reason their partnership has lasted so long is the amount of responsibility Seddon gives him. "With the game on the line, he gave me an opportunity to make decisions," Wagner said. "Out of loyalty and trust and respect for each other, it developed a relationship that lasted for 30 good years." Drew Corradini, a member of the All 30-Year Team who played outfield for the Quakers from 1996 to 1998, said patience was the key for Seddon's and Wagner's longevity. "They get a lot of different personalities in here and they have a good way of dealing with everything," Corradini said. "They have big hearts, they're loving. They take boys and turn them into men."

Analysis: Penn's inability to stop the Big Red on third down paved the way for another Ivy loss.

(11/22/99 10:00am)

Good things don't always come in threes. For the Penn football team, third down was the worst down in its 20-12 loss to Cornell on Saturday. The Big Red converted almost half of their third-down tries, going 11-for-23 on the day. And the one fourth-down play that Cornell attempted was also converted -- a fourth-and-25 Hail Mary that turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. The Quakers "D" was having little problems stuffing the Cornell offense on first and second downs. In fact, Penn held Cornell to a paltry 27 yards rushing for the entire game. It seemed that it was only when the Big Red were stuck in third-and-long situations that sophomore quarterback Ricky Rahne reached back and made something special happen. All four of Cornell's scoring drives included third-down conversions in some form, and all but one of those conversions came in the air. "That's very, very frustrating because they're an explosive offense," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said of Cornell, which put up 296 passing yards on the Quakers. "You think you really have the advantage when it's third-and-15, fourth-and-18, third-and-12. You think the advantage decidedly swings in your favor." A 13-yard pass on third-and-six extended the Big Red's first quarter drive to a field goal. And in the second quarter, Cornell picked up three third-down tries en route to a touchdown and a 10-6 lead going into the half. After an incomplete pass, a three-yard run and a penalty, Rahne hit wide receiver Kevin Farese for a 25-yard gain. Three plays later, on third-and-17, Rahne found Farese again, this time for 19 yards. Cornell eventually found the end zone with a one-yard touchdown pass from Rahne to wideout Keith Ferguson on -- yep -- third and goal. At the end of the third quarter, with Cornell driving deep into Penn territory, the Big Red had a first-and-10 on the Quakers' 16-yard-line. Penn defensive lineman Jason Maehr sacked Rahne for a nine-yard loss. Then Rahne, who was under pressure all day, threw an incomplete pass. And Penn finally appeared to exorcise its third-down demons when Maehr again dropped Rahne for a loss of six. This time, the nail in Penn's coffin came on fourth down. On fourth-and-25, Rahne rolled out left and threw up a prayer across the field into the end zone, getting hit as he released the ball. But his prayer was answered, as Cornell wideout Joe Splendorio -- draped in double coverage -- grabbed the faltering duck out of the air and fell into the end zone. "I was pretty confident that was far enough," Maehr said of his two sacks. On offense, Penn was as bad on third down as Cornell was effective, converting only two of 12 chances. And Penn's inability to get first downs deep in Cornell territory led to four Jason Feinberg field goal attempts, two of which failed.

For globestrotting Kapetanovic, the only constant is basketball

(11/17/99 10:00am)

Oggie Kapetanovic's life has been shaped by a land he yearns to see again one day. Ognjen Kapetanovic was born in New York to a Croatian mother and a Bosnian father, and spent the better part of his formative years in Serbia. He is part Christian, part Jewish and part Muslim, but is not religious. He has lived on three different continents, attended two different colleges and holds a Canadian passport. He is everything and nothing. He is a citizen of the world. He has many homes, but none entirely his own. Ognjen Kapetanovic is a basketball player. · The story starts on May 16, 1978, the day the Yugoslav ambassador to the United Nations welcomed his second son into the world. One and a half years later, a new diplomatic mission would lead Goran Kapetanovic back to his homeland, with his newborn son Oggie, wife Visnja and toddler Vigor. The Kapetanovics spent the next eight years in Belgrade, broken up by a two-year stint in Egypt. Then, Goran was appointed ambassador to Canada. He took the family, including 11-year-old Oggie, with him to Ottawa. Little Oggie probably never thought that was the last time he would see Yugoslavia. In 1991, war came to Yugoslavia, leaving the Kapetanovic family homeless, cut off from relatives all over the fractured country. Goran, disagreeing with the policies of Slobodan Milosevic's government, resigned as ambassador and applied for Canadian citizenship. · Somewhere in between the Hudson and the Nile, Oggie picked up a basketball. In sports-mad Yugoslavia, there are two things that every child knows -- soccer and basketball. And Oggie was no exception. Although his godfather Velibor Vasovic was a star on Amsterdam's Ajax soccer club, the tall and gangly Oggie stuck to basketball. He was sick of being forced to play goalie. And after all, basketball is a Kapetanovic thing. His father, before entering the world of international diplomacy, played professionally in France and was president of one of the most successful basketball clubs in Yugoslavia, Partizan. He also organized the 1975 European Championships. At the age of seven, Oggie joined Partizan's youth team, following in the footsteps of his older brother Vigor. Like Vigor before him, Oggie traveled Europe playing with against other teams of his age group. He didn't mind all the traveling, even at his early age. Oggie was born a mover. Plus, he had basketball. "Basketball always brings you closer with your teammates and you've always got some kind of friends," he said. · Moving along, to Ottawa and beyond, the places and faces changed, but there remain constants -- family and basketball. Vigor was there, to train with and to play against, for games of one-on-one and for advice about basketball and life. "He was always better than me when we were little," Oggie said. "Especially when we got to that age when I was 15 and he was 18, or 16 and 19. I always tried to beat him in one-on-one and played against him. He definitely beat me most of the time." While Vigor admitted that his early basketball success had a part in Oggie's later achievements, he said that Oggie owes much to himself. "I think I played some kind of a role in him getting to where he is but you also have to credit him a lot because his determination and his will to be good is so great," Vigor said. "I only helped in giving him suggestions and stuff. He really got himself to where he is at this point." After high school and AAU ball in Ottawa, Oggie's brother drew the interest of college coaches in another country. Vigor ended up playing basketball in Philadelphia, U.S.A., at the University of Pennsylvania. "When he left for college, that's when I really felt like I was missing my brother," Oggie said. The one thing that defined home for Oggie -- his family -- was all of a sudden altered. · When the time came for Oggie to leave Ottawa for college, his short list consisted of two schools -- Penn and Brown. Vigor had played basketball at Penn for three years. He broke his foot during his junior year and decided not to continue his collegiate career. "We talked about him coming to Penn," Vigor said. "[But] Oggie wanted to do something on his own, do something for himself." It was a rare opportunity to make a statement about who he was. For Oggie, it was an opportunity to be more than just Vigor's younger brother. "When the decision came to choose between Brown and Penn, he felt like he wanted to build something of his own at Brown," Vigor said. "He felt like I had a little clique established here and he really didn't want to be known as Vigor's little brother." But Oggie also felt compelled to avoid Penn and Vigor for another reason. "My brother was still [at Penn] and I guess I would have been competing with him for minutes and time," Oggie said. "I didn't want that --EI have one brother, one family." Oggie left for Brown in 1996, the year a few optimistic prognosticators picked the Bears to knock off Penn and Princeton. The hard-working basketballer was moving yet again, this time to get in on the ground floor of the rebuilding of Brown basketball. "They seemed to be a team on the uprise," Oggie said. "I guess I wanted to contribute to that." So he packed up for Providence. · "When I got there as a freshman, I was kind of blinded because all I wanted to do was play and start," Oggie said. "Those were my only goals. I was a man possessed." Only 200 pounds and not completely filling his 6'10" frame, Oggie -- who had never lifted a weight in his life -- was embarrassed into bulking up. "The managers are bench-pressing more than me," Oggie said of his first trip to the Brown weight room. "I'm getting cooked in practice. I mean, I'm getting done. I couldn't take that. So I started working." And work he did, starting 10 games as a freshman for the Bears. He was named the team's top freshman and was in prime position to carve out a name for himself in the decidedly thin annals of Brown hoops history. As a sophomore, his drive never stopped -- remember, Oggie was born a mover. But he didn't see his teammates moving fast enough for him. A 4-22 freshman season was followed with a 6-20 campaign in '97-98; the improvement wasn't coming fast enough for someone who moves as much and as often as Oggie does. "I finally got the minutes and started most of the time," he said. "But then I noticed there were really things wrong with the program and with the team. "People didn't care, my teammates weren't committed, the seniors and juniors were beaten down because they've been losing for so long -- that's what they knew." And Oggie hates to lose. In fact, he hates to lose more than he likes to win. "For me, I can recall every single loss like it was yesterday," he said. "We lost a lot at Brown, and I can recall how every game went. I can't do that with every one of my wins." After his sophomore season, with 42 Brown losses to remember point-by-point, Oggie knew that he could not continue to go down with the ship. As usual, he looked to his brother Vigor for advice. The answer was simple -- Oggie was moving again. He packed up for Philadelphia. · Moving means saying goodbye to friends made, leaving an empty room you used to call your own, starting your life all over again. Basketball means never having to look back. Penn guard Michael Jordan said that basketball built a bridge between Oggie and the rest of his teammates. Even though he played a more European style of ball than the rest of the Quakers, it was still good basketball. "Athletics in general brings people together," Jordan said. "We all have a common goal -- to win games and do the best we can, and Oggie fits right into that." Oggie sat out the 1998-99 season due to NCAA transfer requirements but practiced with the team during the week. He also regained a sense of home, a sense of family, that his perpetual motion made necessary. "I had one of the best years of my life last year living with him and we really developed a strong bond," Vigor said. "I really appreciate him being here and I'm disappointed that we only got to hang out and go to school together for one year." "We're more like friends now -- very, very good friends," Oggie said. · The Kapetanovics feel a special sense of urgency regarding their family. With relatives spread throughout war-torn Yugoslavia and all its former parts, keeping in touch takes on a deeper meaning. "Over the years we realized how important it is to have a very strong family bond," Vigor said. "Basically, the traveling has made the bond between us as a family much stronger than anything. We've always had to stick together." Despite the family's rare mix of Croats, Bosnians, Jews, Muslims and Christians, Vigor said there isn't any bad blood among them. "For our family personally, it's not a source of confusion -- it's just the way we've been brought up," Vigor said. "Our whole family is a mixed-marriage family, if you want to put it that way. As a family it doesn't cause any confusion or any problems, but where it does cause a problem is people not understanding what's going on and having to explain it to them." · The story began in New York on May 16, 1978. But not really, because Oggie's story has no beginning. Oggie's story is one of inheritance and division, unity and discord, home and abroad. Oggie's story is Yugoslavia's story -- a story which begins and ends with time. He is everything and nothing. He is mixed-up, put together, torn apart and whole. Oggie is now writing the next chapter of his unending history, a chapter which he hopes will include a visit to Yugoslavia. "Right now, I don't know if that's going to be possible within a year," Oggie said. "But I definitely want to graduate and go back. That's my dream. It's a lot different over there, I just want to see.? A lot has changed, [I want] to go back to my memories." Oggie -- a son, a brother, a Canadian, a Yugoslav, a mover and a basketball player -- wants to go back to collect his fractured memories of Belgrade, to make himself whole once more.

Analysis: Defense rises to occasion with best performance of season against Tigers

(11/08/99 10:00am)

There's nothing like playing Princeton to make a team feel good about itself. The Penn defense got a much-needed pick-me-up, dominating the Tigers offense from start to finish and keying the Quakers' 41-13 demolition of Princeton Saturday. In fact, Penn defensive back Kunle Williams put up more points himself than the Tigers did all day. Williams returned two interceptions for touchdowns, including an electrifying 100-yard dash that put a big exclamation point on the Quakers' defensive effort. With the game already well in hand, Princeton mounted a drive late in the fourth quarter. A pass interference call on fourth-and-10 gave Princeton a first down at Penn's 11-yard line. On fourth-and-seven, a roughing the passer call again extended Princeton's drive, setting the Tigers up with first-and-goal from the three-yard line. Princeton quarterback Jon Blevins was smacked by defensive lineman Mike Germino as he released a pass, which Williams picked off and ran a record-setting 100 yards to paydirt. "My heart was pounding pretty hard," Williams said of his run. "I was just hoping my teammates were there for me, and they came through." Williams' first pick came after Blevins came in for starter Tommy Crenshaw, who was knocked out of the game with a bruised elbow. On Blevins' first play of the game, Williams intercepted his pass and ran 41 yards for his first score. "[Blevins] stares at where he's going to throw it, so if we were to look at the quarterback we could pretty much tell where he was going," Williams said. The improved performance by the Penn secondary, which was torched for 440 passing yards against Brown two weeks ago, owed much to a relentless rush that spent most of the afternoon in the Princeton backfield. Penn linebacker and co-captain Jim Hisgen was all over the field, leading the Quakers with 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. Germino chipped in three tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble, and hounded Crenshaw and Blevins all game long. "They're really a technically sound offensive line, but they're not aggressive at all," Germino said. "My thinking was just bull rush them as hard as possible, then after that make your move." The intense pressure did not allow either Princeton quarterback time to throw the ball and held the Tigers to a paltry 1.1 yards per rush. Princeton tailback Cameron Atkinson, who had come into the game averaging almost four yards per carry, averaged minus-0.8 yards a carry on Saturday. "They just beat us one-on-one on the line," Princeton wide receiver Phil Wendler said. "We weren't getting any time to throw the ball. What are you going to do when the quarterback's getting hit on every play?" With the offense only putting up two field goals by halftime, the defensive effort was especially important. The Quakers "D" kept the Tigers at bay until the Penn offense started to click against a tired Princeton defense. Penn forced five turnovers, giving its offense short fields to work with, and held Princeton to just four-of-17 on third downs. "If the offense is going four-and-out every time, it makes it really tough for [our defense] because they get no rest," Wendler said. "Basically our o-line's gotta give our quarterback some more time and open up some holes for our running game." Germino thought that prior to Saturday's pasting, the Penn defense had only played two solid halves all year -- the second half at Columbia and the second half at Yale. "We hadn't put a full game together," Germino said. "Today we came out and played a whole football game." It's just too bad for Penn's sake that they didn't schedule Princeton earlier than Week Eight.

Powerful Penn RB Ryan gives glory to God in standout sophormore campaign

(11/06/99 10:00am)

Quiet and reverent, Kris Ryan is posting one of the best seasons in Penn history. It's first-and-10. The Dartmouth defense is stacking the box. Kris Ryan -- all 6'0" and 235 pounds of him -- takes Gavin Hoffman's handoff off guard and bursts through the line like a runaway train. All he sees before him is 48 yards of electric green Franklin Field turf. And the end zone. Ryan scores his first collegiate touchdown. He takes one knee, bows his head and says, "God, thank you." · 1 Peter 5:7 -- Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you. · That's Ryan's favorite passage. Before the Dartmouth game, Ryan was a wreck. In fact, before every game, Ryan is a mess of anxiety and nerves. "I've always been notorious for getting really nervous before games, I have butterflies and I start getting sick," Ryan said. "[1 Peter is] a really good passage for me, to know that He's in control of the game and I really don't have anything to worry about, just go have fun." Ryan played both ways at Northgate High School in Pittsburgh, winning All-Conference honors at running back and middle linebacker. He made just about every special teams tackle last year as a freshman at Penn. This year he emerged as the starting tailback and turned in one of the single greatest rushing performances in Penn football's 123-year history. And he still gets nervous. "Initially, I was a mess going into camp," Ryan said. "I had never been away from home for a long period of time. It was a little scary coming from a small school. "But football is football. Once you get that first hit, it's business as usual." Until that first hit, though, Ryan depends on his Ritual. Ryan rolls into the locker room with headphones on, listening to the Christian rap group Cross Movement. He gets taped, and then starts reading the Bible. He flips through it, not looking for any one passage in particular, but waiting for God to put one in his heart. He prays, and is content, because he knows the game is in God's hands. Ryan has cast all his anxieties unto Him, and He will take care of the rest. · Matthew 5:5 -- Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. · Ryan moved around a lot during his childhood; he was born in Edison, N.J., and finally settled with his mother in McKeesport, just outside of Pittsburgh, when he was six years old. A previous stint in Virginia made him a Redskins fan, and a love for football made him a Walter Payton fan. At a very early age, Ryan decided football was going to be an important part of his life. "In elementary school, I was very artistic," Ryan said. "I liked to draw a lot, and I'd always draw my football cards -- different teams I was playing for and the stats on the back." There in the back of the classroom, while the other kids were raising hell, little Kris Ryan was quietly hatching a dream. In some ways, he hasn't changed all that much. "He's a quiet kid," Penn captain Carmelo Rubano said. "He's friendly with everyone. He's not really that loud or that wild. He just stays to himself a little bit. He's a little shy, you could say." Penn coach Al Bagnoli said that Ryan is the kind of player every coach loves. "[He's] very humble, keeps a very even keel," Bagnoli said. "He certainly has a very good disposition. He really does not think overly much of himself, doesn't boast." He just scores touchdowns -- and thanks God. · Romans 14:7-8 -- We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. · After a string of bad experiences, Ryan's mother, Kim Batch, moved her family out of McKeesport and up to Pittsburgh's North Side. "She had always had sort of a relationship with God, but wasn't close to God," Ryan said. "She started going to a church just to see what it was like. "She became saved, and just watching her and the people around me, then I became saved. It's really just gone from there." Ryan was 13 years old when he was baptized, when he put his life in God's hands. From that moment forward, everything he did, he did for the glory of God, an attitude that has continued into his college career. "A lot of people think [religion in sports] is just a cliche and people just say it to say it, but he really means it," said teammate Dave Kiehn. "God's really working miracles in his life every day." And once Ryan got to Penn, God called on him right away. With Roy Aneed and Pat Altman not playing on the team this season, Ryan and fullback Kiehn assumed the leadership of the team Bible study group. "Trying to do some work for God, trying to further His Kingdom has brought us closer together," Ryan said. "If we see something that catches our eye, or God puts something in our hearts, we want to present it to everybody. We encourage people to go home and read their Bible, so if they see something, we can discuss it." The study group does not only discuss the Bible, but also real life -- in particular, the temptation to stray from a faithful Christian lifestyle at college. "Sometimes it gets difficult, especially being an athlete, because you're a lot more open to attack when you're an athlete," Ryan said. "The girls are everywhere, and the drinking and drugs are everywhere. A lot of times, you slip up. "The good thing is that God forgives, and the second thing is you just have to remain focused and understand that all this stuff is not you, this isn't what you need to be." While prayer circles after games and kneeling after touchdowns is becoming a more common occurrence in college and professional football, at Penn it remains a bit of a novelty. "I think it happens, some people just do it more discretely than others," Rubano said. "Kris is very religious. Before games, he's praying, reading his Bible. It's not awkward to see him do it, so Praise the Lord, I guess." Ryan takes the rarity of religious display in Penn athletics as a challenge from God. "This is funny -- a lot of people are a lot closer to God than people think," he said. "A lot of people know a lot more but they don't really show it. And a lot of times, God puts people in positions like myself where if they see me doing it, they're like, 'Oh, it's OK to do that.' "I think that's one of the reasons I'm here -- so I can be an example to other people that it's all right to live for God in everything that you do." · Exodus 20:12 -- Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. · In different phases of his life, family has meant different things to Ryan. There was a couple-year period where Ryan himself had to be man of the house, but that didn't bother him. "There was a while there when my mom was single, I had to take care of my sister," Ryan said. "Thinking back on it, it might have been difficult, but at the time it was just what I had to do." Ryan's stepfather filled the gap for Ryan and his family. "He played high school ball, and he's also been there," Ryan said. "He was someone I looked up to. When I saw his old scrapbooks, when he was in high school running for 250 yards a game, I said I want to be like that." · 1 Corinthians 10:31 -- So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. · Ryan does not know whether his childhood dreams of pro ball will pan out. But he isn't really worried either. It's in God's hands. "God gives you opportunities to do different things, and I believe this, if you're good enough to go to the NFL you'll be seen and you'll be in contact," he said. As for a fallback in case the NFL does not come knocking? "I have no idea. I'm taking it a day at a time," Ryan said. "Gotta get those papers done, you know what I mean? Get the papers done, and then we'll see." Naturally Ryan thinks about heeding the call to ministry, furthering God's Kingdom for a living. "My mom talks about it all the time; I think that'd be something she'd like to see," Ryan said. "It's also in the back of my mind. It's in God's hands." In his 19 years on Earth, Ryan has done a lifetime's worth of living. But he cherishes his life experience as a divine gift. "What you go through determines who you are," Ryan said. "Everything happens for a reason. God makes you go through certain things to make you who you're going to be." Kris Ryan's future is certainly uncertain. The NFL remains a very real possibility for Ryan, who needs to average 147 yards a game the rest of the season to break Penn's single-season rushing record -- as a sophomore. The only thing that is certain is that Kris Ryan will continue to find the Franklin Field end zones on a regular basis. And he will continue to take one knee, bow his head and pray. And Penn fans will join Ryan in saying, "God, thank you."

Penn dedicates new wrestling room

(10/22/99 9:00am)

The Penn wrestling team just got a brand new $500,000 facility to go with its brand new No. 10 national ranking. The Pottruck Wrestling Complex, donated by former Penn wrestler and current University Trustee David Pottruck, officially opened yesterday in Hutchinson Gymnasium with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the event. The ceremony, led by Pottruck, Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky and Quakers wrestling coach Roger Reina, was attended by about 40 Penn wrestling alumni, current wrestlers and other members of the Penn athletic community. Pottruck, the president and chief executive officer of Charles Schwab, wrestled at Penn from 1966 to 1970 and was an assistant coach for two additional years. The creation of the Pottruck Wrestling Complex comes in conjunction with plans to build the new David S. Pottruck Health and Fitness Center at Gimbel Gymnasium, to which Pottruck donated $10 million. "When I gave my gift last spring for the new health and fitness center, I also wanted to do something more for the wrestling program and give them a world-class college wrestling facility, because I think we have a world-class team," Pottruck said. The facility, located on the bottom floor of Hutch, features a bigger mat workout area, new fitness and weight training sections and self-contained lockers and showers. The complex also includes a new reception area where parents and recruits can watch practices, and a video area for viewing match tapes. The new complex is the final step in a process of revamping the wrestling facilities that began several years ago. "I gave money about four or five years ago to redo the wrestling room the first time," Pottruck said. "We made a whole bunch of structural changes, and that's when they originally named it the Pottruck Wrestling Room." During the ceremony, two of the team's captains, seniors Brett Matter and Bandele Adeniyi-Bada, presented Pottruck with a framed drawing by senior Mike Gadsby -- a Penn 184-pounder -- in appreciation of Pottruck's long-standing relationship with the Penn wrestling program. Pottruck said that his relationship with the team has intensified over the past several years. In that time, Penn has risen from an Ivy League contender to a national powerhouse; this year, the Quakers garnered their first-ever top-10 ranking in the National Wrestling Coaches Association preseason poll. "This is a really defining moment in the history of the wrestling program at the University of Pennsylvania," Reina said. "While I won't make any predictions in terms of outcomes, I will definitely make this guarantee to you: We will train like champions every day in this room and we'll do it with pride." Reina said the complex is "as good a facility or better" than most of the wrestling facilities in the nation. Bilsky said that the Pottruck complex is just one of a number of projects on tap for the Athletic Department. Along with the wrestling complex and the health and fitness center, a new baseball stadium is scheduled to be completed in the spring. The site of the old baseball field, Bower Field, has already been converted for recreational use. And finally, plans are in the works for renovating the concourses in the Palestra this spring.

Columbia rover Bivens delivered one of 1998's biggest hits

(10/14/99 9:00am)

The Penn football team visits Columbia and senior roving linebacker jason Bivens, who put a hurt on Jason McGee in '98. Astute Penn football fans will remember Jason Bivens. Jason McGee sure does. McGee, the former Quakers tailback, got to know Bivens a little more intimately than he would have liked last year in Penn's 20-0 victory over Columbia. When quarterback Matt Rader hung a pass in the flat intended for McGee, Bivens charged in and laid McGee out with a hit so wicked it landed him on SportsCenter. "I was just sitting out there," Bivens said. "[The defensive plan was] for me to be guarding the flat and looking for any backs coming out of the backfield. I had my eyes on him the entire play, and once he came out there I just reacted." Reaction is the name of Bivens' game at Columbia, where the senior captain starts at the rover position, a fourth linebacker in the Lions' unique 4-4 defensive front. Basically, Bivens must be a jack-of-all-trades at rover, expected to stuff the run as well as cover wide receivers. Throughout his whole career Bivens has been versatile, garnering all-league recognition at both quarterback and defensive back at St. Mary's College High School in Richmond, Calif. When he arrived at Columbia, he jumped into the role of running back. As a freshman, he was Columbia's fourth-leading rusher, and as a sophomore he set school records for rushes in a season and rushes in a game. Bivens even got the chance to play some quarterback last season while growing into his linebacking duties. "He had two offensive touchdowns [at quarterback]," Columbia coach Ray Tellier said. "We're not doing that now but he ran a little bit of an option last year. Early in the year he had a couple of short runs in a wishbone set." But this season Bivens has steadily evolved into the rover Tellier envisioned. "I get a good mix of dealing with receivers and tight ends and backs in all different sorts of places on the field," Bivens said. "Generally most teams like to split me out by putting a wide receiver to my side of the field, so I'm more of a defensive back/linebacker." With eight men stacked in the box and only three defensive backs to look after the passing game, the ability of the rover is essential to Columbia's success. "On any outside run toward him, he's the primary run supporter," Tellier said. "And he also has to be a good enough athlete -- like a defensive back and having corner skills -- to be able to play man-to-man on good wide receivers." Bivens has been up to the task thus far, recording 39 tackles (30 solo), two sacks and four forced fumbles last year. For someone who's only 5'8" and 185 pounds, Bivens certainly plays big. But, as he will tell you, size doesn't matter -- it's how you use it. "When [big players] are going up against a smaller guy, people who aren't truly good players will take it for granted that their size is going to give them an advantage," Bivens said. "So I tend to use that in my thinking and say I need to be overly aggressive and always try to challenge myself to play up to my full capabilities, because I can't allow myself to fall below that, being that I'm already at somewhat of a disadvantage due to my size." Bivens chose Columbia without knowing much about the Ivy League, the East Coast or New York City. But he said that Columbia's strong academics in the "hub of the world" were alluring, but he did not know quite what to expect from the Ancient Eight. "Typically you hear a lot of things that demean Ivy League football," Bivens said. "But I think the only thing that seems to diminish or to take away from Ivy League football is just the lack of scholarships.? I wouldn't say support from the academic insitution, but financially and administratively I don't think the institutions without scholarship athletes tend to give as much credit to athletics as they need to." At Columbia, Bivens has made a name for himself by doing just about everything short of kicking punts. The second team All-Ivy pick admitted that it was by design. "One of the reasons I chose Columbia is because it wasn't a good football team when I first got here and I didn't really feel like I wanted to go somewhere where I was just going to be a beast," Bivens said. "I wanted to go somewhere and have a significant impact." From just about everywhere on the field, this jack-of-all-trades has made an impact -- on Columbia and on its opponents.

COLUMN: Cubs fan just wants Sox to win

(10/13/99 9:00am)

Dear Red Sox, For as long as I can remember, I have rooted for the Cubs. I'm from Chicago, from the North Side. The Cubs are in my blood, part of me, like another limb that sprouts just for the summer months and tucks itself away in October. I remember 1984, when I saw my first baseball game at Wrigley Field and Ron Cey hit a grand slam against the Astros. I remember cheering for Jody Davis, No. 7, the catcher, and I remember how he was my sister's first love (Jody Davis first made me realize how cool it was to be a ball player). I vaguely remember as a boy of seven seeing the headlines in The Chicago Tribune telling the sad, sad story of another Cubs tragedy -- "Padres beat Cubs, Advance to Face Tigers." I remember August 8, 1988, and the first time they put up lights in Wrigley Field. It rained out that night. I remember 1989 -- rookie first baseman Mark Grace, Ryno, Shawon Dunston. I remember skipping school to go to day games at Wrigley, how cool my friends and I felt changing out of our school uniforms into jeans and Cubs T-shirts. I remember the Giants beating the Cubs in five, Will the Quill we called him and were secretly happy when the earthquake hit. And I remember all the years in between, the Jerome Waltons and Hector Villanuevas, the Keith Morelands and Rick Sutcliffes. I even remember the stuff before I was born -- the pennant in 1945, the last title in 1908, the crosstown classic in 1906, Tinkers to Evers to Chance, Gabby Hartnett's "homer in the gloamin'." The memories are infused in me, like the Sunday afternoon sun in the bleachers. It's with me still, like a disease. I am ridden with the memories of 91 years of failure, eating away at my soul with no cure in sight. That's why you have to win, Red Sox. You have to win it all, Boston, because I need a cure. Every Cubs fan needs a cure. There's no light at the end of our tunnel but you have the chance to erase 81 years of your own cursed history. You have the opportunity to make everyone forget about dumb trades, grounders to first, big red machines. And maybe, just maybe, we Cubs fans can sneak a vicarious thrill. Maybe your winning will give us that most awful word in the Cubs fans' vocabulary -- "hope," and get us talking about the second and third most heinous words -- "next" and "year." See, the thing is, you Red Sox aren't just doing this for yourselves. You're not just doing this for Red Sox fans, or for Cubs fans. It goes much deeper than that. You are playing for Archibald "Moonlight" Graham. You are playing for Shoeless Joe Jackson. You are playing for the kid that was too short to get on the big roller coaster in fourth grade. So win it. Win it for the player that never made the Big Show, win it for the 1980 U.S. Hockey team, win it because people will come, Ray, win it for the kid that was too shy to talk to his high school crush. Win it for everything that makes sport sport. Win it for everything that makes life life. Win it for yourselves, your mothers, your fathers, your fans, the Cubs. But most of all, win it for me. Sincerely, Brian Hindo

Ryan leads Football over Rams

(10/11/99 9:00am)

The Quakers rode kris Ryan's four touchdowns and 256 yards rushing to a 35-18 win over struggling Fordham. You can't fault Fordham for trying. The Rams (0-5) came into Franklin Field with the right game plan on Saturday, but in the end Penn (2-2) was simply too much for the inexperienced and still winless Fordham, who lost 35-18. Tailback Kris Ryan turned in the third-best running performance in Quakers history, rushing for 256 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries, good for 7.3 yards-per-carry average. That alone would have been enough to sink the Rams, but Quakers quarterback Gavin Hoffman went 14-of-29, chipping in 135 passing yards and a touchdown throw to Brandon Carson. While Fordham tried to force the Quakers into throwing situations by bringing eight-man fronts, the strategy ultimately worked against the Rams. "We packed our two safeties in the box and we did not want to let Penn go four, five, six yards a clip and control the clock so we just tried to outnumber them in the run game," Fordham coach Dave Clawson said. "[But] whenever your safeties are that involved in the run support, all it takes is one missed tackle and you have a 50-yard play." On multiple occasions, the 6'0", 235-pound Ryan burst through the line and broke simple off-tackle runs into huge plays. On the Quakers' second drive of the day, Ryan single-handedly took Penn 70 yards on four carries. After runs of nine, four and 10 yards, Ryan burst through the line for a 52-yard touchdown scamper. Ryan then broke through for a 30-yard run to the Fordham one-yard-line midway through the second quarter, setting up his second touchdown of the day, a one-yard dive into the end zone. On the ensuing Fordham drive, Rams tailback Al Lundy coughed up the ball, which Penn defensive lineman Mike Germino recovered at the Fordham eight-yard line. Although an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the Quakers back 15 yards, two Ryan runs set up Hoffman's touchdown pass to Carson, a nine-yard throw which Carson corralled with one hand while falling away. That gave Penn a commanding 21-3 lead going into the half. At times in the second half, it appeared there might be a repeat of Fordham's comeback effort last season, when Penn won 34-31 after leading 34-14 in the third quarter. Ryan broke an off-right-tackle run for a 43-yard touchdown score on Penn's first drive of the half but Fordham scored 15 points in the third quarter to pull within 10 at 28-18. Fordham sophomore quarterback Matt Carney hit wide receiver Gerry McDermott for a 25-yard touchdown completion with 9:41 remaining in the third quarter. McDermott, who had three touchdown catches against the Quakers last year, struck again later in the period. Carney's replacement, junior Matt Georgia, hit freshman wideout Kendal Creer for a 77-yard completion, bringing the ball to the Penn three-yard line. That pass was Fordham's first third-down conversion of the game; it set up a three-yard fade pass from Georgia to McDermott in the end zone. But Penn, behind Ryan and his mammoth performance, staved off the Fordham scare. Ryan added his fourth touchdown soon after and Penn linebacker Jim Hisgen stuffed a critical Fordham fourth-down rushing attempt for a loss late in the fourth quarter. "I think they had a sound game plan," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "They see the inconsistencies. If you were trying to defend us, I think you'd want to try to get us into a situation where we had to throw the ball to win the game." But even when the Quakers had to throw, the sometimes-erratic Hoffman gave his most consistent effort to date in a Penn uniform. Hoffman spread the ball around to seven different receivers and averaged 9.6 yards a completion. On the other side of the ball, the Penn defense frustrated the Fordham offense all day. After allowing 31 points and 333 passing yards to the Rams last year, the Quakers consistently forced Fordham into third-and-long situations. "Our main game plan was to keep them at third and long, so we could game plan for them to pass the ball, and then we could run our blitzes and stunts off that," said Hisgen, who led the Quakers with seven tackles, two of them for losses. Once the Quakers had third-and-longs, they took advantage. Fordham converted only 1-of-15 third down plays. Much of Fordham's failure was due to intense pressure form Penn's defensive line. Jason Maehr had four tackles and two sacks and Germino chipped in two tackles for loss while picking up a sack and a fumble recovery. But Fordham's inexperience was evident. The Rams started 11 freshmen and sophomores on Saturday, and at times played like it. Penn's bigger, more experienced offensive line manhandled the Fordham front four, which averages a mere 242.5 pounds compared to the Penn offensive line's 265-pound average. Clawson also pointed to the series just before the first half ended as evidence of his team's need to learn. Kick returner Marcus Stinson, a freshman, bobbled Roman Galas' kickoff in the end zone, then tried to run it out but was tackled at his one-yard line, barely avoiding going down for a safety. Then, with Fordham simply trying to run out the clock before halftime, the sophomore Lundy fumbled the ball, allowing Penn to steal another touchdown before the half. Although Fordham's eight-man front was good in theory, in practice the Rams did not have the personnel to pull it off. But it did serve as good practice for the Quakers, who next week begin the rest of their Ivy League schedule at Columbia, a team known for using eight-man fronts.

McDermott gives Rams spark

(10/07/99 9:00am)

Wideout Gerry McDermott has been one of Fordham's few bright spots this year. The Penn secondary has no excuse this time because now they have advance warning -- Gerry McDermott is coming to town. Last year, McDermott caught nine passes for 125 yards against the Quakers, sparking a Fordham comeback that almost won the game for the Rams. McDermott, the most prolific wide receiver in Fordham history, stands out as one of the few bright spots in a Rams season that has been nothing but bleak thus far. Winless Fordham has been outscored 167-45 in its four games this season, but as for McDermott, he's been doing his part. The graduation of record-setting quarterback Steve O'Hare and his backup Dan Madine produced a controversy of sorts for first-year Fordham coach Dave Clawson. Sophomore Mark Carney emerged as the starter and has learned quickly to depend on McDermott, a second team All-Patriot League selection at receiver last season. Already this season, McDermott has amassed 259 yards on 22 receptions. And with his 18-yard scoring catch in a 42-14 loss at Cornell two weeks ago, he set the Fordham record for career touchdown receptions with 22. Although Fordham's offense has been, well, offensive, for most of the year, McDermott continues to turn in solid performances every Saturday despite a new quarterback and a new head coach. In Fordham's first game of the year -- a 49-7 whipping at the hands of Lehigh -- McDermott had nine receptions for 95 yards against the third-best pass defense in Division I-AA. But record-setting and turning heads is nothing new to McDermott. The 6'3", 204-pound receiver cut his teeth at St. Peter's Prep in Kearny, N.J., where the team won a state championship in 1995, his senior season. En route to the title, he broke the school's career and seasonal receiving records and also set the single-season scoring record. Unfortunately for the Quakers, success for McDermott against the Red and Blue is nothing new either. Last year, Penn eked out a 34-31 victory at Jack Coffey Stadium in a game that was a lot closer than it should have been -- thanks in large part to McDermott. He and O'Hare each turned in monster performances, leading an improbable Rams comeback that almost dealt Penn a disheartening defeat. The Quakers, led by quarterback Matt Rader, marched all over the Rams, going up 34-14 midway through the fourth quarter. But Rader went out with a mysterious laceration on his arm and the McDermott-and-O'Hare show began. McDermott, already with two touchdown catches on the day, grabbed a three-yard scoring catch, bringing the score to 34-21 and igniting the Rams' run. Of O'Hare's 325 passing yards, 125 that day went to McDermott. But when Fordham's offense stalled, Penn ran out the clock to hold on for a wild, three-point victory. Memories of McDermott and the comeback that wasn't should be fresh in the minds of the Penn secondary on Saturday. Free safety Hasani White and cornerback Joey Alofaituli both started last year against Fordham and after the game White said the Penn defense "was on [its] heels the whole game." White, Alofaituli and the rest of the Quakers secondary might want to pay extra attention to McDermott this time, lest they end up as footnotes in his record book.

COLUMN: bucknell better watch out

(09/28/99 9:00am)

Poor Bucknell. It happens to them every year. And this year, it's bound to happen again. It's safe to assume that last Saturday's 34-6 drubbing at the hands Villanova, the 14th-ranked team in Division I-AA, will be the Quakers' most humbling -- if not only --Eloss this year. And it's also safe to assume that Villanova's victory, like Richmond's victory over the Quakers last year, spells doom for the endangered Bison. You almost have to feel sorry for Bucknell. Imagine how good the Patriot League team must have felt on Saturday after coming from behind to vanquish Delaware State 38-28, bringing its record to 3-1. Here the Bison stood, poised to come to Philadelphia in a week and take advantage of a tired bunch of Quakers who had just slugged out a Big 5 battle with crosstown rival 'Nova. That is, until 8:03 that night, when the final whistle blew at Franklin Field. If Penn would have scored one touchdown, maybe Bucknell could feel OK. If the Villanova offense had sputtered in the least, maybe the Bison could rest easy. Instead, last Saturday's game was what coaches refer to as a "wake-up call." "I don't know where Penn is yet in their growth," Villanova coach Andy Talley said. "You get Penn in mid-season when they're convincingly on their way to being an Ivy champion, then they can line up in this game and score as many points as we do. "You get them into their second game and we're into our fourth game, maybe we're a little better team right now than they are in their progression." Last season Penn had just come off a defensive struggle against Dartmouth. The game wasn't pretty but Penn got the job done. Questions still swirled about quarterback Matt Rader's effectiveness. Enter the Richmond Spiders and their prolific offensive attack. Thirty-four points later, Penn found itself 1-1 with none of its questions answered. Sound familiar? A week after an ugly win over Dartmouth, a ranked, quicker, better opponent -- this time 'Nova -- puts 34 points on the board at Franklin Field, sending everyone into a frenzy. Well, fret not. This is how it's supposed to happen. It's all set-up for the Bucknell game. One look at the Bison secondary is all new quarterback Gavin Hoffman needs. By week four against Fordham, the Big Ten will wish he never left. After Bucknell, Rader and the Penn offense caught fire, scoring an average of 34.5 points per game en route to an Ivy League title. So don't feel bad for the Quakers and the loss. They were just doing what they were supposed to do -- getting ready for the rest of the year. A loss like last Saturday's can do different things to the Quakers. It can get them down and rattle their confidence. Not likely. It's more likely that Villanova's win will anger the Quakers. It will make them so angry that they won't want to lose another game the rest of the year. "The game's good for the University and it's good for the program," tailback Kris Ryan said. "Personally, I'd like to see [a game every year] because I'd like to play them again and try to win." Bad news Bucknell. Penn wants a win, badly. And you're up next.

After 20-year absence, 'Cats visit Football

(09/24/99 9:00am)

Penn hosts Big 5 rival Villanova at Franklin Field tomorrow. Local bragging rights are on the line tomorrow at Franklin Field, when Penn and Villanova square off in a showdown of Big 5 rivals. Despite the Big 5's popularity and penchant for intense matchups in college basketball, things have not been quite the same on the football side of the fence. When the Quakers (1-0) welcome the Division I-AA 14th-ranked Wildcats (2-1) to the West Side in a special Big 5 at 5 p.m. promotion, it will only be the teams' seventh meeting in history. Although the Red and Blue lead the all-time series 5-1, a Howie Long-led Villanova squad handed Penn a 34-3 drubbing in the teams' last encounter, November 8, 1980, before many Penn and Villanova students were even born. Penn anticipates a big crowd -- around 25,000 -- for the Big 5 matchup, thanks in part to the special $5 ticket price and the later 5 p.m. kickoff time. The increased numbers in the stands is a welcomed change of pace for the Quakers, whose top draw last year was 20,875 for the Homecoming game against Yale. "It's nice," Penn linebacker Jim Hisgen said. "I like playing for big crowds. Even when you get 10,000 people in this stadium, it looks like there's no one here. So it's just nice to see a lot of people cheering for you." For transfer quarterback Gavin Hoffman, however, the larger crowd is a bit of a non-issue. The sophomore transferred this year from Northwestern, and in the Big Ten, massive crowds are a way of life. "It'll be fun to get a big crowd out here for a night game but it's no big deal really," Hoffman said. "I've played in front of 90,000 and I've played in front of nine but I try just as hard." The 5:00 game time is also a departure of sorts for Penn, which normally plays its home games at 1:30 p.m. "It'll be tough sitting around all day thinking about the game," Hoffman said. "You'd rather just kind of wake up and play it. "But I had a couple night games last year. You just kind of take it easy during the day, watch college football. Playing at night's almost better in a sense because you get to loosen up the whole day." The Quakers will have much to think about in their extra three and a half hours. Villanova is coming off a 26-21 upset of Division I-AA national champion UMass last week and the week before dispatched Richmond, a team which defeated Penn 34-18 last year. Leading the Wildcats charge is an effective, balanced offensive attack. Villanova averages 350.7 yards per game, on the strength of quarterback Chris Boden and running back Ducarmel Augustin. Boden, a three-year starter, became the Atlantic 10's all-time touchdown pass leader with his two scoring strikes against Richmond. Tomorrow marks his 28th straight start and he comes in with a streak of at least one touchdown pass in each of those games. "It all starts with the trigger guy -- he's a terrific player.," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "Terrific in terms of understanding what they want done, terrific in getting the ball out of his hands, terrific in understanding what the defense is trying to do." Bagnoli said the Quakers defense, which all but shut down the Dartmouth offense last week, will give Boden plenty of different looks and coverages in an effort to keep him off-balance. "You have to try to keep him out of rhythm so the ball isn't coming out of his hands 1-2-3 and he throws," Bagnoli said. "Because if that happens it could get ugly." As if that wasn't enough to worry about, Augustin has emerged as the Villanova's surprise star this year. Wildcats coach Andy Talley gave Augustin the nod after All-American Brian Westbrook went out for the year with an injured left knee. Augustin has not disappointed, turning heads around the Atlantic 10 with a two-touchdown performance against Richmond and 122 yards on 13 carries against UMass. "We're going to make sure that everything is played at 100 percent and played to perfection, because if you make mistakes against this team, they're going to hurt you," Hisgen said. "There's nothing special [to prepare for]. We just want to make sure that we play hard and we play for 60 minutes."