Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bagnoli goes out a winner as Penn drops Cornell

Ithaca, NY -- In a difficult season, one in which the Quakers found themselves at the bottom of the Ivy League -- an unfamiliar position for the last generation -- at least Al Bagnoli went out a winner.

In his last game for University of Pennsylvania football, his team produced a 34-26 victory over Cornell at Schoellkopf Field on Saturday afternoon.

Senior Spencer Kulcsar had three receiving touchdowns (one shy of the single-game school record), 187 receiving yards (sixth-most in a game at Penn) and added 11 receptions for a total of 83 catches this season (two shy of the school record).

Alek Torgersen threw for 331 yards, and ran for 86 and another score, in addition to his three touchdown tosses to Kulcsar.

Bagnoli concluded his illustrious 33-year coaching career with a 234-99 overall career record and a 148-80 mark in 23 seasons at Penn. He finished with the most wins in school history, the second-most Ivy League wins in Ancient Eight history (111) and an all-time record nine outright Ivy League championships.

Cornell scored on the game's opening possession. A 32-yard touchdown pass was followed by one of the more humorous storylines of the game -- Cornell's extra point attempts. The first of three straight misses was due to a bobbled snap and left the score at 6-0.

Penn got on the board after a 26-yard punt return from Kulcsar set up the Quakers at the Cornell 23. Four plays later, Kulcsar, who finished with 230 all-purpose yards, hauled in a pass from Torgersen and ran in from four yards out to give Penn a 7-6 lead at the 6:13 mark of the first quarter.

Cornell took the lead back on the second play of the second quarter. But the five-yard rush was followed by an extra point that sailed wide left and Penn's deficit was only 12-7.

Penn needed just five plays to go back ahead. A 21-yard pass to Eric Fiore was followed by a 36-yard catch and run from Justin Watson, and then a seven-yard touchdown grab from Kulcsar, who raced to the pylon and put Penn up 14-12.

Cornell went on top again with a 51-yard touchdown pass, but sophomore Donald Panciello blocked the extra point and the Big Red lead was 18-14 with 4:23 left until the half.

Once again, Torgersen and the Penn offense immediately responded. The Quakers went 75 yards in just 2:35. A 21-yard screen pass to sophomore Brian Schoenauer set up the Quakers in the red zone and led to Torgersen's 1-yard touchdown plunge. That late first-half score gave the Quakers a 21-18 lead at the break.

Just three minutes into the second half, Kulcsar found the end zone for a third time -- on the longest play of the season. Torgersen lofted a perfectly-placed pass down the sideline that fell into Kulcsar's arms around the Penn 45. He outmaneuvered and outraced the Big Red defenders from there for a 78-yard touchdown and 28-18 lead.

Penn added to its lead when Schoenauer capped a 94-yard drive with his first career touchdown. The Quakers took over from their own six-yard line when senior captain Evan Jackson batted down a pass in the end zone on fourth-and-goal. The Red and Blue then marched down field and Schoenauer finished off the 14-play possession for a 34-18 advantage with 7:53 to play.

Cornell made it interesting down the stretch with a touchdown and two-point conversion to close to within 34-26 with 4:07 to go. Penn used up most of the clock on the ensuing possession, but the Big Red got the ball back with 35 seconds left. They got to midfield, but a harmless pass floated incomplete as time expired.

Torgersen was 26-of-37 and finished the season with 260 completions (second-most all-time at Penn) and a school record 421 attempts. Watson matched a career-best with six catches for 77 yards and finished his rookie season with multiple receptions in every game, while Schoenauer had a career-high 58 rushing yards and caught a pair of passes for 23 yards. In all, Penn finished with a season-high 492 yards of offense.

Conner Scott caught a pass for the 28th straight game and finished his career with 151 catches (fourth-most all-time at Penn), 1,762 receiving yards (fifth-most all-time at Penn), and 11 touchdown catches (eighth-most all-time at Penn).

On Dec. 1, Ray Priore will officially take on the title as the George A. Munger Head Coach of Football at Penn -- only the 22nd head coach in program history.
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