Penn football still looking for a complete game

Penn's Billy Ragone led the Quakers on two touchdown drives late in the fourth quarter. (Marc Narducci/Staff)

A guest post from The Inquirer's Marc Narducci, who covered Sunday's Penn-Columbia football game at Franklin Field. Read his recap here or in the paper.

From a Penn perspective, the positive news is that the Quakers are very much in the running for the Ivy League football title. Penn is 2-3 overall, but 2-0 in the Ivy after Saturday’s comeback 24-20 win over Columbia. 

On the negative side, it’s the third straight game in qhich the Quakers have played only one good half, and they still haven’t put together a strong 60 minutes in any game. In its 28-21 win at Dartmouth to open conference play, the Quakers held a 20-0 halftime lead. 

Then came a 34-28 loss to William & Mary, in which Penn trailed 24-7 at intermission and made a serious second half run. The game ended after Penn failed to score on four plays from inside William & Mary’s 30-yard line. 

That was followed by Saturday’s win over Columbia, where Penn trailed just 6-3 at the half - but that was a deceptive score. Had Columbia not dropped several passes, the Lions could have almost put the game away. Penn had just 86 yards from scrimmage in the first half. 

"We should have been a lot more ready to play in the first half," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said Saturday. "I give Columbia credit for taking it to us and they dominated the first half, absolutely dominated."

After that, Bagnoli stated the obvious.

"We were fortunate, being as close to what we were," he said.

So now the tough part is figuring out how to put two good halves together in one game.

"We’re trying to get consistency and find our identity," Bagnoli said.

That’s a good point. Is this a running team or a passing team?

Penn ran for just 96 yards (3.2 average), while quarterback Billy Ragone completed 18 of 34 passes for 181 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Speaking of Ragone, after throwing five interceptions in the opening 28-21 loss to Lafayette, he hasn’t thrown a pick since.

It will be interesting if Penn becomes more of a passing team.

One thing Bagnoli said he should have done in the first half was go to the hurry-up offense. Penn was much more effective when it ran the no-huddle offense.

As Bagnoli pointed out, it’s much better to be able to figure things out after a win, then to have to learn from a loss.

One can only imagine how Penn’s fortunes can improve if they can play consistently for an entire game.

[An aside from me having watched the game separately: Penn was definitely able to pass the ball effectively against Columbia. Throwing a lot isn't Billy Ragone's strong suit, but Bagnoli definitely has a history of it - and winning with that style. We'll see what he does tactically Saturday when Penn travels north to visit a subpar Yale team at the Yale Bowl.]