Saturday, May 30, 2015

Quakers win one for Kyle Ambrogi

The Penn fullback who committed suicide last week was remembered on the field and off.

Originally published October 16, 2005.

NEW YORK - There were many symbols memorializing Penn fullback Kyle Ambrogi at Columbia University's Baker Field yesterday.

After the announced crowd of 10,131 observed a moment of silence in the Havertown, Pa., native's memory, the Quakers lined up for the kickoff wearing decals with Ambrogi's No. 31 on their helmets.

Even former Penn assistant coach Dan Staffieri, who now spends game days leading the student section in cheers, wore a blue cheesehead-style hat with Ambrogi's number on top.

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But perhaps the biggest tribute Penn paid to Ambrogi was the way it played in a 44-16 rout of the Lions on the banks of the Harlem River.

Ambrogi, a 21-year-old who suffered from depression, killed himself on Monday.

The Quakers' offense racked up 277 rushing yards over the course of the afternoon, scoring three of its five touchdowns on the ground. Two of those scores were by senior Sam Mathews. On both occasions, he brought back memories of Ambrogi by lowering his shoulder and barging his way into the end zone from the 1-yard line.

Mathews totaled 155 rushing yards on 21 carries, and junior Joe Sandberg added 95 yards on eight carries, including a 21-yard touchdown run.

"There was a lot of frustration, a lot of sadness," Mathews said. "For three hours today we were able to forget about everything and work on getting this game for Kyle. "

Coach Al Bagnoli echoed those sentiments.

"That was my hope. That once the game started, we were going to be an angry team," he said. "Angry at everything that happened, the lack of rationale for how something like this could happen, and play angry and play emotional, and I think we did that. "

The 15-year veteran of the Franklin Field sidelines added that he had "never been prouder of the team. This is as bad a duress as I think you can possibly put a team under. "

Columbia coach Bob Shoop was well-aware of the kind of mood Penn (4-1, 2-0) would be in coming in and the effect it would have on the Ivy League matchup.

"I kept saying to the guys that Penn would come out with tremendous emotion, and they did," he said. "They also came out with flawless execution. "

In the short term, Bagnoli said that Greg and Donna Ambrogi, Kyle Ambrogi's brother and mother, would get game balls when the team returned to Philadelphia.

In the long term, Penn linebacker Ric San Doval said the memory of Ambrogi would serve as plenty of motivation for the rest of the season.

"This isn't going to stop. It's going to continue on week to week," he said. "Everyone tries to play with a purpose. But when something like this occurs, this is the purpose. . . . We have someone up there watching over us."

For the Inquirer
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