Holland receives Ivy League Offensive Player of Week honors

Two days after clinching the outright Ivy League title for the Quakers in his first career start, senior Andrew Holland received yet another award for his play against Cornell.

Holland was named the Ivy League’s Offensive Player of Week on Monday after finishing out the contest against the Big Red with two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing), and 255 passing yards.

He went 18-for-22 through the air, and came through when the Quakers needed him most.

With the game tied at 28, and the outright Ancient Eight crown on the line, Holland orchestrated a six play, 63-yard drive during which he completed all three of his passes for 38 yards, setting up a short touchdown run to take the lead.

His ability under pressure was evident at the end of the first half as
well. He drove the Quakers from their own 11 with just a minute
remaining in the half, and went 4-for-4 on the drive for 80 yards. The
drive culminated in a 41-yard touchdown pass to Jason Seifert.

The only other player on the Quakers to receive this honor this year
was fellow senior quarterback Billy Ragone.

This Week on 33rd Street: Nov. 16

Previewing our final Penn football game of the season, Senior Sports Ed. Megan Soisson, football writer John Phillips and I break down the Quakers' 30-21 win over Harvard (see story) and debate whether or not that momentum will carry over into Saturday's bout against Cornell in Ithaca with an outright Ivy League title on the line:

Three Up, Three Down: Cornell Edition

Breaking down last week’s Three Up Three Down is simple: the ups were right and the downs were wrong. That’s because the Quakers had to be on the up and up in every way to beat Harvard and they were. I predicted they’d be flagged a lot, struggle on third downs and struggle in the running game. They weren't, and they didn’t.

At least I nailed the positives, of which there were so many for Penn last week. Dave Twamley came up with another interception and Conner Scott had a few big catches, including a touchdown. And attendance was even pretty respectable. So who’ll be up and who’ll be down at Cornell?

Three Up —

Andrew Holland: This is Holland’s time to shine, and he couldn’t ask for a better setup for success. He’s going up against the Ivy League’s worst pass defense and looked more than tolerable under center in the final quarter against Harvard, throwing the dagger touchdown to Mitchell King. Up is better than backup, and Holland will get his moment.

Steve Lias: In his final collegiate game, Lias should keep up the stellar linebacker play of the last couple of weeks. Penn linebackers combined for six tackles for a loss and two sacks last week. Against Cornell’s mediocre offensive line, Lias and the rest of this linebacking corps should go out on top.

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Three Up, Three Down: Brown Edition

Last week’s predictions were hit or miss — Billy Ragone struggled more than I expected against Yale’s bottom-ranked scoring defense among Ivies. But I did call the Bulldogs’ gashing of Penn’s defensive front.  Ultimately, though, I would never have guessed that the egg that the Quakers laid at the Yale Bowl would be as big as it was.  So who’s up and who’s down against Brown? 

Three Up —

Tight ends:  In Joe Holder's absence and with Cameron Countryman not a safe bet just yet, tight ends Ryan Allen and Mitch King have been stepping up when needed as secondary targets for Ragone and Holland. King's 32-yard reception in the second quarter from Penn's own 10-yard line jumpstarted an 8-play, 89-yard drive that gave the Quakers their only touchdown of the game last week, and both TEs combined for three catches for 41 yards against Columbia. Brown will undoubtedly match two-time first-team All-Ivy cornerback A.J. Cruz up with Conner Scott, and that should make for quite a battle. Look for Penn's QBs to continue to look to King and Allen to exploit the rest of Brown's average secondary.

Dan Davis:  Davis led all Quakers at Yale with 10 tackles and showed flashes of impressive pursuit in both run and pass blitz situations. Still, his grasp of Penn's complex defensive schemes isn't quite where it needs to be per linebackers coach Dan Wood in this week's Penn Football Weekly.  Davis embodies the rest of the defense in that he has great athleticism, potential, and versatility (playing 11 different positions in high school), but he still isn't experienced enough to be great. Nevertheless, look for him to be a ballhawk Saturday.

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Three Up, Three Down: Columbia Edition

Last week’s predictions were hit and miss. We definitely got a heavy dose of short passes last week, but we did not see as much from Andrew Holland as expected. No QBs in this week’s list though:

Three Up-

Scott Lopano:  This one’s more of a no-brainer than you might think.  Lopano ranks seventh in the nation  in punting average with 43.9 yards per punt this year, including two over 50 yards.  He has pinned eight of his 18 punts inside the 20-yard line.  If Lopano is able to routinely pin Columbia’s anemic offense  deep in its own territory, it could be lights out for the Lions pretty quickly.

Ryan Mitchell: With Joe Holder out for the year and Conner Scott routinely drawing double coverages, look for Mitchell to get more touches in the passing game. Mitchell currently ranks fourth on the team in receiving yards and is tied for fourth in receptions with Holder. Columbia ranks sixth in passing defense and seventh in passing defense efficiency, so you’d expect Mitchell to take on a more prominent role against the Lions this week.

Sebastian Jaskowski: Jaskowski leads all Ivy defensive backs in tackles and ranks sixth in tackles overall.  He’s been a steady hand in what has often been a shaky secondary this season, and it’s hard to imagine him getting burned much by the worst passing offense in the conference.

Three Down-

Pass protection:  The Lions have three players with at least two sacks this year, led by 2010 and 2011 All-Ivy senior defensive end Josh Martin. Columbia ranks third in the Ivy League in sacks, and Penn allowed four sacks last week to William & Mary. One of the few feasible ways Columbia can pull off the upset is to get consistent pressure from up front on Ragone and benefit from resulting turnovers.

Lyle Marsh as a receiver: Offensive coordinator Jon McLaughlin told me this week that he wants to see more downfield success in the passing game in addition to the high-percentage throws Ragone seems most comfortable throwing.  This game is the perfect opportunity to hook up with receivers who can extend the field like Conner Scott, but it might mean less touches for Marsh as a receiver.  William & Mary blitzed often last week, making Marsh a great safety valve for Ragone to throw to. (Marsh had eight receptions for 47 yards.)  But seven of Columbia’s 11 sacks this season have come from the defensive line, suggesting that the Lions may not have to blitz so much to get pressure.  With Penn potentially looking downfield more and Columbia not likely to sell out with the blitz, Marsh’s value as a receiver diminishes.

Kick returners:  Dan Wilk and Dexter Davis may not get a lot of kickoffs to return because the odds are that the Lions won’t be scoring very much.  In this case, kick returners being down means the rest of the team is up.


Three Up, Three Down: The William & Mary Edition

Once again we predict three players whose stock will rise and three players whose stock will fall over the course of Penn’s clash with the Tribe on Saturday:

Three Up —

Andrew Holland: Penn will fight hard to win Saturday, but this game is about staying healthy as much as it is getting a ‘W'. Thus you can expect to see a heavier dose of Holland under center than usual this week as coach Al Bagnoli has always been quick to point out the “bumps and bruises” Ragone endures due to his hybrid style. William & Mary safeties Ivan Tagoe and Brian Thompson each have two interceptions and the team has seven picks total in just five games this season, and no matter who the Penn QB is, the Tribe is going to force the Quakers to go deep. Enter Holland.

Dan Wilk: If only because he’s “up” every game. Last week he led the Quakers with eight tackles and registered a sack, one of only four Penn has notched all season. He also has one of only two Penn interceptions so far in 2012. Wilk is also the only defensive back with a sack and simply one of the few explanations in an otherwise weak secondary for Penn’s No. 1-ranked pass defense among Ivies. (Yes, it's true.) There’s no reason why Wilk’s solid play shouldn’t continue against William & Mary’s strained aerial attack.  Continue reading

This Week on 33rd Street: Sept. 28

On this edition of This Week on 33rd Street, Senior Sports Editor Megan Soisson sits down with Sports Editor and football writer Alyssa Kress to discuss what went wrong in Penn's 24-8 loss to Villanova and what needs to improve if the team hopes to open its Ivy season with a win at Dartmouth:

Three Up, Three Down: The Dartmouth Edition

We're excited to have a new segment on The Buzz called Three Up, Three Down, in which we predict three players whose stock will rise and fall over the course of upcoming games.

Look for the following threesome to be thriving after Penn's Ivy opener at Dartmouth on Saturday:

Three Up —

Billy Ragone: Quite simply, this is Ragone’s time. He found his groove in Dartmouth’s backyard last year after a slow start, and it would be no coincidence if he were to do it again Saturday. The Big Green ranked dead last in the Ivy League in rushing defense a year ago, and they can be expected to once again set Ragone up to tuck and run. That usually translates into a more confident aerial attack from him.

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Mano-A-Mano: Pass vs. Run

This week, we’re breaking from Mano-A-Mano tradition and having a Womano-A-Womano.

So far this season, it’s clear the Quakers rely more on their passing game than their running game. But should that be the case? Senior Sports Editor Megan Soisson and football beat writer Anna Strong break down the Penn offense and debate which unit is serving the Red and Blue better.

Anna Strong: Of the 723 yards of total offense the Quakers have through the first two games of the season, 486 of them — roughly 67 percent — have come from passing. Penn completes 63 percent of its attempts and averages 10.3 yards per catch.

Averaging a first down per reception is a good sign, and the fact that 27 of Penn’s 39 first downs came from passes shows that Ragone and Holland are capable of making those crucial plays.

Megan Soisson: That first down stat is padded because Penn chooses to pass the ball 57 percent of the time, though most of that came in the first week. And Penn can’t find a happy medium through the air — it’s either seven interceptions or 142 yards. Neither is impressive. Continue reading

No QB controversy, according to Bagnoli

There have been a lot of questions surrounding the quarterback situation between Billy Ragone and Andrew Holland for Penn football (see Mano-A-Mano). But according to coach Al Bagnoli, it's far from a controversy.

Here is what he had to say:

“They’ll both play. Hopefully people aren’t trying to make this a quarterbacking controversy. It’s really nothing like that. It’s [good] to have kids that can both help you win Ivy games and hopefully Ivy League championships. Continue reading