Three Up, Three Down: Harvard Edition

Returns were mixed on last week's predictions. Conner Scott wasn't up at all, catching just one pass for seven yards. Jeff Jack didn't carry the load as much as I forecasted either, but Dave Twamley came up with an interception to save Penn's Ivy title hopes in the fourth quarter. So who's looking up and who's looking down against Harvard? 

Three Up —

Dave Twamley: Cornerbacks coach Jon Dupont told me this week that Twamley is “the grandpa of the secondary,” and his experience in defensive coordinator Ray Priore’s complex schemes has been evident all season. Twamley currently ranks second on the team in tackles and came up with the interception that preserved Penn’s Ivy title hopes in the fourth quarter last week.  Twamley mentioned that Harvard’s offensive strategic continuity from last year is making for an easier time dissecting the Crimson ‘O’ in the film room this week, so maybe Twamley’s studying will pay some dividends when it matters most and keep him on the up and up.

Conner Scott: One catch, seven yards.  That was Scott’s stat line at Princeton, and so he really has nowhere to go but up this week against Harvard’s seventh-ranked pass defense, its Achilles heel.   Dartmouth wide receiver Michael Reilly, whose receiving stats are very similar to Scott’s this season, burnt the Crimson for 12 catches, 165 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago, so Scott is capable of that kind of performance against Harvard as well.

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Guest Blog: Double B’s

Bradford's back for another week of post-game analysis. Mr. Blackmon gives us a little taste of what it may have been like on the field during a high-stakes matchup between Penn and Yale.

To say these two teams don't like each other would be an understatement.

From the coaches to the players on both sides, about the only thing they have in common is that they look forward each year to having the chance to release that dislike on a football field. If you noticed whenever there was a close-up after the plays there was a lot of talk going on between the teams and I can guarantee they weren't telling each other 'good play'. The intensity was evident through the force that each hit had behind it.

The first half was a defensive struggle that would make the traditional football fan happy. It was a grind-it-out, hit-them-in-the-mouth, struggle-for-every-inch type of game: the teams combined to allow 10 points total. At halftime, I can imagine Coach Priore stressing to the defense to keep up the pressure and continue getting shots at the quarterback whenever they can. The more you hit the quarterback, the more he's worrying about getting hit instead of making plays. The offense most likely received a similar message. It was not like they were not making plays on Yale's defense, Penn just was not finishing drives off with points.

If you were expecting the same type of game in the second half then you were in for a rude awakening. Yale came out in the second half airing it out and had great success doing it and grabbing a quick touchdown. After seeing Yale go the aerial route, Coach McLaughlin seemed to follow suit and opened up the playbook and allowed Billy to show off his arm; he hit Joe Holder for a touchdown in the back corner of the endzone. Yale quickly answered with a 60-yard touchdown to extend their lead back out to 10.

The 4th quarter was full of plays that kept fans jumping out of their seats. It seemed like Billy decided he was not going to allow his team to lose. He knows that on offense each play starts with the quarterback and it's his job to make sure the offense goes as planned. Early in the 4th quarter Billy called his own number and took a 40-yard QB keeper to the Yale 16-yard line and then found Luke Nawrocki running down the hash for a quick touchdown.

Then Coach Bagnoli made the call of the game. In a play that gets practiced for about 5 minutes during Sunday's walkthrough and another 5 minutes during Tuesday's practice, Bagnoli called a timely pooch kick to take the ball out of the deep returner's hands. That call could not have worked out better for Penn, as the ball dropped just in front of the up-man and was scooped up by a Penn player. Penn quickly put more points on the board behind the legs and arm of Billy Ragone.

Billy perhaps had his best statistical game of his career, tallying 330 yards of total offense and adding 4 touchdowns. The Quakers had 8 different players catch passes and 6 different players carry the ball. With that sort of offensive production and Penn's continued defensive dominance, it's not looking too good for the rest of the league.

Priore Defense

Penn Defensive Coordinator Ray Priore led the Quakers to one incredible season. The defense was one of the best in the nation, allowing only 9.5 points per game and 217.6 yards per game, the fewest in Division I (FCS and FBS). It's pretty obvious that the Quakers would not have won the Ivy League Championship without the defense's phenomenal play.

Priore has been at Penn for 23 years, the past 11 as defensive coordinator. This year, he is one of four finalists for the D1-AA Coordinator of the Year Awards, and I beleive you'd be hard-pressed to find a more deserving candidate. Thus, I encourage you all to vote online here.

The votes do not decide the award, but they are considered when a panel of current and former coaches and past winners chooses the winner.

If you need further convincing, there's more information about the 2009 Penn defense in the press release about the nomination and Priore's career here.