Story and photo courtesy of Penn Athletics
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Sophomore kicker Connor Loftus connected on two field goals in the final 1:25 of play - the first from a career-long 45 yards to tie the game, the second from 30 yards out with 17 seconds to play - as the University of Pennsylvania football team downed Brown, 20-17, in front of an ecstatic Homecoming crowd of 13,569 at Franklin Field Saturday afternoon.
With its second straight dramatic home victory, Penn (3-4, 3-1 Ivy) moved into a first-place tie atop the Ivy standings with Harvard and Princeton. The Quakers take on the arch rival Tigers at Princeton Stadium next week at 1 p.m. With first-place on the line, the game can be seen worldwide on ESPN3.com.
Brown took a 17-14 lead with 3:47 to play on a 1-yard touchdown run that was set up by the preceeding 29-yard pass play on 4th-and-15 from the Penn 31.
Sophomore Dexter Davis ran back the ensuing kickoff to the Brown 49. Two completions and a six-yard rush from senior quarterback Billy Ragone, who engineered his seventh career fourth-quarter/overtime comeback, had Penn at the 28-yard line. That's where the Quakers stalled and Loftus came on to attempt a career-long 45-yard field goal. It squeaked inside the left goal post and tied the game 17-17.
Brown then had the ball with just over two minutes left in regulation. On 1st-and-10 from the Brown 23, Penn sophomore defensive back Trevor Niemann found himself in the right place at the right time as Bears quarterback Patrick Donnelly lofted the ball down the right sideline and Niemann was able to come away with his first-career interception.
Penn took over at the Brown 44 with 1:21 left. Ragone immediately rushed for 15 yards, and from there, the Quakers set up a 35-yard field goal attempt for Loftus. Once again, it split the uprights and put the Quakers up 20-17 with just 17 seconds left on the clock.
"The snap and hold were great," Loftus said of his game-winning kick. "I have a ton of confidence in those guys and it felt like any other kick. I went through my normal routine and that's the only way to do it."
The Bears ran two plays in their final drive. Donnelly’s second pass fluttered straight up in the air and sophomore defensive lineman Feerooz Yacoobi hauled in his first-career interception as time expired.
With the win, the Quakers have now won three of their last four over Brown and have a four-game Homecoming winning streak. Senior Scott Lopano broke the school record for career punt yards and Ragone became just the third player in the program's 136-year history with 5,000 total yards of offense.
The game actually started as a defensive battle. Both teams had a pair of uneventful possessions to start the game, but things picked up on the first play of Penn's third possession when Ragone's pass was bobbled and ultimately it ended up in the hands of Brown's Ade Oyalowo who dove to catch it before it hit the ground at the Quakers' 24.
Just three plays later, however, Penn got the ball back when senior captain Brandon Copeland tipped Donnelly's pass and Taylor Brown made the diving catch for his first-career interception.
Penn finally got things going late in the second quarter. With Ragone under center, the Quakers went 70 yards on seven plays and took 3:46, ending the scoring drive when Ragone found junior wideout Conner Scott up the middle for 22 yards for the touchdown.
Brown was able to get three of those points back on the final play of the half, when Alexander Norocea booted a 46-yard field goal as time expired.
After the two traded possessions to start the third quarter, Brown took its first lead of the game. With 7:11 remaining in the third, Donnelly hit Tellef Lundevall for the 10-yard score.
Not to be outdone, Ragone and the Quakers got the ball back and marched up the field on an eight-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 4:30, culminating in a quick slant that was taken the distance by Jason Seifert for 36 yards. The touchdown was Seifert’s first of his career, and the catch was his first of the season. It was also Ragone’s second touchdown pass of the day and 25th of his career, tying him for sixth all-time at Penn with Mark DeRosa.
In response, Brown meticulously drove down the field on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that took up over six minutes between the third and fourth quarters. On 1st-and-goal from the Penn 8-yard line, Donnelly dropped back and lofted a pass to the right side of the endzone. Sophomore Drew Harris made an outstanding play to cut in front of the receiver, tip the ball and gather it in - all the while making sure to drag his feet in bounds - for his first-career interception.
Penn maintained its four-point lead until Brown converted 4th-and-15 to set up it's short-lived go-ahead score.
Ragone had 211 yards of total offense (165 pass, 46 rush). He joins Mike Mitchell and Gavin Hoffman as the third player in program history to reach 5,000 for his career (5,157). He needs 237 more to tie Mike Mitchell (1999-2003) for second all-time.
Lopano punted eight times for 296 yards. That gives him 6,843 for his career at Penn and moves him past Rob Sims (1990-92) for first all-time. He is just nine punts behind Sims for the school career record (186) in that category.
Scott finished with a team-high five catches and 82 receiving yards. Sophomores Mitchell King and Eric Fiore each had three catches. Junior Ryan Mitchell left the game with an injury, but had two catches for nine yards before exiting in the second quarter.
Senior defensive back Dave Twamley had a season-high nine tackles to lead the Quakers. Junior cornerback Dan Wilk and sophomore safety Mike Laning each had six tackles apiece.
Penn and Princeton both enter next week's game at 3-1 in Ivy League play. The Quakers have won three straight over the Tigers - all by four touchdowns or more touchdowns.