Penn begins football season Saturday against Lafayette

Posted: September 20, 2013

For Penn quarterback Billy Ragone, it never felt so good to be hit.

A fifth-year senior, Ragone was lost in the ninth game last season when he suffered a dislocated left ankle. In the first week of September, coach Al Bagnoli made sure that Ragone took some hits in practice.

"It was good being hit," Ragone said. "Now that it's out of the way, I am happy and ready to move on."

Penn will open its season Saturday at 6 p.m. by hosting Lafayette (0-2) at Franklin Field.

The Quakers are the defending Ivy League champions and have captured three of the last four league titles.

Ragone's backup, Ryan Becker, missed last season with a knee injury but is healthy now as well.

Also returning for the Quakers is the leader of their defense, junior linebacker Dan Davis. As a first-year starter last season, Davis gained first-team all-Ivy honors after making 58 tackles, including a team-high 131/2 for loss.

"We will put more and more on his plate," Bagnoli said. "We have devised some additional blitzes to utilize his ability to rush the quarterback."

The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Davis plays linebacker with a defensive lineman's mentality. In Davis and 6-2, 240-pound Dave Park, Penn will have one of the biggest and hardest-hitting linebacker duos in the Ivy League.

"Dave benches 400 pounds, and I like our chances to be able to put pressure on teams," Davis said.

The Penn players have been asked frequently about the pressure of repeating as Ivy League champions. Davis, who is from Oklahoma, said it wasn't a problem for him.

"Back home, people still think I attend Penn State, so I don't know if I felt any pressure in the offseason," he said with a laugh.

Penn has many questions, especially along a relatively inexperienced defensive line.

One question that the Quakers won't worry about is whether their quarterbacks can take a hit.

Contact Marc Narducci at Follow on Twitter @sjnard.

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