Penn focuses on improving running game

Penn quarterback Billy Ragone. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)
Penn quarterback Billy Ragone. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 05, 2013

Penn's football team is 1-1, but the Quakers haven't gotten off to a running start. The staple of the program, a strong ground game, has yet to get in gear.

In two games, Penn is averaging just 1.7 yards per carry. During Saturday's 35-6 loss at Villanova, Penn averaged 0.7 yards per carry.

So as the Quakers host Dartmouth at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Ivy League opener for both teams, establishing the ground game will be a priority.

"We have to be more balanced and can't throw the ball as much as we did last week," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said.

Penn quarterbacks Billy Ragone and Ryan Becker threw 45 passes against Villanova, while the Quakers had just 30 rushing attempts.

Top receiver Conner Scott is questionable because of a leg injury, putting even more importance on the running game.

Ragone, who is healthy after suffering a season-ending dislocated ankle in the ninth game last season, has gained just 1 yard on nine carries. For his career he has rushed for 1,515 yards and 19 touchdowns on 326 carries.

"He hasn't carried it much by design," Bagnoli said.

Now that Penn is starting its Ivy schedule, look for Ragone to get more ground work.

"We're gradually getting the quarterback in the run game, and I think it will be a bigger portion of our offense," Bagnoli said.

Dartmouth (1-1) is allowing 160 yards per game rushing, but also giving up 342.5 yards a game passing.

Returning with Ragone is Brandon Colavita, who was Penn's leading rusher in 2010 and 2011 but missed all but two games last season because of injury. Colavita is Penn's leading rusher with 76 yards (2.9 avg.).

"He is still shaking off the rust," Bagnoli said.

"There is no reason we shouldn't be able to run the ball successfully," right tackle Matt Kiefer said. "It's something we are working on fixing, and I think our running game can be explosive."

Penn's lone rushing touchdown was a 7-yard run by junior Spencer Kulcsar in the Quakers' opening 27-21 win over Lafayette.


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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