That’s one of the reasons Al Bagnoli’s 23rd — and final — season at Penn will wind up being so unlike all the rest.
"Very few things have gone according to script," said Bagnoli, whose Quakers saw a lead over Harvard completely unravel last Saturday in a 34-24 loss. "It’s really been one of these weird years.We’ve had collateral damage even before the season started. We had it last off-season and in the summer time with key kids and it just snowballed from there.You never want to use medical issues as an excuse, but we’ve certainly had more than our share.It’s caused us to reach down a lot farther than we expected."
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Typical of the way this 1-8 season has gone — by far the worst in the Bagnoli era -- running backs Brian Schoenauer, Ryan Ripp and Adam Strouss weren’t even listed on Penn’s pre-season depth charts. Saturday they combined for 17 carries for 60 yards vs. the Crimson, with Strouss also throwing a rare jump pass touchdown to Ryan O’Malley that briefly put the Quakers up 10-7 in the second.
"Given where we are as a program we’re not quite good enough to overcome some of those things,’’ said the 61-year-old Bagnoli, who was honored before the game and later lauded over the video board by a group that included Chip Kelly, once an assistant at Columbia. "Whether it’s a missed scoring opportunity or a big play we’re just notat the level we need to be. It’s caused us to do a lot of shuffling around and led to a lack of consistency and confidence."
The end result will lead to just the third losing season in Bagnoli’s 23 years — and first ever back-to-back. But through what most would consider despair he sees as hope when longtime defensive coordinator Ray Priore takes over the reins following Saturday’s finale at Cornell.
"Given all the things that have happened we’re definitely going in the right direction," insisted Bagnoli, who’ll bring a 147-80 record to Ithaca, which includes nine Ivy titles. "It may not show up in the won-lost record, but you can see all these young kids are taking the next step.It’s gonna bode really well for next year."
But there will be no next year for Al Bagnoli. Only next week.He’s ready.
"It’s been a good run,’’ he said proudly. "I tell people I’ve been very fortunate to be part of a great place. Fortunate to be caretaker the last 23 year.It’s been an amazing journey to be part of something that’s been around for 138 years. Hopefully we’ve done our part to try to keep Penn at the forefront of the league and one of the programs people look at with pride."
No, it hasn’t been the storybook ending many hoped for. But Al Bagnoli will leave Penn with no regrets. He may be the only one, though.
Because it won’t be the same without him.