When last year’s CSFL MVP and 2011 graduate Mike Bagnoli rushed for 109 yards on just seven carries at Penn’s sprint football alumni game last month, he wowed the freshman running backs who would fill his shoes in 2011.
“He’s a monster,” freshman running back Jeff Grimes said. “Just hearing stories from some of the upperclassmen of how he would have 300-yard games, four-touchdown games, it was obvious just from the alumni game that he’s a tremendous running back.”
“That was really an eye-opener,” fellow freshman running back Mike Beamish said. “I was kind of in awe, thinking I have to replace the league MVP.”
Ever since then, Beamish and Grimes have responded well to that challenge, playing a pivotal role in the Quakers’ offense, which scored a combined 82 points in the team’s wins over Princeton and Post this season. Beamish’s 139-yard and three-touchdown performance against Post last week helped reestablish Penn’s ground attack after it had faltered in the previous game against Navy. It was also his second 139-yard performance in the team’s first three games.
“Really I was just looking to get on the field as quickly as I could, whether it was at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and it turned out running back was the best fit on the field,” Beamish explained. “I couldn’t really expect to have the games I’m having.”
“He has a really good sense of when to cut back and when to hit the hole,” Grimes observed.
Two running backs with limited experience isn’t the ideal arsenal for most running games, but the strong relationship between the freshman duo has allowed them to make an instant impact.
“Generally the freshmen are a lot more confident asking each other questions, so whenever there’s something I don’t know, like there’s a blocking assignment that I’m not sure of, Mike’s the first guy I ask,” Grimes said.
“We’re going through the same courses and both coming from the School of Engineering,” Beamish added, “so we’re really in the same boat as far as everything.”
Grimes also attributes much of Penn’s early success at pounding the rock this season to its offensive line.
“I think even though they’ve had some injuries, with Shane Curry getting a concussion and Jordan Colbert hurting his arm and his leg simultaneously, they just have this can-do attitude that makes it really easy to run behind them,” Grimes said. “No matter who’s playing on the line, whether it’s the starter or it’s the backup, they get things done.”
Beamish will be following an impressive lineage in addition to an impressive line on Friday when the Quakers battle Mansfield. Beamish’s father, Mike, was a two-time All-PSAC middle linebacker for Mansfield (1986-87) and coached there as well.
“I was a waterboy on Mansfield’s home field,” Beamish said. “I remember being a little kid, always running on the field. It’s definitely going to be exciting [playing Mansfield].”
Beamish understands it will take a quick start to trump Mansfield, which kept the game interesting in a loss to Navy after the Midshipmen demolished the Quakers 56-0 last month.
“They’re going to come out with a full head of steam, and we’re going to have to execute from the get-go and put up seven points on our first possession,” Beamish said.
For Beamish and Grimes, that would be just another solid start on top of a promising beginning of their own.