Two losses in its first two games? It’s a familiar position for Penn football.
In the 2008, 2009 and 2011 seasons, the Quakers began the year in an 0-2 hole after playing, yes, Lafayette and Villanova.
One of those seasons, the 2009 campaign, ended with an Ivy League championship. The other two saw the Quakers finish near the middle of the pack.
A 2-0 record would certainly justify a bullish outlook for the Quakers’ chances this year in the Ancient Eight. But the opposite outcome, indeed the current reality of an 0-2 start, holds little predictive power.
I wanted to make some sweeping, insightful claims about Penn football. Then I realized something.
We don’t know a lot about this team.
The Quakers have yet to “put it together,” in the words of senior running back Jeff Jack. Is that good? Definitely not. Is that bad? Definitely maybe.
As football teams, Lafayette and Villanova are qualitatively different from even the best teams in the Ivy League. Attempting to use those two games as a yardstick to measure the Quakers’ performance would be folly.
Penn also did not have its best available squad on the field Saturday.
Coach Al Bagnoli admitted he preemptively pulled longtime starting quarterback Billy Ragone, who was nursing a bruised collarbone, to preserve him for the upcoming Ivy contest against Dartmouth. Brandon Colavita, the Quakers’ top tailback, was held out due to bruised ribs.
You can bet at least a few starters will be held out of Penn’s final non-conference game against William & Mary in two weeks.
Before the season began, Bagnoli emphasized “just surviving” the non-conference schedule.
As Jack said after the loss Saturday, “You don’t get your picture on the wall by beating Villanova.” The same could be said about Lafayette or William & Mary.
Certainly Lafayette and ’Nova exposed weaknesses, but as senior defensive back Sebastian Jaskowski implied, these weaknesses probably won’t be so readily exploited against the less athletic Ivy League. Hard-learned lessons from the Wildcats don’t necessarily translate to preparing for the Big Green.
So maybe these games to open the season are a chance to warm up the pads — the equivalent of swinging two bats in the on-deck circle before stepping up the plate.
After swinging two, one bat seems comparatively light. And after playing two tough opening games, the Quakers hope Dartmouth and the rest of the Ivy League will seem comparatively weak.
ETHAN ALTER is a senior history major from Los Altos, Calif. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.
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