If history is any indication, the Quakers will have a tough test to open the Ivy League season.
In all but two games since 2006, including each of the last three contests, the game between Penn and Dartmouth has been decided on the final possession.
The Red and Blue (0-2) aim to change that pattern when they head to Hanover, N.H., on Saturday.
The Quakers attribute the competitiveness of this matchup to where it falls on the schedule as the annual Ivy opener.
“Everybody’s in the race, so everybody plays with great passion,” coach Al Bagnoli said.
Senior defensive lineman and captain Brandon Copeland echoed his coach.
“Everyone comes out firing, everyone has a chance at the championship,” he said.
Dartmouth (2-0) is the first step in Penn’s quest to get back to the top of the Ancient Eight — but it won’t be easy.
The Red and Blue are giving up 163.5 rushing yards per game, while the Big Green have a potent ground game. Dartmouth junior running back Dominick Pierre is averaging 127.5 yards per contest.
However, the Quakers aren’t too worried about Pierre, who is “in a long line of backs we’ve already faced,” Bagnoli said.
“Fortunately, we’ve played against two good running backs,” Copeland added. “So we’re just going with our game plan, trying to contain him, make sure everyone takes their responsibility.”
The captain’s play will be crucial for the Quakers to stay in contention for an Ivy title, and he has not been satisfied with his performance so far this season.
“I don’t think I had good games those first two games, so I have a huge chip on my shoulder,” Copeland said.
On the offensive side of the ball, expect to see both Billy Ragone and Andrew Holland taking snaps under center. Holland took over for Ragone late in the first half against Villanova, which Bagnoli attributed to a collarbone injury that Ragone sustained at Lafayette.
The Red and Blue have a lot of weapons in their passing and running games, and Bagnoli wants to keep Dartmouth guessing.
“Hopefully we can put a little bit of pressure on them in the run game, a little bit of pressure on them in the pass game, keep them off balance,” Bagnoli said.
Senior running back Brandon Colavita is back after sitting out last weekend due to a rib injury. The Quakers will need their tailback trio to have a big game, as the Big Green defense is giving up just 81 rushing yards per game.
But what’s most important for Penn on Saturday is that the team forgets the past two weeks and refocuses on the Ivy League.
“We all kind of realize now that every week is a playoff game so there are no more excuses,” Copeland said. “There’s nothing else you can really say.”
John Phillips contributed to the reporting in this article.