With Saturday’s game against Princeton looming, the Penn football team has a lot of preparing to do. Both teams are vying for the win to stay alive in the race for the Ivy title. The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with coach Al Bagnoli to run through some topics and events that affect the matchup and the team itself.
Recent domination. The Quakers have clobbered Princeton for the past three years, and for the Tigers’ seniors in particular, this is a big game as it affects the Ancient Eight standings, something the group isn’t used to experiencing. The Quakers won 42-7 in 2009, 52-10 in 2010 and 37-9 last year. It’s been six years since the Tigers took down the Red and Blue.
“I’m sure it’s a game that they’ve been looking forward to,” Bagnoli said. “They had a great win against a talented Harvard team and then they [had] to go on the road to play Cornell, and on the horizon is Penn. I think we’ll get their best effort. … They’ll be emotionally ready, they’ll be fired up, playing with lots of energy and they’ve played very well at home.”
Not your average Tigers football squad. This Princeton team isn’t anything like current Quakers have seen in the past, and for the first time in years the Tigers are playing a meaningful game in November.
“Your goal every year is getting late in the season and playing meaningful games,” Bagnoli said. “In the opportunities that you have, if you can take advantage of them, that means that in the week after, it is an even more meaningful game. And that’s all we talk about.”
Bagnoli added that he hopes his players “get it,” especially now that Princeton is having success on the gridiron.
The Tigers “have every reason to feel good about themselves,” Bagnoli said.
A tense rivalry. No matter the records, no matter the sport, Penn-Princeton is always a must-win game.
“When you’re 60 miles away from each other, I think the proximity issue, the alumni in this area and in South Jersey are huge factors,” Bagnoli said. “If they talk [in] terms of revenge, I don’t know, but I know our kids will be excited.”
Under the big lights. Saturday’s game will be nationally broadcast on ESPN3 and is Penn’s fourth televised contest of the season .
“Besides the obscene amount of television timeouts,” Bagnoli quipped, “it’s a great benefit for everybody. … [It’s] always good when the Ivy brand can go across the country.”
But Bagnoli believes that long and frequent timeouts can slow down the momentum of the game, calling them an “eternity.”
Specialty special teams. Sophomore Connor Loftus earned Ivy League Special Teams Player of the Week honors after connecting on two field goals against Brown, one of which was a career-high 45 yards. Meanwhile, senior Scott Lopano is ranked No. 26 in the nation in punting.
Bagnoli knows Loftus has the talent to make clutch kicks, but he hadn’t seen it come together when the team needs it most until Saturday’s win over Brown.
“When all of a sudden it comes through and your field-goal kicker ties it and wins it, it kind of validates everything you’ve been saying,” Bagnoli said.
1,000-yard club. During the Yale game, Jeff Jack hit a milestone of 1,000 career rushing yards. He joins Brandon Colavita (1,416) and Billy Ragone (1,358) as active players to reach the milestone. Lyle Marsh is just 107 yards away from hitting that mark as well.
Bagnoli praised the entire stable and noted that Marsh, Colavita and Ragone all have additional years remaining (Colavita due to his recent season-ending foot surgery).
Battered and bruised. “What you talkin’ about?” Bagnoli replied when asked about injuries on the team.
Senior Joe Holder is “at least a week away” from returning after suffering a broken fibula against William & Mary in Week 4 but hopes to return for Harvard. He just got off crutches over the weekend.
Center Chris Bush practiced Wednesday, and Bagnoli says the staff is “cautiously optimistic” after receiving the results of an MRI this week.
Sebastian Jaskowski also practiced Wednesday and is clear to play Saturday.
Ryan Mitchell’s status is still unknown and more time is needed for a decision. Bagnoli said he “had a flare.”
Kevin Ijoma, who left the game last week with a concussion, will play against Princeton.