Penn football's secondary rises to the occasion
CB Dave Twamley emerges as leader of Penn’s defensive effort
November 7, 2012, 9:54 pm·
Ceaphas Stubbs | DP
Perhaps no single unit on the Penn football team has been more responsible for bringing the Quakers back from the dead after a crushing loss at Yale earlier this season than the secondary.
Penn’s defensive backs secured the win against Brown two weeks ago, picking off Bears quarterback Patrick Donnelly twice in the red zone in the fourth quarter. Last week at Princeton, the secondary saved the day again, collectively intercepting two of Tigers quarterback Connor Michelsen’s passes in Penn territory.
And if the secondary is the unit that has been the difference between the Quakers winning their last two games instead of dropping them, then it follows that the player most responsible for Penn’s recent uptick is senior cornerback Dave Twamley.
“He’s the grandpa of the secondary,” cornerbacks coach Jon Dupont said. “He knows every situation that could possibly come up and how to react to it out of every coverage because he’s played since his sophomore year.
“So the players can look to him when they have questions and he can explain it in a way that maybe I can’t explain it because he’s done it.”
The Quakers came into 2012 with a lot of youth at cornerback behind Twamley and fellow senior corner Justyn Williams. Sophomores Dexter Davis, Mike Laning, Drew Harris and Trevor Niemann all had either limited experience in the defensive backfield at the varsity level or none whatsoever. So the secondary was shaky early in the season, getting lit up by freshmen quarterbacks from Villanova and Dartmouth and going 20 quarters without snagging an interception.
But Twamley has led the defense by example from the start of the season, currently ranking second on the team in tackles and coming up with the pick that preserved Penn’s Ivy hopes in the fourth quarter against Princeton with the Tigers up, 21-14, and driving into the red zone with under 10 minutes left to play.
“I’m not the biggest guy, not the fastest guy, not the strongest guy,” Twamley said. “But I try to take what [defensive coordinator Ray Priore] and coach Dupont say and try to be the most technically sound player I can possibly be.”
After half a season of mediocre play, the secondary’s confidence is sky-high after stepping up in the two biggest games of the year.
“[Now] guys are more involved,” Dupont said. “They don’t know what could come up, but now they want to know what their adjustments and checks are to things and so they ask questions, they watch more film, they study harder and longer. Those are all the things we preach from day one. It’s just now that they believe it and trust it and are doing what we need them to do.”
Now that Twamley has two hours left in his collegiate career, he says all he can do is give 100 percent on the field.
But he plans on giving 100 percent off the field this week as well. Senior linebacker Danny Ritt told The Daily Pennsylvanian last month that Twamley watches eight to 10 game tapes of the opposing team on a weekly basis, far more than most of his teammates do.
“The one thing is [Harvard] has stayed pretty consistent from last year, so that helps in watching film from past years to see how our team stacks up against them,” Twamley said. “The thing I notice is they just run great routes, crisp routes. They have a lot of players who are really versatile. [Harvard tight end Kyle Juszczyk] is a great player, you can split him out at receiver or he can be in the backfield or as a wing — they do a lot of stuff like that. So it’s really going to come down to watching a lot of film.”
For Dupont, though, Penn’s shot at an Ivy crown hinges on whether this secondary can keep the momentum going.
“The kids are possessed right now,” Dupont said. “It’s like a ball rolling downhill and it just keeps gathering, gaining speed and hopefully we can keep it rolling.”