After a second half collapse against Army last week, the Penn sprint football team intends to bring a gritty and nasty attitude to Mansfield.
Penn (0-1) will host the Mounties (1-0) at Franklin Field this Friday night in hopes of earning a more comfortable victory than last year’s 16-13 nail-biter. Mansfield, who beat Princeton last week 24-14, is riding the momentum of winning their first night game in over 121 years.
As for the Quakers, they will be coming off a disappointing 35-12 loss to Army, who attacked the Penn defense with a lethal aerial attack. The Quakers surrendered 314 yards in the air and 138 on the ground, including an 87-yard touchdown pass.
“[We] need to bring our A game on both sides of the ball,” coach Bill Wagner said. “The defense needs to take away their potential big plays and our team needs to be consistent.”
The secondary has been a serious question mark considering how prone it is to getting beat on the big play. However, the bigger concern for Penn is how the defensive line will perform. If there is no presence on the line, then Mansfield’s passing game and running game will cut the Quakers’ defense down once again.
If key players like freshman linebacker Robert Diorio and sophomore defensive back Derek Shnider can make big plays, the Red and Blue will have a better shot at containing Mansfield’s rushing attack and quarterback Ben Pepper.
However, the offense is looking to improve its presence on the ground. The running game never really gained its footing against last week and junior running back Mike Beamish commented that he’s just recovering from a very physical game with Army.
“We relied a little heavy on the pass week against last week against Army,” junior quarterback Keith Braccia said. “We gotta score in the red zone. We had a few opportunities against Army we didn’t capitalize on, that we are gonna capitalize on this week.”
The receivers are still one of the most disconcerting groups on the field. Braccia is confident in his receivers but it’s clear that they must become more consistent. With an improved running game this week, the receivers should make a big jump and aid the efforts to be explosive on the offensive side of the ball.
“We are gonna go with what we got, that’s what we’ve been doing all along,” Braccia said.
Beamish wants to get the run game going and incorporate Braccia more as well. If Braccia can make some plays with his legs then the defense will be kept off balance and open more options for the Quakers’ offense. But more importantly, he wants to see the team come together and improve.
The Red and Blue will also see new additions on special teams with Beamish and Diorio playing deep on punt and kick return in the hopes of adding a new dimension to their attack. That along with the combined efforts of a more aggressive run game and focused secondary, Penn will have the chance to create explosive plays and take home a ‘W’ in their home debut.
“We are very confident that we are gonna come back and play Penn football,” Beamish said.
“We’re fresh and we’re excited and we’re gonna win this game,” Braccia echoed.
That confidence could certainly come in handy.
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