Tydings | Kulcsar makes all the difference for Penn football
September 21, 2013, 10:28 pm·
Yuzhong Qian | DP
With just over six minutes to go in the third quarter, Penn was driving at Lafayette’s seven, up 20-7 and looking to extend its lead over the Leopards.
But with rain pouring down, an important drive almost slipped away. The snap from center Chris Bush flew over the head of Billy Ragone and multiple Leopards’ lineman had their eyes on the ball.
“We’ve had that happen a couple times and it obviously isn’t something you plan for,” junior tailback Spencer Kulcsar said.
But Kulcsar was in the backfield as well. As the ball trickled back to the 20-yard line, the junior tailback snatched up the ball.
And he didn’t go down. No, he made the split-second decision to keep going.
“I picked it up with the hope that I could get a few yards and let us stay in field goal position, and I was able to make something happen,” he said.
He certainly made something happen. Kulcsar sidestepped one tackler, and then he was off, down the sidelines for what was an extremely long seven-yard touchdown, making sure Penn would stay ahead for good.
With Lyle Marsh and Jeff Jack gone, there was a question mark for the Red and Blue in the backfield heading into Saturday. And with Brandon Colavita coming off a leg injury, coach Al Bagnoli relied on multiple players to carry the rest of the load in his run-heavy offense on Saturday.
“We tried to go somewhat gentle with [Colavita],” Bagnoli said. “We have a lot of confidence in not only Spencer — who I think acquitted himself very well today — but also Kyle Wilcox did a real nice job today.
“We have some depth and some versatility there, so we can gradually work these guys back so they can be feeling good about themselves.”
And it was Kulcsar who made a definitive statement on Saturday that he will be a presence for the Quakers on offense.
Beginning in Penn’s second drive, Kulcsar took some snaps out of the backfield, and was electrifying, making multiple defenders miss on a screen pass to put Penn in the red zone.
Taking off from there, Kulcsar was a factor in almost all of the Quakers’ drives from there on out. He picked up on-rushing defensive linemen consistently. He took 13 carries on the night, despite having just 16 in his career heading in.
But it was his spot in the passing game where he truly brought fans to their feet.
With five catches for 66 yards, Kulcsar surprised many as Penn’s leading receiver on the day, reminding many of the strong pass-catching ability of Marsh in 2012.
“Going into the game, we knew we would run our passing plays in a ton of different sets,” Kulcsar said. “We knew we had to spread the ball around and Billy [Ragone] did a pretty good job of it.”
And no, Kulcsar was not perfect on the night. He struggled to pick up yardage on the ground at multiple points in the game, finishing with under two yards per carry. But his effort made a strong statement moving forward.
“You have to give a testament to Brandon and Lyle and Jeff. They’ve instilled a lot of confidence in me,” Kulcsar said.
“They’ve really helped me out these first two years, making sure I knew everything, making sure I played within myself.
“I definitely have to give a testament to those three and the coaches for trusting in me and letting me play the way I play.”
So when the Quakers travel to Villanova next week, there will be no question who will be the number two back behind Colavita. There is no uncertainty of who can make catches out of the backfield like Marsh a year ago.
Kulcsar made sure of that on Saturday.
STEVEN TYDINGS is a Wharton sophomore from Hopewell, N.J., and is a sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at tydings@theDP.com.