It isn't easy playing (Big) Green for Penn football
Penn's real season starts now with hopes of winning its sixth straight Ivy opener against Dartmouth
October 3, 2013, 11:47 pm·
Katie Rubin | DP
It’s on to the next one for Penn football.
After dropping their visit against cross-town rival Villanova a week ago, the Quakers (1-1, 0-0 Ivy) return to action this Saturday against Ivy League foe Dartmouth in a crucial game for both teams.
This weekend’s matchup is the Ivy opener for both teams. The two Ancient Eight schools have kicked off their conference slate against one another every season since 1990, and Penn has captured 14 of its last 15 against the Big Green (1-1, 0-0) since 1997.
“We prepare extensively every week, but because this is an Ivy League game and the first one this season, we’re all ready to give extra effort,” fifth-year senior running back Brandon Colavita said.
The Red and Blue’s game last weekend against Villanova was far from pretty. The Wildcats dominated Penn in every facet of the game, leaving the Quakers with plenty of questions heading into the Ivy season.
Even though Penn was blown out, coach Al Bagnoli recognizes that the team’s nonconference schedule gives the Quakers an opportunity to improve heading into its conference season.
“There’s no such thing as a good loss, but you can certainly learn some lessons,” Bagnoli said. “We’re looking forward to starting off the Ivy League season strong, so hopefully the issues last weekend have been addressed and we’ll see a different team come out on Saturday.
“We’ve had a good practice week because I was pretty blunt with them. I made it clear that I was disappointed with how hard we got hit in that game and that we didn’t give the effort we needed to at all times.”
Despite the rough outing a week ago, the Quakers fully understand the importance of their Ivy games. While nonconference matchups provide learning experiences for Penn, there is very little room for slip-ups against Ancient Eight opponents.
“There is always pressure in these games because your margin of error down the road is so small,” Bagnoli said. “You may be allowed one loss in the conference, but after that it’s very difficult to be a factor late in the season.”
Luckily, the Red and Blue have had plenty of success in Ivy openers under Bagnoli. Penn has won five straight games against the Big Green, and the team is 17-4 against Dartmouth since Bagnoli took over.
The Big Green, however, will pose a legitimate threat to the Quakers this weekend. Dartmouth has won seven straight road games, good enough for the second longest road win streak in FCS.
What is potentially most concerning to Penn is the versatility of Dartmouth’s offense. The Big Green run an option system similar to Villanova’s and have racked up nearly 500 yards of offense per game this season.
“Dartmouth has done a really good job on offense because they’ve got balance,” Bagnoli said. “They run the ball well, the quarterback can run the ball, they play option football a little bit like what we just saw so schematically they can wreak some havoc against us.”
The Penn-Dartmouth matchup has been very tight lately. Each of the last four games has come down to the final possession, with no team winning by more than a touchdown.
And this time around, the Quakers need to shake off the mistakes from last week and begin their all-important Ivy season with a win.
“We didn’t do our job against Villanova and they ran all over us,” senior defensive lineman Jimmy Wagner said. “So it’s time for us to buckle down, do our individual assignments and play as a unit.
“We have to win this game — we cannot take Dartmouth lightly.”