Penn football looks to bear down against Brown
Despite a perfect Ivy record, Quakers still have room for improvement against Bears this weekend
October 31, 2013, 10:21 pm·
Carolyn Lim | DP
The calendar has flipped to November, and everything seems to be going just as planned for Penn football.
The Quakers are undefeated in the Ivy League and tied for first atop the conference. The way Penn has won hasn’t been fancy or flashy, but it’s done the job.
With a crucial homecoming weekend game looming against rival Princeton next week, the Red and Blue (4-2, 3-0 Ivy) hit the road on Saturday to take on Brown, a feisty team that pushed Penn to the brink a season ago.
The Quakers are coming off a 28-17 victory over Yale, a game in which Penn played some of its best football of the season, even without fifth-year senior quarterback Billy Ragone . However, coach Al Bagnoli is looking for improvement this weekend against the Bears (4-2, 1-2).
“We’re getting better, but we are capable of playing much better, and that’s the message to the team,” he said. “I think as the season progresses, you need to improve and raise your game from week to week, and I don’t want us to be in a scenario where we think we’ve accomplished all that we can, because we aren’t even close.”
Even if Ragone is out, backup quarterback Ryan Becker has performed admirably. He completed 10 of 13 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns against Yale.
While it’s unknown whether Ragone will see playing time this weekend, the team has rallied around Becker and believes that either quarterback can guide the team to victory.
“When Ryan comes in, we know he’s going to run the offense just as smoothly as Billy does, and we’re comfortable with him whenever he’s in the game,” junior running back Spencer Kulcsar said.
As they did last week, the Quakers will look to win by being physically tougher and more aggressive than the Bears, a characteristic that has defined this season so far.
“That’s where our offense stands, we play physical, downhill running football, and then when the defense doesn’t expect it, we go over the top on them,” Kulcsar said. “And I think that’s what we’re going to continue to try and do, and we’ve been opening things up a lot more.”
Now Penn is going to have its hands full with the Bears, a team that focuses on a physical style of play, much like the Quakers.
“We know Brown has a very physical offensive line that will come after you, and as a result we’re ready to bring our own level of competitiveness up against them,” senior defensive tackle Jimmy Wagner said. “I don’t think they’ve seen the kind of things that we can do.”
Last weekend, Brown rushed for 193 yards, due in large part to 110 yards from senior running back Jordan Reisner. Senior quarterback Patrick Donnelly also threw for three scores, and the Bears survived a late rally by Cornell to win, 42-35.
A season ago, Penn and Brown were tied at 17 with under two minutes remaining, and Donnelly was picked off by now-junior defensive back Trevor Niemann. Moments later, Connor Loftus drilled a game-winning 35-yard field goal with 17 seconds left.
Penn knows Saturday’s game will be a knock-down, drag-out war.
“They’re not a finesse team, and neither are we,” Wagner said. “We kind of try and do the same thing, and I think if we can shut them down early and have an impact, that’s going to have a huge role in how the rest of the game goes for us.
“We know they’re a team that’s going to come out and want to kick our asses, so we just need to hit them harder.”