When the Quakers play Cornell at Franklin Field on Friday, it will conjure up some mixed emotions .
Penn sprint football lost a heartbreaking six-overtime contest against Cornell two Septembers ago by a score of 42-34. However, the Quakers handily beat the Big Red 28-14 last year to kick off the season.
“I think we put it to rest last year,” said senior running back/punter and team captain Mike Beamish of the 2012 marathon. “[In last year’s game], we just physically dominated them for four quarters.”
Penn manhandled Cornell in last year’s game, especially on the ground, rushing for 311 yards and passing for 205 more.
Cornell showed a strong rushing defense against Franklin Pierce in its first game last week, however, limiting the Rindge, N.H.–based college to a measly one-yard per carry.
“We’re just going to try to put our guys in better positions to make blocks without giving away too much,” said Beamish of the team’s plans to combat Cornell’s rush defense.
“There’ll be some new formations, putting guys in better positions to make blocks against their active defense,” he continued.
Coach Bill Wagner agrees that the offensive line will be key in Friday’s home opener, especially with regards to the quarterback. Although the Quakers pulled off a thrilling 14-13 comeback win against Mansfield last Saturday, the O-line was somewhat lacking.
“We need to make sure that [sophomore quarterback Mike] McCurdy doesn’t get sacked five times,” Wagner said . He also added that he’s been devoting special attention to the kicking, coverage and punt return special teams units this week in practice.
Penn and Cornell’s sprint football team share a long history, and it extends off the field as well.
Wagner and co-head coach Terry Cullen have been coaching against each other for 45 years. Cullen was preceded at his current post by his father, the late Robert Cullen, who restarted Cornell’s sprint football program in 1946 after it was shut down during World War II.
“We’ve developed a good friendship after the game and before the game,” said Wagner of his and Cullen’s relationship. “But during the game, we know both want to win the game.”
A player to watch for on Friday will be sophomore defensive lineman Arthur D’Angelo. D’Angelo had a breakout game last Saturday, sacking Mansfield quarterback Mike Maniscalco two and a half times.
D’Angelo was very modest when speaking about his stellar performance, chalking his success up to the Quaker defense as a whole. However, Wagner gives him a bit more credit.
“He wanted to play,” said Wagner simply, adding that D’Angelo had impressed him enough to earn himself a hard-fought starting role on the defensive line.
D’Angelo, a native of Medfield, Mass., hopes that the team can capitalize on last Saturday’s comeback win to get a win streak going.
“I really hope that we can work together and beat Cornell and continue to beat the other teams,” he said.
They’ll get to work this Friday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m. on Franklin Field.
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