Although it’s overshadowed by other programs, Penn sprint football has found success early and often thanks to its strong defense.
The Red and Blue (2-1) are quietly putting together a strong resume heading into their matchup with Franklin Pierce (1-2) on Friday night.
Penn goes into Rindge, N.H. with a defense that has been firing on all cylinders. Big plays have been the key to this success as the Quakers have managed to force multiple turnovers in each of their first three games.
And while a late safety by junior linebacker Ed Cai wasn’t quite enough to power Penn past Navy, the defense was able to hold the Midshipmen’s high-profile offense in check for the majority of the game.
This performance came after a blowout win against Cornell and a strong defensive performance against cellar-dweller Mansfield three weeks ago.
Despite this success, the defense has had trouble stopping its opponents’ early drives.
Defensive coordinator John Amendt attributes this to a lack of practice time devoted to live tackling. Because the team is so small they don’t want to risk injury in practice and as a result, “it takes [the Quakers] a little bit to get warmed up during the game.”
However, Amendt says that “usually around the middle of the first quarter, we begin to get our schemes down.”
Many of the players point to drills they do in practice as the source of their recent success. Sophomore linebacker and team captain Robert Diorio talked about scoop and score drills after he ran back a fumble for six against Cornell.
Sophomore defensive back Chris Colavita also credited on ball drills for leading to the team’s awareness and ability to pounce on turnover opportunities.
As a result, the other defenders are constantly trying to execute Amendt’s game plan of “just trying to shorten the field for the offense.”
“Every time the ball is in the air we look to grab it at its highest point, secure it and take it the other way,” Colavita said.
This defense is hungry, and so far this year nearly half of the points put forward by the Quakers have come off of turnovers that the ‘D’ has forced.
The success has come despite the unit’s young core of players. Amendt applauds his secondary for stepping up big and taking pressure off of the front seven. Both corners are freshman and have impressed the coaches thus far.
That young core of players has been helped by Cai’s play and the leadership of Diorio, as well as senior defensive back Keith Braccia.
The defense will have to contend with a strong rushing attack from Franklin Pierce, headed by sophomore running back Andrew Jean, who has averaged over 100 yards per game on the ground.
The Ravens also have a strong rushing defense, which will make things tough for senior running back Mike Beamish. Beamish struggled to find running lanes against Navy’s potent defense and it may be the case again on Friday.
But with the defense firing at full cylinders and Beamish looking to have a bounce-back game, there’s no telling what the Quakers can do.
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