It’s honestly hard to know what to make of Penn football after four games.
The season has been a rollercoaster ride for both the team and its fans alike. It has featured a blowout loss to Lehigh, followed by an historic upset of then-No. 4 Villanova, a blowout loss to Dartmouth and then an incredible comeback to nearly defeat No. 13 Fordham.
The Quakers put together their two best performances of the year against their two toughest opponents but came out flat in its other two games.
But before we even think about the future, it’s worth just talking about the resilience Penn showed on Saturday.
Starting their backup quarterback, Andrew Lisa, and down 28-3 in the second quarter, the Quakers looked to be out of the game. Nothing was working for it offensively, and Fordham running back Chase Edmonds was torching the Red and Blue defense to the tune of more than 10 yards per touch.
The Quakers came out of the break down 18 and put together arguably their best half of football all season. The defense held Fordham to just 13 points and got constant pressure on quarterback Kevin Anderson, while the offense found success through the air and on the ground.
A year ago, I’m not sure we would have seen Penn fight quite as hard to get back into the game. Coaches always say that difficult schedules build tough teams, and with four of Penn’s hardest games in the past, we’ll see just how true that is.
So, what can we expect moving forward? Obviously this team is somewhere in between the one that struggled against Lehigh and the second-half performance against the Rams on Saturday.
I think it all comes down to consistency on both sides of the ball.
Penn has had a tendency to start games off on the wrong foot, whether it’s untimely turnovers — see Lisa’s interception on the first drive against Fordham — or just struggling to extend offensive series beyond the first set of downs.
If the Red and Blue can avoid digging themselves into an insurmountable deficit within the first half of the game, it’s clear that they can hang around with the teams on the rest of their schedule.
It’s hard to identify what leads a team to start off slow, but at this point there aren’t any more excuses. There are six Ivy League games left in the season, and within those come opportunities to prove that the Quakers are a team on the rise, better than the sixth-place team from last year.
The first test is a reunion with Al Bagnoli’s Columbia squad, another 1-3 Ivy League team, but one that got there a very different way.
The Lions came up with their first win since 2012 this weekend with a dominant 26-3 rout of Wagner. But just because Penn and Columbia have identical records doesn’t mean they’re equals on the playing field.
Emotions will be running high, but on Saturday in New York, the Red and Blue will need to put together those flashes of brilliance into a complete game against the Lions. I’m not the stoutest believer in momentum in sports, but if it does exist, the Quakers have a winnable game this weekend to spur them into the rest of the Ivy League season.
Columbia and Cornell are definitely games where Penn will be a clear favorite, and after this weekend, it might not be unreasonable to see the Quakers knock off Brown, Yale or Princeton.
Of course, it all depends on consistency. Coach Priore and the team know that. This weekend showed that Villanova wasn’t a fluke and that Penn, when everything clicks, can hang with the best.
Now, on to Columbia.
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