So that’s what the sprint in sprint football stands for.
Penn sprint football has been dominant in the first quarter of its games so far this year, rushing out to early leads en route to a 4-1 record.
Establishing solid play early on in games is always a goal for teams, regardless of the sport, and the Red and Blue have done just that. In their five games so far in 2015, the Quakers have come out of every first quarter with a lead — the exception being their lone loss to Navy on Oct. 2.
Penn's dominance in the first quarter can be expressed in one simple number: 37 — representing their positive first-quarter point differential. The Quakers have outscored their opponents 49-12 in the first 15 minutes of its games, significantly better than their 95-67 margin over the final 45 minutes.
The Red and Blue’s strong first quarter play certainly has had a positive effect on the team.
“For me, there’s nothing better as an offense than having confidence,” junior quarterback Mike McCurdy said. “When you come out and you’re able to move the ball on your first drive — maybe score on your first drive — it gives you a lot of confidence in everything that you’re doing.”
Coach Bill Wagner agreed.
“It gets everyone excited on the sidelines, it gets everyone into the game,” he said. “It’s important.”
This early success is not just mere happenstance. On the contrary, the Quakers plan to score early and often and prepare so that they can strike quickly after the initial kickoff.
“I think we’ve done a really good job this year preparing in film, feeling pretty confident about what the defenses will show us, especially on our opening drives,” McCurdy said.
Penn’s success in the first quarter hasn’t been due to just a few key plays. On both sides of the ball, the Quakers’ dominant opening frame performance has translated into results throughout the season.
For the offense, the success has been about efficiency, as the unit has turned in many drives — both long and short — that led to points. Penn’s offense has scored a touchdown on six out of 15 drives in the opening quarter, good for one-third of the offense’s total touchdowns this year.
“We have some weapons where we can strike quick, and that always helps,” Wagner said. “We’ve got a quarterback that can throw the ball and our young freshman at tailback has done really well.”
For the defense, their strong play has come from their ability to inhibit long drives and cause turnovers. In the first quarter of their five games this year, the Quakers have forced one fumble and three interceptions — one of which was returned for a touchdown — all while only allowing four drives of more than 30 yards.
In fact, half of the points scored by the Red and Blue's opponents in the first quarter came from an interception returned for a touchdown in the game against Navy, meaning that Penn’s defensive unit has given up only six first quarter points all year.
“The defense has been very good, they’ve been giving a 1-2-3 boom and turning the ball over,” Wagner said.
The Quakers’ first quarter dominance has been instrumental in their 2015 campaign — and may potentially play a big role in this week’s showdown with Army West Point. If Penn can “sprint” to another early lead, it will find themselves in good position to take down the top-ranked team in the nation.
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