For a few, sunny hours on Franklin Field, Penn football was back on Sunday.
Capping off spring practices for the Quakers, the two-hour Spring Game gave alumni and students a glimpse of what the Red and Blue will look like once their quest to defend the Ivy title begins in September.
“We don’t get to play many games so coming out here — even if it’s our own players — going aggressive and being able to tackle, it’s awesome for us,” junior quarterback Alek Torgersen said. “It’s something that we can look forward to during spring ball.”
Instead of running a strict Red versus Blue game, coach Ray Priore opted for a more controlled series of situational run-throughs — shifting from long-field situations to red zone play — and mixing some special teams action in between.
“The best part about today is that no one got hurt, that’s the best,” Priore noted. “We’ll always take that as No. 1 as a coach. We came out of the spring relatively healthy. Saw great improvement week by week.”
Structured around rotating guys in and out in order to get a look at some younger players that will need to fill holes left particularly on the defensive side with the impending graduations of lineman Dan Connaughton along with linebacker — and Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year — Tyler Drake.
At the start of the day, it seemed as though the offense was going to run roughshod all day. Torgersen found wide receivers Adam Strouss and Justin Watson early and often while junior Brian Schoenauer and sophomore Tre Solomon both proved effective out of the backfield.
But the squad led by defensive coordinator Bob Benson quickly locked down, forcing a pair of field goals in back-to-back red zone situations.
“You saw a little ebb and flow,” Priore said. “Offense played well at times, defense played well at times, back and forth. Which I think is really good to see. You didn’t want to see one side of the ball dominate the other.”
“We did pretty well in the red zone,” junior linebacker Donald Panciello added. “We started out a little slow, offense was 4-for-4 on first downs coming out of the red zone, but we picked it up after that.
“We didn’t get many turnovers, which is kind of a bummer, but we bounced back and held our own. We’ve just got to watch film and see what we’ve got to improve on.”
On the whole, the day provided the chance to cap off the few weeks of practice the Quakers get in the spring, offering a little bit of momentum and excitement before a few long months without football.
As Priore emphasized to the team in his postgame speech, summer practices are just 130 days away — and Penn’s first foe, Lehigh, awaits just 30 days after that.
And soon after, the road to a second straight Ivy title begins.
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