The team. The team. The Team.
Channeling his inner Bo Schembechler, Penn football coach Ray Priore preached the importance of standing together heading into Saturday’s Ivy League tilt with Yale.
“It’s all about the team,” Priore reiterated. “It’s how we play well as a team, not any one person, not any one player.”
Saddled with his first 0-2 conference start during his tenure as head coach, Priore stressed the importance of looking inward in the face of adversity.
“We have a bunch of kids that love to play the game of football who are resilient. They’re gritty, they’re tough,” the coach said of his players. “That’s how you turn things around.”
After a promising two game winning streak to start the season, the Quakers (2-3, 0-2 Ivy) have gone on to drop their last three games. But the win-loss record doesn’t come close to telling the whole story.
In week three, Dartmouth scored a goal line touchdown as time expired to walk off at Franklin Field. Last Saturday, Columbia won on a touchdown in overtime to send Penn home from New York with another crushing defeat.
Junior defensive back Sam Philippi discussed the roller coaster of emotions that go along with a game that ends in heartbreak.
“Those are definitely fun games to play in,” Philippi recalled. “I remember standing on the sideline and just thinking how much I love this game and how much I love being here and then the game ends on two last second plays like that.”
But, Philippi was quick to remark that the team had to shift its focus to Yale (4-1, 1-1).
“It can be discouraging, but we had a bus ride home. We had a night to think about it, and then we forget about it and move on."
Priore has continued to keep his team pointing forward in the wake of those devastating losses.
“It’s called resilience,” Priore said. “In everything in life, we talk about it all the time with the team, you gotta be resilient. Tough times are gonna happen. It’s how you adapt, how you cope, how you learn and develop.”
In both games of their Ivy League games, Penn held a three-point lead on the final play. After both games they left with a loss.
With margins that slim, it’s hard to look at any one element and point the blame. Especially when the Red and Blue could easily be 2-0. Priore recognizes this, and has vocalized that there isn’t a special cure in situations like these.
“There is no magic dust out there that’ll make it happen. You’ve got to work hard to get it done,” Priore emphasized. “It’s making smart decisions at practice, ultimately making smart decisions in the game on Saturday.”
However, one change that could spark the Quakers is the return of senior tailback Tre Solomon.
The Brooklyn native went down with an injury in week one before returning for the first time last Saturday at Columbia. With a game under his belt, he’s sure to give the Quakers an added punch against Yale.
“My position group tries to be the catalyst during the games,” Solomon explained. “It’s college football and the running backs really get to shine a lot and we get to motivate the team with big runs.”
But Solomon’s presence isn’t just felt when the ball is in his hand.
“His leadership is so important to what we do,” Priore said. “We all feel good that he’s back there in the backfield and he becomes another weapon for our offense.”
That leadership will be especially vital if the score is tight late in the game. As a veteran on a young team, Solomon will try to help right the ship.
“Focus. I think that’s something that we haven’t been great with over the last few weeks,” Solomon explained. “I think that just comes with us becoming more mature at every position including myself and J-Wat [Justin Watson]. We both made some mistakes on the field and because of that we didn’t come up with the win.”
Despite the recent letdowns, Solomon and his teammates aren’t hanging their heads. Rather, they are sticking to the plan.
In describing the attitude at practice, Solomon echoed the words his offensive coordinator has repeated all year.
“Coach [John] Reagan says it all the time that when things are hard you’ve got to work. When things are good you’ve to work. The answer is that you have to work every single time.”
No fairy can sprinkle magic dust on the Quakers and no player can single handedly win them a ballgame. From top to bottom they know it will take focus and work. In the end, it will all come down to the team.
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