justin_watson

Senior wide receiver Justin Watson extends touchdown streak to nine games with a 19-yard catch in the third quarter. 

Photo: Chase Sutton

Penn football might just be the best team in the Ivy League.

Though Yale, which now sits atop the Ivy rankings with a 5-1 conference record, may have something to say about this, there is no doubt that the Quakers are one of the hottest teams in the conference, having won three straight, completely turning around a season that was labeled by many as a failure just three weeks ago.

While Penn has not been playing perfect football during this three-game run, it has been playing winning football. 

The running game, with contributions from Tre Solomon, Karekin Brooks, and Abe Willows, has been stellar, and quarterback Will Fischer-Colbrie, with the help of Justin Watson, has recently made big plays down the field when the team needed them most. 

Not to mention the defense has found its stride, evidenced by a masterpiece performance against Harvard, in which the Crimson were unable to score double digit points in a game for the first time since 2009 — when the Quakers also limited them to below ten. 

The fact that Penn is finishing games is a sign of growth from the team that was unable to close out games early on in the season, losing its first three Ivy matchups by a combined 11 points. And following the Quakers’ 23-6 victory over Harvard, in which they led the entire game, there’s little doubt that Penn can beat any team in the conference. They’ve now shown that they can play a complete football game, and they’ll have one more opportunity to solidify themselves as a quality team versus Cornell. 

Even though next week’s game will not be for a share of the Ivy League title, it will be a pivotal one for the legacy of this football team and for the future of the program. The senior players deserve to walk off of Franklin Field next week with their heads held high, as they have given so much to the program and the school. Not only have they earned two consecutive Ivy League titles, but in the process, they’ve helped put Penn football back on the map with the start of the Priore era. A win next week against Cornell would be a fitting ending for a group with these accomplishments. 

Now, this is not the season that Penn wanted to have, by any means. Coach Priore and the Quakers have set expectations high, and a 3-4, or even 4-3, conference record will never be the goal in mind. Early in the season, Penn did not make the plays that a championship team has to make, leading to its 0-3 Ivy start. And though the team knows that it could have won all three of those games, the game of football, especially in a conference as small and as evenly matched as the Ivy League, is a game of inches, and the Quakers did not do quite enough to get the inches that were all around them.

However, given Penn’s situation, its response to adversity cannot be ignored. It shows a lot about a team when it continues to play with pride despite essentially being eliminated from championship contention after the first three weeks of conference play.

That’s what the Red and Blue have done this season. They could have easily lied down and accepted this season as a lost cause. Some even called for the team to start some of its younger players, in the hope of getting them experience for next season and seasons to come. 

And while this belief in looking forward to next year is never unwise, the Quakers, by not throwing in the towel on this year’s team, have put themselves in position to garner excitement for the future, as their recent success has proven that Penn football, despite its fall from the throne of Ivy League champions, is still here to stay.

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