Mike Wisniewski | With targets on their backs, Quakers must cut the miscues
October 16, 2011, 10:49 pm · Updated October 17, 2011, 7:13 pm·
Rachel Bleustein | DP
NEW YORK — The old cliche in sports is that “a win is a win,” but that does not mean there is no cause for concern for the Penn football team.
On Saturday, the Quakers needed yet another fourth-quarter comeback to extend their Ivy winning streak to 17 games. The sloppy play and last-minute comebacks have come against teams that are traditionally bottom-feeders in the Ancient Eight, Dartmouth and Columbia. This season, the two are a combined 1-9.
After the game, coach Al Bagnoli wanted to give his guys credit for coming away with the victory. While there is something to be said for overcoming mistakes and finding a way to win, the Quakers can’t make a habit of it.
The Red and Blue sit at 2-0 in the Ivies, but that record could easily be reversed, if not for Billy Ragone doing his best Steve Young impressions.
Bagnoli also called this game Columbia’s “Super Bowl.” The Lions certainly had this nationally-televised matchup with the defending champs circled on the calendar, but they’re not alone.
The Quakers need to get used to the fact that they have a bullseye on their back. When you haven’t lost a conference game in over two years, you’re going to be every Ivy team’s Super Bowl opponent.
Penn was able to recover in its first two games, but against teams like Yale or Harvard — the Crimson won 42-3 against Bucknell on Saturday — their slow starts won’t fly.
Another cause for concern, especially against Columbia, was the carelessness with which Penn held onto the ball. Five fumbles are inexcusable, and the Red and Blue were lucky the Lions recovered only two of them. The Quakers could have tied the game earlier in the second quarter, but fumbles on back-to-back plays effectively ended the drive. This forced Bagnoli’s hand to go for a risky fourth-and-goal at the end of the half.
The offense was not alone in its miscues. For the most part, the defense stepped up when called upon, but a 14-play, 70-yard Columbia drive late in the fourth quarter showed that Penn wasn’t invulnerable. The Lions could have easily scored a touchdown to take the lead had they not committed two false starts and a delay-of-game.
With all the team’s imperfections, Bagnoli and his staff have a lot of work ahead of them. And if the Quakers do not start correcting their mistakes and put together a solid 60-minute game against Yale this weekend, they will be in for a rude awakening.
MIKE WISNIEWSKI is a junior classical studies major from Philadelphia. He can be reached at Wisniewski@theDP.com