Four years. Four losses.
The 19 outgoing seniors on the Penn football team have won 23 Ivy League games and lost just four in their time wearing the Red and Blue.
They will strive to win one more game in a Penn uniform when they take on Cornell this Saturday at Franklin Field.
“We’re putting our focus and energy into going out strong,” senior linebacker and co-captain Erik Rask said. “All the seniors want to go out with a win and make sure the program’s heading in the right direction.”
Though this season didn’t turn out how the Quakers (5-4, 4-2 Ivy) had hoped, the seniors’ accomplishments over the last four years speak for themselves. They won two Ivy League championships and were part of an 18-game conference winning streak.
Above all, Rask and senior co-captain Greg Van Roten said that the seniors are leaving the program better than it was when they got here in 2008.
The legacy of their class, they said, is that the team has a different attitude than it did before they arrived, one where everyone expects to win.
“We tried to instill a culture of hard work,” Van Roten said. “We weren’t always the biggest guys or the strongest, but we knew that if we worked hard, that we would win.”
After last weekend’s loss to Harvard that ended Penn’s hopes for a third-straight title, the team emphasized the importance of rebounding and ending the season with a win.
“We can’t let the Harvard game affect us in the Cornell game,” Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. “We’ve got to put that behind and obviously do a better job this week than we did last week.”
It will be an exciting atmosphere for the seniors’ final game, but the Quakers can’t sleep on Cornell (4-5, 2-4).
Sophomore quarterback Jeff Matthews is the leader of the Big Red offense, which sits atop the league with over 318 passing yards per game.
Matthews threw for 521 yards in a 62-41 victory over Columbia last weekend. He became the third Ancient Eight player to pass for over 500 yards in a game and fell just five yards short of the Ivy single-game record.
“They’re a dangerous team, they’re an explosive team,” Bagnoli said. “We’ll have to do a good job of containing the big plays.”
The Quakers are in a good position to do that, having allowed just 185.8 yards per game through the air, good for first in the league.
Though Penn wants to end the season with a win to build momentum for next year, this game is ultimately about the seniors. Those 19 guys hope to end their Penn careers on a high note in what could be the last football game they ever play.
“Hopefully there’s life after football,” Van Roten said. “I guess we’ll find out.”
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