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When Cornell visited Franklin Field earlier this season, the Penn defense stymied the Big Red in a 20-0 shutout. The Quakers visit Cornell for a game tonight. (Trevor Grandle/The Daily Pennsylvanian)

It's late Wednesday night and the lights are fading on Franklin field as the wind starts to kick up. It's a scant two days until the raging Penn sprint football team will face a scrappy Cornell team, and the Quakers have just wrapped up one of their worst practices of the week. In a week marked by the loss of starting quarterback and captain John Kernan and defensive standout Dan Rowcotsky due to a jaw and knee injury, respectively, a practice this bad is about the last thing coach Bill Wagner needs. However, instead of giving his tired team a stern lecture or extra sprints, he chose to wrap up practice with a short huddle talk from senior captain Brad "Yoda" Gusich. In true Jedi fashion, his sage words to the team were, "Well, if you're gonna go out, it's better to go out on Wednesday than Thursday, because Thursday is the night before our Friday game and you got to go to bed early." While it wasn't a traditional pep talk, it was all this team needed to hear to leave practice in higher spirits. With a game looming 48 hours away, it might be hard to understand how the Quakers' can be emotionally up. But the Quakers are riding high after a hard fought, crucial victory against Navy. For the third year in a row, the Quakers defeated the perennially powerful Midshipmen. But the victory came at a steep cost. For tonight's game, the Red and Blue are going to have find a way to fill in for key leaders on both offense and defense. Kernan, the starting quarterback, and Rowcotsky, the marquee defender, leave big boots to fill. Without those stars, it won't be as easy to bring home a win like the last Penn-Cornell matchup where the Quakers, in their opening game of the season, defeated the Big Red, 20-0. In addition to injuries, Penn's defense, for the second week in a row, will not have senior defender Phil Meng because he failed to make the 165-pound weigh-in on Wednesday night. With those three key losses, the best Penn can do is rally behind freshman quarterback Jim Donapel, who stepped in for Kernan in the fourth quarter of the Navy game, shrugging off any signs of rookie anxieties and brought the team to an overtime victory. Tonight will prove another test of Donapel's steady arm. Cornell, due to a weak offense, has no chance of making a run at the title this year, with two league losses already, to Navy and last week to Army. "Their coach's strategy is to put all the good athletes on defense," Penn sophomore running back Mark Gannon said. "Even though they can keep good offenses to low numbers, they're not going to score, so they're not going to win." Despite Gannon's claim, that defense can get in the way of Penn's title dream. This, in addition to Cornell's home field advantage, could prove dangerous for the Red and Blue. And despite being the more skilled team, the Quakers cannot take the Big Red lightly. "Can we beat this team? Yes. Should we beat this team? Yes. There are no if's, and's or but's about it," Wagner said. "The bottom line is that we have to go beat them."

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