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Penn Football beats Dartmouth at Hanover 30 - 24 Penn 9 Bradford Blackmon Credit: Katie Rubin

After three years of interviewing coaches, you begin to recognize buzzwords for the misleading media-directed language commonly referred to as “coach speak.”

Understating the importance of losses and talking up inferior opponents are two of the most recognizable directions this language can take. So is the term Al Bagnoli kept returning to in the postgame press conference Saturday after the Quakers defeated Dartmouth, 30-24.

“We had to overcome a little adversity,” he said with regards to having his top three quarterbacks injured.

Talking in such extreme language can prevent a team from analyzing its faults and moving in a positive direction. If Bagnoli and the Quakers truly believe that they had to overcome adversity to gain this win, they have a tough road ahead.

Bagnoli came back to the word “adversity” repeatedly.

For the sake of the Quakers’ season, however, I hope he didn’t mean that term literally. Look up “adversity” in the thesaurus, and you’ll find synonyms like “catastrophe” and “disaster.”

That said, it’s easy to see why any coach would talk about his team overcoming adversity. Crediting your team with winning in the face of adversity makes every win seem more impressive and inspires confidence among the players.

Though the Quakers met and overcame their fair share of obstacles Saturday — I can personally attest to the fatigue a drive to Dartmouth can instill — many of the aspects Bagnoli called “adversity” actually gave the Red and Blue a slight edge in the contest.

Penn entered the game without starting quarterback Keiffer Garton, while backups Kyle Olson and Billy Ragone suffered injuries that made it difficult for the Quakers to throw the ball. But how much did this really effect Penn’s offense?

At halftime — before the Ragone injury — the Quakers had run 18 times, averaging more than 7.5 yards per carry. Penn had thrown six completions on 13 attempts averaging less than six yards per try.

The imbalanced playcalling in the second half — 26 runs to seven passes — does not immediately indicate a limited playbook, but rather capitalizing on an effective ground game.

Bagnoli shouldn’t have been surprised that running the ball worked. Dartmouth entered the game giving up more than 280 rushing yards per game, worst in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Quite frankly, the injuries to quarterbacks just forced Bagnoli to re-emphasize what he had been doing all along — keeping it on the ground.

Other adversities also turned out to be more of an advantage for the Quakers. The rain pushed Dartmouth to try and attack Penn’s stout front seven and limited its ability to exploit the injury to cornerback Chris Wynn.

What the Quakers faced were obstacles, ones which in some ways actually led to a more effective gameplan. If Bagnoli truly believes that what the Quakers overcame in Hanover was catastrophic — and I’m not claiming that he is also saying this privately to his team — then he and his players are in for a rude awakening.

Circle Nov. 14 as a day when the adversity will likely be very real. Penn will travel to Boston to take on the Crimson in a game that could have Ivy title implications. There will surely be more injuries in the second-to-last week of the season, the drive is second in length only to that of Hanover and the crowd at Harvard Stadium should be raucous.

Until then, Bagnoli, tone down the extreme language. Sure, a road win against a much-improved Dartmouth team is something to be proud of. But to act like the fates aligned against your squad will lead only to false confidence and further struggles as this squad aims for an Ivy championship.

Neil Fanaroff is a senior economics major from Potomac, Md., and a former Design Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. His e-mail address is

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