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Penn Football beat Dartmouth 35 to 28 in overtime at Franklin Field Credit: Rachel Bleustein

Just three games into the Penn football season, running back Brandon Colavita has already recorded two touchdowns and averages 5.2 yards per carry — a far cry from the limited role he played on the special teams unit last year.

Along with his sophomore teammates, Colavita has stepped up to fill the gaps left by a strong senior class that guided Penn to an undefeated Ivy record last season. The initiative taken by the Class of 2013 is one of the primary reasons that the Quakers have mostly picked up right where they left off.

“The sophomore class has put in a lot of hard work and determination to be much better than we were last year, and to get better every year,” sophomore punter Scott Lopano said. “Instead of the underdog fire, [we] have the repeat fire.”

While most attention has surrounded quarterback Billy Ragone, whose three rushing touchdowns against Dartmouth earned him Ivy co-Offensive Player of the Week honors, the Quakers’ running game has been fueled by fellow classmates Colavita and Jeff Jack.

Like Colavita, Jack playing primarily on special teams last season. But regardless of the role the duo played on the field, they gained all-important game experience.

“When you get to go to a place like Harvard … and play there and feel the intensity of a game, it just sets you up for playing,” Colavita said.

And the experience paid off.

Jack and Colavita are the Quakers’ leading rushers thus far.

In fact, the top four rushers are sophomores — Billy Ragone and injured Lyle Marsh have also both gained over 100 total yards this season.

The stat sheet shows that these sophomores have talent. Plus, with a year under their belts, their focus has turned from adjusting to new surroundings to fulfilling greater roles on the football field — on both sides of the ball.

Last year, defensive lineman Brandon Copeland played nine games and recovered a fumble against Brown.

But he admits that as a freshman he didn’t know what to expect from Ivy play and more importantly, had trouble balancing football with schoolwork.

This year, however, Copeland entered with confidence and knowledge that has already translated to on-field success.

“I know what to expect,” he said. “I know I can play with the people I’m playing against because I played last year. I’m more mentally aware.”

And that readiness shows on the turf — in just three games, Copeland has recorded 16 total tackles, which is six more than he made in all of nine games last season.

These second-years have more than just a year of experience — they have championship experience.

And with targets on their backs, they had even more motivation to step up this season.

“I saw [the Ivy League championship] as a reason to work twice as hard,” Colavita said. “I personally wanted to step up and help the team.”

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