Before Saturday, junior Kyle Wilcox had more tackles in his career than he did rushing attempts.
But by the end of the marathon four-overtime game — the longest in Ivy League history — Wilcox won the contest for the Quakers with his legs.
He went for 94 yards on 18 rushes, which all came after the 10-minute mark in the fourth quarter, including a 20-yard scamper in the fourth overtime that gave Penn the win.
“It was the last man standing,” coach Al Bagnoli said. “And I give Kyle Wilcox a lot of credit.”
Fifth-year senior Brandon Colavita came out of the game in the third quarter after hearing a pop in his knee, and Bagnoli searched to find a replacement and ultimately found it in Wilcox.
No matter how out of left field the move may seem, once fifth-year senior Billy Ragone handed it off to Wilcox in fourth, it was clear what he brought to the table.
He fought for extra yards, the way that Colavita does when at his best. And when he needed to, he turned on the jets.
The game-winning touchdown run in and of itself was a great run.
Ragone said after the game that the play call had Wilcox running up the middle, but the ball carrier took things into his own hands.
He bounced it to the outside without having the designed blocking to help him right from the get-go, but that didn’t matter.
That speed around the edge? That’s something that Colavita doesn’t have.
And that speed around the edge is what makes this one crazy aspect of a crazy game that much more difficult to get one’s head around.
Who is this guy? And how did he just essentially save Penn’s Ivy hopes?
Wilcox started out as a running back in 2011, getting two carries as a freshman before switching over to a defensive back in his sophomore campaign. As a sophomore, he compiled seven tackles as a part of the Quakers’ special teams unit.
Wilcox’s switch back to running back even surprised some of the people inside of Penn Athletics. Wilcox is still listed as a defensive back on the Quakers’ roster.
You can’t make this stuff up.
And it’s a great story, but once the dust clears, where does this leave Penn’s running attack?
Colavita will almost definitely not play at William & Mary, even if his MRI comes back clean. But if he is out for significant time, it’s unclear who will step up to be the Quakers’ leading rusher.
Wilcox is a great story, but he is not primed the same way that junior Spencer Kulcsar and sophomore Mike Elespuru are.
That tandem came into this year expecting to be options two and three, and it would be tough for them to see Wilcox jump up to the top of the depth chart.
That having been said, Kulcsar doesn’t run the way that Bagnoli likes his back who gets the bulk of the carries inside the tackles to run. He is shifty and great in space, but he is only averaging 1.9 yards per carry this year.
And Bagnoli has only given Elespuru five rushes this season, so it doesn’t seem as if he is an option either.
The options at running back are all flawed, and one back definitely has the momentum the other contenders are lacking.
So fans can get used to seeing more of Kyle Wilcox in the future.
JOHN PHILLIPS is a senior English major from Philadelphia, Pa., and is a sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at phillips@theDP.com.
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