In August, in response to a question about Penn Athletics, President Amy Gutmann was blunt about Penn football’s Ivy supremacy.
“Would you trade for Princeton’s football team? I don’t think so.”
The answer now is a little different.
In a Homecoming game that was expected to be a Quakers victory since the schedule first came out, Penn football did not live up to expectations.
After jumping out to a 16-0 lead, the Quakers turned the ball over six times, giving the Tigers and junior quarterback Quinn Epperly short fields and an easy road to a comeback.
And despite an uncharacteristically slow start, Epperly and Princeton used its fast-paced, no-huddle offense to tire out the Red and Blue, methodically moving the ball on Penn’s defense.
And when Penn was down late in the game, the team just couldn’t find a way to get a big stop of Princeton’s potent attack as the Tigers pulled away.
“We played with great effort, but we just made too many mistakes,” Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. “And against a good team, an efficient team, an explosive team, you just can’t do that. And that was ultimately our demise.”
So despite being picked fifth in the Ivy League preseason media poll, the Tigers are the class of the Ancient Eight, not Penn.
It was Epperly leading his team from behind, not Penn’s Billy Ragone. It was Princeton’s defense — led by Elijah Mitchell, Anthony Gaffney and Mike Zeuli — forcing the key turnovers, not Penn’s senior-laden defense.
And overall, it is Princeton’s year atop the Ancient Eight instead of Penn’s continued reign of dominance.
“They’ve really transformed their program,” Ragone said. “Coach [Bob] Surace does a great job with them and their kids play hard and they have a good scheme.”
One day shy of a year since Penn celebrated an Ivy title after defeating heavily-favored Harvard at Franklin Field, the roles were reversed, as the upstart Tigers squad upset the established Ivy favorite Quakers to reign in their own supremacy.
So instead of Penn pulling out some celebratory cigars while savoring the band’s triumphant rendition of “The Red and Blue,” it was Princeton, huddled as a team on its sideline, beaming with pride with the playing of its alma mater after ending a six-game losing streak vs. Penn.
“It really feels great,” Princeton junior wide receiver Connor Kelley said. “I was there in coach Surace’s first year, back when I was a quarterback, so I felt a pretty good beating that year and we’ve all taken it the last three years.
“It feels wonderful.”
And when the triumphant Tigers first came into the postgame press conference, Surace — the man who brought Princeton from 1-9 two years ago to the top of the Ivies this year — had some words for President Gutmann.
“You guys at The Daily Pennsylvanian write great articles, just like our guys do, and when the president of a school says, ‘Would you trade our football program for Princeton’s? I don’t think so,” well, Mrs. ‘I don’t think so’ should understand the heart our guys have,” he said.
“Maybe she should see that this isn’t in the NFL. There aren’t trades, I told our guys that, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I love these guys.”
So while Gutmann celebrates behind the banner of Time to Shine, Surace and his Princeton Tigers had their moment in the sun during Penn’s Homecoming.
So if you ask anyone in the Ivy League if they would trade for Princeton’s football team, the answer is simple.
STEVEN TYDINGS is a Wharton sophomore from Hopewell, N.J., and is a sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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