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Sprint Football vs. Cornell September 27 2014 Credit: Ilana Wurman , Ilana Wurman, Ilana Wurman

Off to its best start since 2010, Penn sprint football is riding on a wave of positivity.

To keep up the momentum, though, the Quakers will have to buck the trends of history.

This Saturday, the Red and Blue (2-0) will host Navy, a CSFL powerhouse that has perennially stymied the Quakers.

“In order to think about being a title chaser, you got to beat one of the service academies, and Navy comes up first on the schedule,” coach Bill Wagner said.

The Midshipmen (2-0) have dominated the all-time series between the two schools, winning 55 of 65 meetings. The Quakers haven’t beaten Navy since the 2010 season, which Penn finished 7-1.

Last year, the Midshipmen dismissed the Quakers, 35-14, behind 271 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns — then-sophomore running back Eric Wellmon led the way with 191 yards and two scores.

Meanwhile Penn senior running back Mike Beamish struggled to the tune of 16 carries for 39 yards that day and knows he won’t have an easy matchup this weekend.

“Their defense really comes out to play,” he said. “The guys in the box have good first steps.”

However, Wagner is quick to dismiss last year’s result, which was a makeup for an Oct. 4 game cancelled by the government shutdown.

“It was an extended season, which didn’t mean anything for the teams,” he said.

On offense, the Quakers will face a juggernaut Midshipmen defense that brought back four players who were named to the 2013 First or Second-Team All-CSFL teams and seven who were honorable mentions. Not surprisingly, the Midshipmen have only allowed 14 total points in the first two games.

On defense, the clear objective is stopping Wellmon, the reigning CSFL Offensive Player of the Week. In two games, he has racked up 311 rushing yards and six touchdowns. It will be interesting to see how the Penn linebackers — including reigning CSFL Defensive Player of the Week Robert Diorio — will stack up with Wellmon. In last week’s win over Cornell, Diorio returned a fumble for a touchdown, intercepted a pass and logged seven tackles.

The Midshipmen have a run-centric offense, but when quarterback Joe Hampton drops back to pass, he should expect pressure. The Quakers have already amassed 10 sacks, and senior safety Keith Braccia is impressed.

“Pressure on the quarterback has been incredible,” Braccia said. “We emphasized it this year. The guys on the line are more experienced.”

Both of Penn’s wins this season have revolved around clutch play in the second half. In the opener at Mansfield, the Quakers fought back from a 13-point deficit to score 14 points in the final eight minutes, both on Beamish touchdowns. The magic was repeated a week later against Cornell, when the Quakers held a 13-11 lead over the Big Red after a Cornell field goal. The Quakers went on to outscore the Big Red 23-8 the rest of the game.

On the season, Penn has outscored opponents 28-8 in the fourth quarter, playing at its best when most teams tire out.

“We put in a new conditioning program, and it’s been a real plus and keeping everybody healthy,” Wagner said.

That program will be put to the ultimate test this weekend.

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