Penn football enters this weekend’s game against No. 18 Fordham in an unfamiliar and uneasy state.
Seeking to avoid an 0-4 start for the first time since 2007, the Quakers (0-3) do not get an appealing confidence building opportunity as the heart of the Ivy slate nears, but rather a high-powered Rams (5-1) squad that will look to aggressively attack Penn’s defense.
While the Quakers have yet to find the win column, the team is trying to keep its early performance in perspective given the stiff competition it has faced.
“We’re a victim of a lot of different things,” coach Al Bagnoli said. “Some of it is self-imposed. Some of it has been the byproduct of playing the hardest schedule of anyone in the Ivy League.”
The Red and Blue defense, whose 35 points allowed per game is ranked second worst in the Ivy League, will have its work cut out against a balanced Rams attack that has put up over 40 points in five of its six games.
Senior quarterback Mike Nebrich and freshman running back Chase Edmonds have overwhelmed their competition thus far.
The pair have impressively hauled in Patriot League Offensive Player and Rookie of the Week honors, respectively, for three straight weeks.
Nebrich’s 1,738 passing yards and 15 passing touchdowns are good for second and fifth in the FCS, respectively.
The Rams’ dangerous passing attack has helped soften up opposing run defenses for Edmonds, who has taken advantage with five 100-yard rushing efforts.
The Quakers will not be able to shut down Fordham’s offense — rather, the unit will aim to slow the Rams by setting an early tone and preventing big plays.
Another key to keeping the Rams off the board will be putting the defense in position to succeed — something the Penn offense has struggled with so far.
Penn’s pass-happy offense has shown some promise thus far, but finishing drives has been a difficulty for quarterback Alek Torgersen and company.
“We need to finish drives and put points up on the board,” Torgersen said. “Every game, we’ve gotten down in the red zone but haven’t been able to capitalize.”
Torgersen so far has put his good arm strength to use — he is second in the Ivy League with 243 passing yards per game — but the sophomore has experienced difficulties common to inexperienced signal callers.
Turnovers have been the most glaring: Torgersen leads the conference with six picks in three games.
The sophomore shouldn’t shoulder all the blame, as several of his turnovers were the result of clear miscommunication, but the young gunslinger will need to take better care of the ball for the Red and Blue to have any chance against Fordham.
However, the Quaker offense will likely need to take some chances to win a shootout.
Penn generates many of its big plays off play action, so establishing the run game early on will be a key to success.
More generally, the Quakers are looking to establish fundamentals as the center of a new team focus.
“We’ve adapted the mantra of trying to get back to basics and back to being fundamentally more sound,” Bagnoli said. “That’s the only way that we’re going to start being a complete football team.”
While the Quakers are in need of a win, more important is their ability to piece together 60 minutes of fundamentally consistent, competitive football.
Such an effort would go a long way in bolstering the struggling Red and Blue’s confidence as they ready to take on the rest of the Ancient Eight.
“It’s been tough, but we’re still confident,” Torgersen said. “One loss in the Ivy League is something that you can come back from.”Comments powered by Disqus
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