A t 1-5 and already beset with two Ivy losses, Penn football is, for all intents and purposes, done in 2014.
But believe it or not, there’s still plenty of reason to watch.
For starters, there’s an obvious element of pride on the line. Key contributors remain from that 2012 Ivy championship team — Dan Davis, Dan Wilk and Kyle Wilcox, to name a tiny few — and none of them are about to go out there and play out the string with their heads hung low.
The Quakers are not a good football team, but they are certainly not a lackadaisical and disinterested one, either. With games against Princeton and Harvard remaining, there is the very real possibility that the Red and Blue will get it together on both sides of the ball for one afternoon, rise up and play spoiler to a rival’s Ivy title dreams. Schadenfreude is sweet.
And though many of the recognizable veterans on the roster will be gone next year, there is plenty of talent returning that fans can scout out now.
Take, for example, sophomore quarterback Alek Torgersen.
The gunslinger has always had the physical profile of an elite Ivy quarterback, but his decision-making lagged behind early on this season. He threw two killer picks in the fourth quarter of the season opener against Jacksonville, and looked skittish in the pocket during a blowout loss to Dartmouth two weeks later.
It’s been over three weeks now since that ominous Ivy opener against the Big Green, and Torgersen already looks like a completely different quarterback.
In his last two contests, against Columbia and Yale, Torgersen combined to throw four touchdowns against zero interceptions while demonstrating a newfound mastery of Penn’s offensive tempo. While the results on the scoreboard may be the same as usual, the Quakers’ offense looks infinitely better than it did at the start of the season.
Even the defense, which has been much-maligned this season, has had some young players show off their potential in brief flashes. Underclassmen Louis Vecchio and Corey Power have entrenched themselves firmly in the defensive line rotation. Cornerback Brandon Michel got beat for a late touchdown in that 43-21 loss to Yale on Saturday, but the fact that he was even on the field at all is at least a partial testament to the freshman’s raw ability.
Perhaps most impressively, junior Jimmy Gammill and freshman Hunter Kelley have taken hold of the kicking and punting jobs, respectively. Both have earned weekly Ivy honors.
However, impressive punts don’t get butts in the seats. And the biggest reason to watch Penn football over the next month or so is a man that people won’t be seeing nearly as much of next year.
For better or for worse, the focus of the rest of the season now falls on the countdown to retiring coach Al Bagnoli’s final game.
Bagnoli, for his part, hates the attention. He called this season “business as usual,” back at the press conference last year when he formally announced his plans to step aside after Penn’s game against Cornell on Nov. 22.
Business as usual for Penn football under Bagnoli, though, is an Ivy title — or at least, a top-three finish.
Neither of those are in the cards for 2014, but at this point, it’s far more productive for Penn fans to honor the nine Ivy titles that Bagnoli has won instead of obsess over the tenth that he will not.
Even if the 23-year vet would prefer to have it any other way.Comments powered by Disqus
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