With disappointment swirling around Penn football and its conference record, the squad has upset on its collective mind.
The Red and Blue’s matchup with rival Princeton on Saturday represents an opportunity for the Quakers to bury some of the frustration that has largely defined the transitioning team’s season.
The task will be far from easy for the Red and Blue (1-6, 1-3 Ivy), however, as the Tigers team they face will be fighting to keep its Ivy League title hopes alive.
Princeton (4-3, 3-1), tied with Yale and Dartmouth in the Ivy standings behind undefeated Harvard, bounced back from a lopsided loss to the Crimson with a 38-27 win over Cornell last weekend.
The Tigers’ third-ranked offense boasts a pair of talented quarterbacks in seniors Connor Michelsen and Quinn Epperly .
Michelsen has seen the majority of snaps behind center as of late, an opportunity he has taken advantage of.
In Princeton’s last two wins, over Cornell and Brown, Michelson threw for a combined 648 yards and six touchdowns.
Overall, Michelsen has been more efficient and less mistake-prone than Epperly this season.
It’s likely that the Tigers will roll with the hot hand this Saturday against Penn, but Epperly, who is a strong runner, is always a change-of-pace threat.
“When they have [Epperly] in the game, they tend to run him more than they would run [Michelson],” coach Al Bagnoli said. “You have to prepare for the same passing attack — it’s a lefty [Epperly]/righty [Michelsen] combination … but in the run game is where you see the big difference.”
The Penn secondary, which has struggled this season, will look to contain senior receivers Connor Kelley and Matt Costello .
Kelley, Princeton’s top wideout, is coming off a career game last week when he caught 13 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
Although the Tigers don’t lean heavily on the run, the squad does a good job keeping opponents honest with its ground game.
The slippery DiAndre Atwater — who averages 8.0 yards per carry — will punish Penn’s defense if its line doesn’t fill gaps quickly and its linebackers and defensive backs don’t commit to wrapping up.
“From my position, and especially the first and second level of the defense [our responsibility is] to maintain gaps, because that allows the secondary to do what its supposed to do,” sophomore defensive lineman Corey Power said. “[Atwater’s] a good running back, he’s got a good football sense … [gap contain is] important.”
The Quakers have relied relatively heavily on their secondary — namely players such as Evan Jackson and Kevin Ijoma — to step up and stop the run in recent weeks.
Penn’s defensive front, which gave up 262 rushing yards last week in a 21-13 loss to Brown, is due for a bounce back effort.
The line of scrimmage has been an issue for the Red and Blue on the other side of the ball as well.
Despite having a talented stable of backs, the Quakers have struggled to establish the run against good defenses.
Despite losing star defensive tackle Caraun Reid to the NFL, the Tigers — who give up the second-fewest rushing yards per game in the Ivies — certainly qualify as such.
Against a stout Princeton front four, the Red and Blue will likely use a combination of backs Kyle Wilcox and Eric Fiore, quarterback Alek Torgersen and run-and-gun QB Adam Strouss to attack the Tigers on the ground.
Out of the playoff picture and with only three games remaining for Bagnoli before his retirement, the Quakers should be ready to bring out all the stops in order to take down their archrival on Saturday.
“People just think: ‘Oh, Princeton’s just in general a better school, a better football team,’” Power said. “It’s just a chance for us to prove people wrong."Comments powered by Disqus
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