As September approaches, so too does Penn football’s opening contest. The Quakers kick off their season with two nonconference games before facing Fordham in early October. But what should coach Ray Priore’s squad look for against its non-Ivy foes? See below:
Date: Sept. 19 at 12:30 p.m.
Where: Bethlehem, Pa.
2014 Record: 3-8
Conference: Patriot League
The Mountain Hawks may be the Quakers’ first opponent of the season, but Lehigh will play in two contests prior to hosting Penn. Led by coach Andy Coen, ot finished 3-8 last year in what was Coen’s first losing season since 2009.
Junior quarterback Nick Shafnisky returns for his second year as the starter. In 2014, he struggled to the tune of a 59.4 percent completion percentage and a 14 to 12 touchdown-to-interception ratio. But he was also a threat in the running game, gaining 746 yards and six scores on the ground.
Perhaps the Mountain Hawks’ top threat on offense is sophomore wide receiver Troy Pelletier, who led the team in receiving in his freshman season with 49 catches for 815 yards and seven touchdowns. He has shown a penchant for big games, as evidenced by his three different contests of 100-plus receiving yards, including his behemoth 10-catch, 214-yard game against Holy Cross.
Apart from Shafnisky and Pelletier, it is unclear who will be the players to watch on offense. Last season’s leading rusher, Rich Sodeke, has graduated along with the team’s second-leading receiver, Josh Parris. The latter’s 635 receiving yards were 413 more than the third-most-productive receiver.
On defense, Lehigh brings back its two leading tacklers from 2014 — both junior linebackers — in second team All-Patriot League selection Colton Caslow and Pierce Ripanti. Caslow recorded 67 tackles while missing one-and-a-half games and Ripanti logged 75.
Date: Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.
Where: Villanova, Pa.
2014 Record: 11-3
Conference: Colonial Athletic Association
Penn will travel to Villanova for some Thursday night football, a game that was rescheduled because of the papal visit that weekend. Villanova’s Andy Talley will face off with coach Ray Priore in the former’s first matchup with the Quakers since Al Bagnoli left the program. Ironically, Talley was at Columbia University in February.
In last year’s matchup at Franklin Field, the Wildcats routed the Quakers, 41-7, with all the scoring plays occurring in the first half. Then-junior quarterback John Robertson threw for 230 yards and four touchdowns, and the Wildcat defense stopped Penn’s offense multiple times in its own territory. For the Red and Blue, then-senior running back Kyle Wilcox provided the team with its only score on a 67-yard scamper.
Robertson is a holdover on this year’s team, but two of his top weapons, wide receiver Poppy Livers and running back Kevin Monangai, have graduated. Livers caught 67 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns, while Monangai rushed for 1,138 yards and 12 touchdowns. Robertson himself broke the 1,000-yard barrier, gaining 1,272 yards along with 11 rushing touchdowns, while he also had 35 touchdowns through the air.
Villanova also sees its leading tackler from 2014 back this year in senior linebacker Don Cherry. He wreaked havoc on opposing offenses last year, totaling 134 tackles (21.5 for loss), 10 sacks and 5.5 forced fumbles.
Date: Oct. 10 at 1 p.m.
Where: Franklin Field
2014 Record: 11-3
Conference: Patriot League
Coach Joe Moorhead’s Fordham was a force on offense last season, but the team might not be as powerful after the loss of several key players.
Among those no longer with the team is quarterback Mike Nebrich, who won the Patriot League’s Offensive Player of the Year designation in his senior campaign with totals of 3,599 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. Also gone are Brian Wetzel, Tebucky Jones and Sam Ajala, three receivers who each surpassed 1,000 receiving yards last year.
One key player that will be returning for the Rams is sophomore running back Chase Edmonds. After a freshman season in which he logged 1,838 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns, Edmonds won numerous accolades and has already been added to several preseason watch lists. In addition, he was recently named the Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
Fordham also lost its top four tacklers from last year along with defensive lineman Brett Biestek, who led the team with 18 tackles for loss in 2014.
In last year’s matchup, the Rams trampled the Quakers, 60-22. Although then-sophomore quarterback Alek Torgersen threw for 316 yards through the air, three different running backs had rushes of 40 or more yards and placekicker Jimmy Gammill connected on five field goals, Penn’s defense did not have an answer for Fordham’s offense. Nebrich threw for 566 yards and six touchdowns, while Edmonds ran for 107 yards and a touchdown. Jones and Ajala combined for 402 receiving yards and three scores. And after Fordham’s DeAndre Slate ran back a fumble recovery for a touchdown with 2:48 remaining in the first quarter, the Quakers trailed for the remainder of the game.Comments powered by Disqus
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