All that matters is going one game at a time.
Interview a coach or player from any sports team and you’ll hear words like these. Who’s going to admit that his team can completely overlook the team it’s about to face? That the next game isn’t as emotionally significant as matchups later on might be?
It’s easy to talk the talk and say that you treat every game like it’s your last. But actions speak a lot louder than words, and Penn football’s ongoing tear proves that the Quakers can walk the walk too.
One quick glance at the box score of Penn’s rout of Yale on Friday night tells you all you need to know.
The Bulldogs entered the weekend with the second-worst defensive passing efficiency in the FCS, and the schemes from Penn head coach Ray Priore and offensive coordinator John Reagan ensured that the heavily favored Red and Blue would give a 1-4 Yale squad no life from the start.
Junior wideout Justin Watson secured career-highs of 160 receiving yards and three touchdowns — and this was all in 30 minutes, as Penn outgained Yale 323-101 to surge to a 35-0 lead at the half. (Keep in mind that Watson has already had a pretty decent career up to this point).
Going back a week further, let’s take a look at Penn’s 35-10 win over Columbia. With 2:05 remaining, the Red and Blue led that game 28-10 with the ball inside the Lions’ 25-yard line. Every player, coach and fan for both sides knew that this game was done — making up a three-possession deficit in two minutes without starting with possession is already nearly impossible, and Columbia entering the contest with the nation’s sixth-worst scoring offense only exacerbated this.
And with the outcome already having been essentially decided, what did Priore and Reagan dial up? A trick play with running back Tre Solomon running a direct snap toward the line of scrimmage before abruptly stopping and finding a wide open Cam Countryman for a 23-yard touchdown to put icing on the cake.
From a strategic standpoint, it certainly looked questionable. Why waste this trick play where it made no impact on the game’s result when it could be necessary in a closer game later on? What coach with any foresight would run this play and allow his future opponents — two of whom also happened to be unbeaten in conference play — to study up on that film and prepare for similar looks before facing Penn?
But that’s the whole point — there is no foresight with this team. The Quakers claim to treat every game like a playoff game, and then back up those words with the way they approach each opponent.
Until that final whistle against Columbia blew, Penn had no concern for what Yale or anybody else in the Ivy League was doing — and as soon that post-game celebration wrapped up, the Red and Blue treated any Ivies not named Yale as if they didn’t exist.
And it’s exactly that mentality which is why Penn has now won nine consecutive Ivy League games, including a 3-0 start to Ivy play this year that has me increasingly confident that the Quakers are capable of staking the claim of being back-to-back champions.
But my thoughts on Penn’s chances to repeat are irrelevant. Because I know that if you asked Priore and his players whether they see themselves as title contenders, you’d get their honest response:
All that matters is Brown next weekend.
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