Nick Buchta, Senior Sports Editor:
I’m not sure how to envision Penn sprint football without its stud quarterback. Penn’s own Troy Bolton (he sings and sports!) just led the Quakers to their first outright Collegiate Sprint Football League title in 16 years. He led them to just the second undefeated season in program history. His Quakers beat both service academies for the first time since 2000. He broke the program record for career passing yards. He did it all.
For that, he was named CSFL MVP. And guess what? It wasn’t the first time. Think about that. McCurdy wasn’t just the best player in the sport in his title-winning swan song. He did it twice in a row. It’s not easy to be dominant, especially for as long a time as he’s done it.
Does all that not do it for you? Look at what happened when the Red and Blue had their backs against the wall. Down eight to Cornell with the ball on their own 7, McCurdy had to lead the Quakers 93 yards with no timeouts and 1:41 to play. Not only did he do it — with his legs as much as his arm — he converted the game-tying two-point conversion even after Penn was flagged for a false start.
When push came to shove, there’s no one you wanted out there for the Quakers than Mike McCurdy. He’s without a doubt the MVP of the fall season for Penn Athletics.
Will Snow, Senior Sports Editor-elect:
My first instinct was to go with Penn football’s Justin Watson — after all, he is up for the FCS Player of the Year award. Then again, though, that is only the FCS award, as the Quakers compete in the second tier of college ball.
My second instinct was to tap sprint football’s Mike McCurdy. The senior quarterback put the team on his back as he marched Penn to its first outright CSFL title in 16 years, beating both of the military service academies and sprint football powerhouses in the process. But that still didn’t feel right to me, because — no offense, sprint football — but that league only had eight teams.
Cross country, however, competes at the highest NCAA level, and the women went to the national championship for the first time in program history this year. Senior Ashley Montgomery, meanwhile, led the team in every single meet this year and finished 13th at the NCAA Championships — meaning only 12 college athletes in the entire nation are better than her. There are probably 12 wideouts better than JWat in FBS, and — again, I’m sorry, sprint football — but there are surely 12 better quarterbacks in college football than McCurdy.
Montgomery finished the 6K championship in just over 20 minutes, and the All-American’s 13th-placed finish left her tied for the best-ever performance by a Penn cross country athlete in NCAA Championship history.
After last year’s cross country dominance by Tommy Awad on the men’s side, it was only fitting that the women strike back with a performance for the history books themselves. Montgomery has track season in the spring left before graduation, but she’ll surely go down as the best woman ever to grace the program.
Tommy Rothman, Sports Editor:
Penn football quarterback Alek Torgersen was the Fall MVP for Penn Athletics in 2016.
Was he the BEST player on the team? No. Justin Watson was, hands down. But it’s Most VALUABLE Player, not AnchorLADY, and that is a scientific fact!
And as a Jets fan, I can tell you that it’s awfully difficult for a talented wide receiver or two, let alone an entire team, to be successful without a good quarterback. And Torg was more than “good” in 2016.
In his final season with the Quakers, Torgersen finished second in the Ivy League with 18 passing touchdowns and third with 2,231 passing yards. Torgersen also had the league’s best completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception ratio and yards-per-attempt ratio of anyone who finished top-ten in passing attempts.
But Torg also contributed to Penn’s terrific rushing attack, not just by keeping defenses honest against Tre Solomon, but with his own legs as well. The quarterback finished third in the league with eight scores on the ground and 11th with 396 rushing yards.
This Red and Blue team had many standouts, as evidenced by 14 All-Ivy selections. But without Alek Torgersen, Penn football would have gone nowhere in 2016. He’s my MVP.
Tom Nowlan, News Editor-elect:
During the 2015 season, Justin Watson showed why he was perhaps the most talented player in the Ivy League. In 2016, he upheld those expectations, and then some.
Catching 89 passes for 1115 yards and eight touchdowns, Watson led the Ancient Eight in every major receiving category. Kicking off the season with a two-touchdown performance against Lehigh and ending it with 11 catches against Cornell, the Pennsylvania native was clearly Penn’s most dominant athlete this fall season.
Surprisingly, Watson was able to maintain his lofty numbers even as the Quaker offense focused on the run game more than in previous years. Outdone only by Ivy co-champion Princeton, the Red and Blue picked up 169.1 rush yards per game this season as Tre Solomon emerged as the conference’s top backfield weapon.
Unlike graduating quarterback Alek Torgersen, Watson will be back for more in 2017. Third all-time in receptions at Penn, he will have his entire senior season to rewrite the program record books.
Facing Yale on Oct. 21, Watson had his best game of the season. On national TV, he pulled in 10 catches and three touchdowns. Resting most of the second half in the blowout, he likely could have done much more damage in the 42-7 win.
Just the fourth-ever Ivy League player to amass two 1,000-yard receiving seasons, the junior will look to make it three straight in 2017. Watson has improved over each of his first three campaigns in University City. Assuming he makes another leap in the months to come, countless Ivy records look to be in danger.
That’s something for Quaker fans to be plenty excited about.