Penn football faces a unique challenge this weekend: having to bounce back from its first loss of the season.
Last Saturday, the Quakers came up short in their Ivy League opener at Dartmouth, falling to the Big Green by a score of 37-14. With a stretch of six straight Ivy games just two weeks away, the Red and Blue will use this Saturday’s game against Sacred Heart as a stepping stone, an opportunity to get right before they enter the heart of their conference schedule.
“It’s really about how we perform,” coach Ray Priore said. “Most games are lost by what you don’t do, not what your opponent does. How we execute our plan, the basics, the fundamentals, the procedural things … that’s been the focus. Our focus is on us, not anything else. We gotta get better.”
With this in mind, the Quakers (2-1, 0-1 Ivy) hope to see a return to the disruptive defense and balanced offense that was featured in their first two victories. Last weekend, the offense accumulated just 244 yards, while the defense was unable to put much pressure on the quarterback, hurrying him just once the whole game.
And while this loss, like any conference loss, still stings, Penn is not dwelling on it.
“Obviously we lost, so everyone’s kind of feeling that. But we’re trying to make sure that it’s not taking control of practice,” senior left tackle and captain Tommy Dennis said. “Nothing we can do about that. We watched the film; we’re gonna learn from it … [and] focus on [this] week.”
Like Penn, Sacred Heart (3-1, 1-0 NEC) also enters this weekend coming off of a defeat. After beginning the year with three consecutive wins, the Pioneers were handled by Cornell this past Saturday, losing to the Big Red 43-24.
On the season, Sacred Heart has averaged 32.5 points per game behind the arm of graduate student quarterback Kevin Duke and the legs of senior running back Jordan Meachum. The matchup between this talented offense and Penn’s defense will be a compelling one to watch, as the Quakers look to become even more comfortable with their scheme heading into the bulk of Ivy play.
While every contest is important, especially in a 10-game season, the Red and Blue will be focusing on the things that they can do not only to win this one, but to be better prepared for success in the future. An Ivy Championship is always the goal, and Penn knows that these non-conference matchups are vital in order for the group to get much needed in-game reps.
In terms of how the team feels moving on after the loss, there’s still no shortage of confidence among the players.
“I think we know we’re ready [for Ivy play moving forward],” Dennis said. “You know, on Saturday, we obviously had some things not go our way. But I think we just wanna come back, put together a full game, special teams, offense, defense, just showing everything we got and [that] we’re ready for the next game.”
The Quakers were hoping to take a step forward last weekend against Dartmouth. And though they didn’t leave Hanover with a win, they have an opportunity this Saturday versus Sacred Heart to regain the momentum that they had accumulated in the first two weeks of the season.
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