The Quakers have their eyes set on their first win.
After a heartbreaking loss in the season opener against No. 20 Delaware, Penn football will travel to Fisher Stadium in Easton, Pa. on Saturday to face Lafayette.
“My takeaway from the Delaware game was the resilience. We went up, and then we were down. We fought back and really played all four quarters,” coach Ray Priore said.
While the Red and Blue (0-1) are only one game into the new season, the Leopards (0-4) already have four games under their belt. And although Lafayette may be winless so far, the Leopards still have plenty of talent.
Leading the way for Lafayette is quarterback Keegan Shoemaker. The freshman standout has put up big numbers to start off the season, ranking first in the Patriot League in completion percentage (63%), completions per game (20), passing efficiency (136.1), passing yards (1,024), passing yards per game (256.0), passing yards per completion (13), and total offense (283.3). Senior wide receiver Nick Pearson has been Shoemaker’s top target, averaging over 70 receiving yards per game and leading the team in touchdown receptions.
“We just have to pressure Shoemaker all game long. We will pass rush like we do in every game, but we are also going to try and mix up the looks — zone covers, man covers,” senior defensive lineman Taheeb Sonekan said.
While the Leopards have excelled passing the ball with Shoemaker, they have not found the same success on the ground. Lafayette's running game is lead by freshman running back John Gay, but the freshman is averaging only 30.3 yards per game and 3.9 yards per attempt. Second on the team in rushing yards is Shoemaker, who is averaging only 24.8 yards per game and 2.1 yards per attempt.
Inconsistency has been the main issue for Lafayette. Offensively, the Leopards have had games with almost 600 yards of offensive production; they have also had games with less than 250. They have had games with only one turnover and games with four turnovers. As a result, on their off days, the Leopards have found themselves losing by up to 29 points.
On the other hand, the Quakers are highlighted by their running attack. In the loss to Delaware, the Red and Blue outgained the Blue Hens offensively by over 100 yards, much of that attributed to the fact that Penn amassed 269 yards on the ground to Delaware's 100. Led by senior running back, Karekin Brooks–who just became the 11th Quaker of all time to reach 2,000 career rushing yards–the Red and Blue should be able to find the same success running the ball against a Lafayette defense that is allowing almost 200 rushing yards per game.
“A lot of things work in the run game because [Brooks and senior quarterback Nick Robinson] are so good. Having Brooks behind you, you know he is gonna make a cut that’s going to make you look good even if you mess up,” senior offensive lineman Ace Escobedo said.
In the passing game, the Quakers have a lot to look forward to in senior quarterback Nick Robinson. Against Delaware, he went 18-for-27 for 193 yards and three touchdowns. Robinson was able to find sophomore wide receiver Ryan Cragun on eight passes for 145 yards in Cragun's first varsity game. The duo will look to find the same success on Saturday.
It will be homecoming weekend for Lafayette when the Quakers come in town on Saturday, and both teams will look to come away with their first win of the season.