Desperate for an Ivy win, the Quakers are primed for their first victory in conference play.
On the heels of a shootout loss to Yale, Penn football will return to Franklin Field on Saturday to face off against Brown in the 1,400th game of the Red and Blue’s illustrious history — a feat that no other football program in the NCAA has ever accomplished.
Going into Saturday’s matchup, the Bears (1-5, 0-3 Ivy) find themselves in the same boat as the Quakers (2-4, 0-3) — both teams will enter the game winless in League play.
“The importance of the game is that you come out and play. We love the sport of football, and the guys love to be out here to compete and win," coach Ray Priore said. “Sure, our long term is not there, but our seniors are playing in the last four games of their career."
Leading the way for Brown is EJ Perry, the junior standout who has emerged as one of the top Football Championship Subdivision quarterbacks in the country. In his breakout season, Perry is leading not only the Ivy League but the entire nation in total offense, currently averaging 350.7 yards per game — 278.33 yards per game through the air and 72.33 yards per game on the ground. Last week against Rhode Island, Perry alone amassed 463 yards of total offense.
“Perry is definitely a talented kid. We have a bunch of formations and sets we are putting in this week," junior linebacker Brian O’Neill said. “I think we'll need to switch it up with a bunch of pressures just to get him off balance and scrambling so that players can make plays."
While Perry is averaging more than 70 yards per game rushing the ball as quarterback, sophomore running back Allen Smith has not been able to find the same success, averaging just 54 yards per game. However, the sophomore does lead the team with five rushing touchdowns on the season.
Through the air, senior wide receiver Jakob Prall and junior wide receiver Scott Boylan have benefited from Perry’s success, as Prall leads the team with 345 receiving yards on the year and Boylan leads the team with five receiving touchdowns.
“Perry does a good job spreading the football. Brown does a good job on offense by mixing up run plays and pass plays. He’s got some really good go to receivers. Equally with that, Perry extends plays really well. He uses his feet really well and avoids pressure,” Priore said. “We just got to keep an eye on him, spy on him through the course of the game and play tight coverage.”
Luckily for the Quakers, the Bears’ defense is one of, if not the worst in the Ivy League. Brown is at the bottom of almost all of the defensive statistical categories in the conference. The Bears are last in rushing yards per game with 162.3. They are also last in passing yards per game with 353.0. And they are last in total offense, allowing more than 500 yards per game. Furthermore, Brown is last in defensive efficiency, and as a result, the Bears are conceding 42 points a game.
“It’s going to come down to execution," Priore said. “It’s our offensive ability to take advantage of what they are showing as a weakness to try to put our players in the best spots, and then it comes down to running, blocking, throwing and catching."
The Red and Blue will look to take advantage of Brown’s defensive weaknesses during Saturday’s matchup. After all, the Quakers are filled with offensive threats.
Leading the way, senior running back Karekin Brooks leads the Ivy League with 126.8 yards per game and eight rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Nick Robinson is coming off of his best game on the season, where the senior threw for 395 yards and three touchdowns.
Looking to capitalize on Robinson’s success, sophomore wideouts Ryan Cragun and Rory Starkey will look to improve on already impressive seasons, as Cragun currently leads the Ivy League with 604 receiving yards on the season with Starkey just four spots after him with 373 yards on the year.
Priore will enter Saturday’s game with an all-time record of 4-0 against Brown. He’d like to make it 5-0 by the end of the day and come out with Penn’s first league win of the season.
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