Penn football has 18 Ivy League titles, tied for the most with Dartmouth. They will not win a 19th this season.
Saturday’s 44-6 loss at Columbia is enough to be sure of that. That Penn won’t win the Ivy title this season does not come as a large surprise — most commentators predicted the Quakers would finish fourth or fifth in the conference.
The bigger surprise was the indignity with which the Red and Blue lost to the Lions. Columbia is historically among the worst Ivy teams, Penn among the best. The Quakers have beaten the Lions 74 times in 97 opportunities all-time. This is not a team that Penn is supposed to lose to, let alone get blown out by. Penn went 20 games without losing to Columbia — a streak that was only broken two years ago in overtime.
There’s no other way around it: Penn football looked awful on Saturday. It was the biggest loss to Columbia of all-time and the worst Ivy League loss since 1981, a season in which Penn won just one game all season. This was the most embarrassing loss of the 21st century — in an entire generation.
Making it worse was the fact that based on the initial preseason predictions, this was one of the three Ivy League teams Penn was supposed to beat. Now, the Quakers will have to fight just to stay out of the cellar. It is hard to imagine the Red and Blue stealing a win against undefeated Harvard or Princeton or preseason favorite Yale.
Every step of the way, the Quakers looked undignified and unprepared. The first play from scrimmage was a 47-yard flea-flicker. Penn managed 46 yards in the first quarter, fewer than the total from Columbia’s first play. Somehow, it went downhill from there.
Penn’s best player, senior running back Karekin Brooks, was held to 56 yards from scrimmage, the first time all season that he was held under 100. Penn managed 232 total yards of offense; they entered the game averaging more than 457. The offense was kept off the scoreboard for the first time since 2016. More points were scored by the Columbia defense when Penn’s offense was on the field.
The defense was better, but not by much. Aside from a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the game’s dying minutes, deep into garbage time, there was not much to celebrate. Allowing 37 points is not a good performance against any opponent, let alone one you were supposed to beat.
Special teams doesn't get talked about much until things go wrong, which isn’t fair. But boy did things go wrong against Columbia. Penn missed both field goals it attempted and allowed its only extra point attempt to be blocked. The Quakers have only converted one field goal this season in five attempts.
It was an embarrassing loss, plain and simple.
"It just seems like every opportunity we had to make a play, we didn't convert. Regardless, I take extreme ownership of this loss as a football coach," coach Ray Priore said.
The feeling in my gut says things aren’t particularly likely to improve. Penn has regressed since former coach Al Bagnoli left for Columbia. Bagnoli has immediately improved Columbia in the four years since he took the job. Meanwhile, Priore’s initial success has disappeared. If you point to recruiting as the big reason why, it isn’t hard to argue that Priore’s ability to bring in talent should be under question. I’m not sold on that interpretation quite yet, but this loss marks a new low for the Quakers.
Maybe Penn can turn the season around. Or maybe we should just start looking forward to next year.
THEODOROS PAPAZEKOS is a College senior from Pittsburgh and Senior Sports Editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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