Looking to replicate the dramatic come-from-behind victory that ignited their season two years ago, Penn football is hosting the Brown Bears this Saturday at Franklin Field.
The Quakers (2-4, 0-3 Ivy) have struggled as of late — after a dominant win in their season opener, they have dropped four of their last five games, with their one unconvincing victory being against the 0-7 Lehigh Mountain Hawks.
“We talk about the word 'consistency',” Penn coach Ray Priore said. “That’s something we really haven’t been able to establish since the beginning of the season … There’s a lot of areas to focus on.”
But the same was true for the 2019 team, which held identical conference and non-conference records through six games before a three-game Ivy League win streak. And it started at Franklin Field against the Bears.
The Bears (2-4, 1-2 Ivy) are on an upward trajectory, winning two of their last three games after starting their season 0-3. They are looking to snap a five-game losing streak against the Quakers and to beat Penn for the first time since 2014. The Bears are also looking to avenge their 38-36 defeat in 2019, which ended on a 22-yard field goal, putting the Quakers up one with two seconds remaining.
Brown has had an efficient offense this season, with senior quarterback E.J. Perry at the helm. Perry is the nephew of Brown's head football coach, and also plays for their basketball team. He’s already thrown 17 touchdown passes this season, and averages over 300 passing yards per game.
“E.J. is a really, really talented quarterback,” Priore said. “He’s a guy you [have to] contain. And it’s not simply about the pass. You [have to] contain his run game, too.”
Penn is hoping to capitalize on the lackluster Brown run defense, which has allowed over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns through six games. The Quakers already operate in a run-oriented offense, having more rushing yards than passing yards on the season. They’ll look to their two star backs, Isaiah Malcome and Trey Flowers, for offensive production on Saturday.
Malcolme has enjoyed a prolific season thus far, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and over 80 yards per game. Flowers completes the one-two punch and is often looked to in the red zone, having already accumulated four touchdowns in the season. They both scored against Yale last Saturday, and together accounted for over 100 yards on the ground.
More dubious is the Quaker quarterback situation, which saw a change after a 23-14 loss to Columbia on October 16. Aidan Sayin, the true freshman who replaced senior John Quinnelly, went 12-28 for 114 yards in Penn’s loss last week. He will look to rebound and continue his development against Brown, and help give the Quakers a much needed first conference win.
“At the Lafayette game, he [Quinnelly] sort of peaked… He had a slight injury in his right knee, and you could see in the games after that he wasn’t running the ball the way he would, didn’t have the confidence in the leg,” Priore said.
Instrumental for Brown this week is its defense, which has allowed over 40 points and 450 yards per game this season. The Bears have struggled to take the ball out of their opponents' hands, only notching two interceptions and four fumble recoveries in the year. To win, the Bears need to forcibly take the ball from the Quakers, pack the box to prevent the run, and make rookie quarterback Aidan Sayin prove himself.
In a win-or-lose-hope matchup, the Quakers need to recreate their victory from two years ago and once again set their season back on track.