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Freshman quarterback Aidan Sayin runs down the field with the ball with oncoming Cornell defenders headed towards him during the homecoming game on Nov. 6. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Straight off its shocking 15-12 loss to Cornell, Penn football (3-5, 1-4 Ivy) will face Harvard (6-2, 3-2) this coming Saturday in an attempt to salvage an increasingly disappointing season. 

The Quakers will need to present a dominant showing on the offensive side of the ball to counter an extremely strong Harvard defense that has allowed an average of 13.88 points per game all season. Freshman quarterback Aidan Sayin has shown promise in his last few starts, throwing for 247 yards in the Cornell loss. 

“He is a natural leader…[he’s still] developing that chemistry,” coach Ray Priore said on Wednesday. 

While Sayin has been solid, it’s unclear if he will be able to handle the prowess of a defense like Harvard’s. 

Penn will also have to rely on its run game, led by running backs Isaiah Malcome and Trey Flowers, who each have five touchdowns apiece on the season. Both Malcome and Flowers have been reliable for Penn, but again, Harvard has one of the toughest defenses in the Ivy League, so it’ll have to be a combination of both passing and running the ball in order for Penn’s offense to have a chance. 

Priore also implied that quarterback Aidan Sayin could be a ground threat.

“He is really talented with the ball in his hand, running," Priore said. "You don’t want to let him out there.”

Priore went on to emphasize that consistency will be key for the Quakers.

“We have to play good team football across the board, [and] limit the mistakes," Priore said. "That should not be happening at this point in time [of the season].” 

The Red and Blue’s defense will also have to be nearly perfect. The defense has been inconsistent throughout the year, allowing an average of 20 points per game — shutting out Lehigh but allowing 42 to Yale. 

However, the Quakers do have some defensive weapons, including senior linebacker Jake Heimlicher — who has six sacks this season for 47 yards — and defensive lineman Prince Emili, who has four sacks for 30 yards. The Quakers will need to stay consistent and get early defensive stops to keep momentum on their side.

Harvard will look to improve to a 7-2 record and chase Dartmouth and Princeton for the best record of the Ivy League. Meanwhile, Penn will try to redeem itself and improve to 4-5. The Quakers are currently sitting in sixth place in the conference with hopes of ending the final few games of the season on a strong note.