Usually, when your team wins and covers the spread, it’s hard to find much to be unhappy with. But with a formidable foe on the road next week and plenty of miscues on the field Saturday, Penn has some work to do.
There was much talk of Penn's offensive potential in anticipation of the Lafayette game today, considering the new offensive coordinator and the promising performance from sophomore quarterback Aidan Sayin last week. However, after the game, it was clear that the defense secured the victory with their hard-fought shutout against the struggling Leopards.
Now, everyone is wondering if defense will be enough next week against Dartmouth, when the games really start to matter. Saturday’s defensive performance was undoubtedly impressive, with the Quakers exerting consistent pressure on Lafayette’s passers and hardly allowing any separation in the secondary. But still, the Leopards are a team led by a first-year coach and a freshman quarterback. They had been averaging single-digit scoring coming into this game. Dartmouth is one of the reigning Ivy League co-champions, and if Penn wants to claim the title this year, it will not only have to repeat defensive performances like today’s, but will also need a more consistent offense.
With several drops on open passes this afternoon, Penn could have easily scored more points than it did. That being said, there were also a couple of dropped picks, including one that would have likely been taken for a score. So, it can also be said that if a couple plays went differently, Lafayette could have made this game a lot more competitive.
While the drops don’t matter now that the Quakers have secured the win, if Penn wants to give itself a chance next week, it can’t give Dartmouth the opportunity to capitalize on these mistakes.
Fortunately, the Quakers seem to know they have work on. Despite the win, Sayin had little praise for his team’s offensive performance, but seemed optimistic about improving their gameplay in the future. Coach Ray Priore noted that his team will be right back at practice on Sunday night to play under the lights, as the game against Dartmouth will be in the dark.
Speaking of coaching, while Penn’s decision-making was not perfect, it has definitely improved compared to last year. Although it was disappointing to see the Quakers punt on fourth-and-one in Lafayette territory on the first drive of the game, they made up for it with the fourth-down touchdown. In today’s game, aggressiveness and analytics are more important than ever, and Penn seems to be starting to figure that out. With the way the Ivy League is looking so far this year, now is a better time than ever.
It will be a long week for Penn football as they prepare to take on Dartmouth, an opponent they have not defeated on the road since 2016, Priore's first year as head coach. Meanwhile, The Daily Pennsylvanian will be traveling to New Hampshire to cover the game, its first such trip in eight years. The Quakers will certainly be hoping for a different outcome than that afternoon, when they suffered a 31-13 loss. With a defensive performance like Saturday’s and a cleaner offensive showing, anything is possible.
BRANDON PRIDE is a Wharton senior from Morgan Hill, Calif. studying finance who was a Senior Sports Editor for the 137th Board of Editors. He can be reached at email@example.com.