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Senior running back Trey Flowers looks to run the ball down the field during the game against Colgate at Franklin Field on Sept. 17. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

This Saturday, Penn football will aim to build on the success of its season opener, hosting the Lafayette Leopards (1-2) at home on Sept. 24.

The Quakers started the 2022 season on the right foot. In their 25-14 victory over the Colgate Raiders, the Quakers pushed for a second-half comeback after trailing 14-3 at half by scoring 22 unanswered points in the third and fourth quarters.

“We played great, with more consistency, and execution of our play was a lot better," coach Ray Priore said. "Defensively we did well both halves. If we can just build on what we did last week, we’ll be in good shape.”

The Quakers' offense showed off a new-look game plan in their opener under the guidance of new offensive coordinator Dan Swanstrom. Last season, the Quakers rushed for an average of 127.8 yards per game. Comparatively, the Quakers only rushed for 78 yards against Colgate. The offense took more to the passing game, with sophomore quarterback Aidan Sayin having a career game of 289 yards and two touchdowns on 44 attempts. Sayin threw to 11 different receivers.

Penn has the chance to capitalize on its passing strengths in its next matchup, also at home. Lafayette has given up an average of 221.0 passing yards per game across its first three contests.

But the reliance on the passing game isn’t set in stone.

“I think we take what they give us,” Priore said. “We knew they were very good against the run last week, and it’s very similar to this week, so we’ll need to spread the ball out and do what it takes to win. If it’s 'run the ball for 200 yards,' we’ll do that. If it’s 'throw the ball to eight different receivers,' we’ll do that as well.”

But the Quaker offense could be stopped in its tracks by the Leopards’ defense, according to Priore.

“They have a very, very good defense,” he said. “I believe either eight or 10 guys are returning from last year’s defense … And they played great defense through their first three games.”

Lafayette’s defensive squad holds a similar arsenal compared to the its group against Penn last year. That defensive lineup amassed three interceptions against the Quakers, including a pick-six.

One such player facing off against the Quakers is senior defensive lineman Malik Hamm, an NFL prospect who posted five tackles and 1.5 sacks against Sacred Heart this year.

The Quakers aim to exploit the Leopards’ lack of offensive firepower. The Leopards have struggled to get the ball into the endzone this season. Across three games, the Leopards scored just 27 points and five touchdowns so far. Freshman quarterback Ryan Schuster has accounted for four out of five touchdowns via both passing or rushing.

Penn’s second-half shutout of Colgate could indicate another strong defensive showing. The defensive squad, led by seniors like Jonathan Melvin and Jake Heimlicher, can especially contribute to keeping Lafayette at bay.

And the returning players for Penn will be playing with a vengeance after their performance last season, when Lafayette stole the victory, 24-14.

“We went up there last year and they played well against us. We did not play well, and they beat us. So, our guys remember that dearly,” Priore said. “But we’re really focused on just coming out of the blocks fast and just playing fast.”

The second game of the 2022 season will be key to maintaining Penn’s momentum, while the team attempts to prove a departure from last season. But first, the team must confirm consistency by repeating the same energy and finesse of last Saturday’s second half.  

The Lafayette game will kick off this Saturday, Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. at Franklin Field.