Penn football has been nothing short of impressive so far this season, with a red-hot 4-0 record serving as evident proof. Coming off an explosive 59-28 win over Georgetown, Penn’s next test comes from within the Ivy League against Columbia.
The Lions are a solid 3-1 overall and 0-1 in the Ivy League, serving the Red and Blue their hardest test yet. Penn’s dual-threat offense led by quarterback Aidan Sayin and running back Trey Flowers will seek to overwhelm the Columbia defense, who gave up 24 to Princeton, their toughest opponent to date. Flowers is having a spectacular start to his season with five touchdowns and an average of 4.9 yards per carry.
Sayin, a sophomore, has been developing nicely in his first full season of being the starter. He has eight TD passes on the season along with four picks. Sayin threw four of his TDs last week with over 200 yards passing, a stat line that will likely be necessary again to overcome Columbia this weekend. Sayin and wide receiver Malone Howley are developing a cohesive chemistry as well, which can be yet another weapon for the Quaker offense. Howley had seven catches for 90 yards and a TD last week.
Though Sayin favored Howley against the Georgetown Hoyas, new offensive coordinator Dan Swanstrom's gameplan has favored more diversity in the receiving corps. Sayin completed passes to at least 10 receivers in each of the team's first three games.
“I think morale on the team right now is high,” senior offensive lineman and captain Trevor Radosevich said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had this kind of start to a season, but I think the important thing for us right now is making sure everyone is focused, locked in … [taking] it one week at a time.”
Defensively, the Quakers face a tough challenge. The Lions’ offense is arguably the best Penn will face so far. Columbia is averaging 28.5 points per game, while the Penn defense just gave up 28 to an offensively inferior Georgetown team. The Penn defense is led by standout senior defensive lineman Jake Heimlicher, who has four sacks and 30 total tackles so far this season to lead the team.
“Every single week, I think we’ve really progressed as a team … and I think that’s really contributed to how we play on Saturdays,” offensive lineman Ben Hoitink said.
Additionally, Penn football will see a familiar face on the opposite sideline with Lions head coach Al Bagnoli. Bagnoli has the second most wins amongst active college football head coaches. The legendary coach was at Penn for 23 years and won nine Ivy League titles with the Quakers.
Since Bagnoli's hiring with the Lions, Penn has gone 3-3 against its former coach, including a 23-14 loss last season in which the Quakers struggled offensively. The game marked the final one in which then-senior John Quinnelly started at quarterback before Sayin stepped in at the helm for the back half of the season.
The Red and Blue will play in front of their home crowd at Franklin Field. Kickoff will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and the game will be available via streaming through ESPN+.