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Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Bob Benson speaks to the defensive line during the game against Dartmouth at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 30. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

This Saturday, Cooper Field will set the stage for the Quakers (3-0) attempting to amplify their momentum ahead of conference play, and the Hoyas (1-4) determined to alter their trajectory. 

After a shocking double-overtime win against Dartmouth (the 14-point favorite), the Quakers are not taking anything for granted. 

“We had three wins last year, three wins this year. Nothing’s changed,” junior wide receiver Joshua Casilli said. “We still got seven games left.” 

The first showdown between Penn and Georgetown since 2008 will pit two teams with starkly different strengths and strategies against each other. 

Penn football coach Ray Priore is gearing up for a tug of war between the Quakers’ formidable defense and Georgetown’s dominant drives. A pillar of Penn’s victory over Dartmouth was holding the nation’s No. 2 rushing squad to just 193 yards, many of which came in the overtime periods.

The Hoyas’ elite passing game with quarterback Pierce Holley and wide receiver Joshua Thomas at the forefront will be a new test for the Quakers’ gritty defense. Holley’s accumulation of 1,282 passing yards (15th in the Football Championship Subdivision) and Thomas’ 469 receiving yards (seventh in the FCS) have created impressive offensive showings, such as Georgetown’s 38 points against Fordham, a team ranked 16th in the FCS. 

“They have a terrific quarterback, wide receivers, running backs, and they can go long and make some really big explosive plays,” Priore said. “If we can limit their explosive plays, I think we will have a lot of success on defense.”

On the other end of the field, all eyes are on Penn’s ability to convert in pivotal third- and fourth-down plays, which the Red and Blue struggled with last Friday against the Big Green. 

“There were so many things we left on the table,” Priore said, reflecting on the Quakers’ duel with Dartmouth. 

A shanked punt by Penn in the fourth quarter paved the way for Dartmouth’s first touchdown, while three consecutive drives with unsuccessful fourth-down conversions put the team’s first-half momentum in jeopardy. The Quakers hope to improve their run game that has produced just 97.0 rushing yards per game compared to 127.8 last year.

Ahead of the matchup against Georgetown, Penn also wishes to continue a dominant trend from its first three games: thriving under pressure. The Quakers’ last-two-minutes drive at the end of regulation against Dartmouth and a tremendous 14-3 second-half comeback against Colgate (1-4) in week one have shown fans and opponents alike that the Quakers’ offense has a newfound poise it didn't possess in a 3-7 outing last season.

As the final non-conference game before six high-stakes Ancient Eight matchups, Priore is looking to build on an understated factor that has contributed to early success. 

“The leadership of our upperclassmen at this point in time has been instrumental,” Priore said. “Players trust each other, trust coaches, coaches trust players, and we are all focused on what we need to accomplish.” 

Saturday’s long-awaited reunion between the Quakers and Hoyas kicks off at 2 p.m. and will be the center of Georgetown’s homecoming weekend.