Penn football is seeing red this weekend – in more ways than one. The Quakers face off against the Big Red, a team with a 1-3 Ivy League record this season, and they'll likely be fired up after last week's upset loss at Brown.
Four Daily Pennsylvanian reporters, including – don't get starstruck – the DP's editor-in-chief make their picks ahead of this Saturday's game.
Penn 23, Cornell 13 – Jonah Charlton, Editor-in-Chief
Penn’s loss on Saturday in Providence, R.I., was nothing short of a gut punch. To end an undefeated season-opening run in an upset defeat — with a questionable non-targeting call to end the game — absolutely hurts, but in many ways it does not change much for the Quakers. The path to an Ivy League championship still runs through a rivalry week clash with Princeton, and Penn clearly needs to improve on both sides of the ball to have any chance at winning that game.
And, at the end of the day, nothing helps a team improve quite like a gut punch. With last week’s loss at Brown still fresh in its mind, Penn should come out firing on all cylinders this week in its game at Cornell. The transformation must begin with sophomore quarterback Aidan Sayin, who’s been much improved since a year ago, but struggled last week to the tune of 29 completions on 51 attempts for only 227 yards — with his longest completion of the day totaling 13 yards. Against an inferior Cornell defense, Sayin should be able to get back on track.
It's the Quaker defense, however, that I expect to lead the way on Saturday. After allowing a season-high 34 points last week, senior defensive lineman Jake Heimlicher and company are undoubtedly restless to get back on the field and will undoubtedly manage to add a few sacks to its Ivy League-leading total.
It only feels right to take Quakers in my first-ever sports pick — I’ll take Sayin and a hungry Penn defense to take care of business in Ithaca.
Penn 32, Cornell 13 – Eashwar Kantemneni, Deputy Sports Editor
Penn fell to 6-1 last Saturday in a nail-biting loss at Brown, which can almost certainly be read as a trap game.
The defense looked confused as to how to handle Brown’s aerial attack in the first half since it had not played a pass-first offense like that before. Cornell’s offense does not pose the same problem, and that, combined with Penn’s anger at a few questionable non-calls going against them late last week, will have the team red with anger as it looks to empty out its frustrations against the Big Red in Ithaca, N.Y.
Offensively, Cornell does most of its work on the ground, with dual-threat quarterback Jameson Wang rushing for 373 yards and throwing for over 1,100 more this season. However, having faced stronger rushing offenses and dual-threat quarterbacks before against Yale and Dartmouth – and succeeding – Penn’s defense should be faced with a familiar task and have a great chance to get back into form.
Cornell’s defense is ranked seventh in the Ivy League, and as long as they can account for 2021 All-Ivy first team linebacker and team-leading tackler Jake Stebbins, Sayin and co. could have a chance to put major points on the board this weekend.
Expect Cornell to hang in there with Penn during the first half, before the Quakers pull away in the second half to get revenge for the gut-wrenching Homecoming loss the Big Red handed them last season.
Penn 24, Cornell 10 – Matthew Frank, Sports Editor
There’s no two ways about it: last week sucked. At 6-0, Penn football had finally rallied enthusiasm around its program, and the Quakers’ upset loss at Brown sullies much of that.
The worst part? Penn practically beat itself. In the first half, an untimely third-and-goal facemask set up an easy Bears touchdown and a catastrophic fourth-and-12 pass interference led to another Brown score. Without those two miscues, the Bears would have had 11 less points, and Penn would’ve likely won last Saturday’s contest.
Against Cornell, the setup will be much the same. The Big Red this season have been a middling squad, losing all but one of their four Ivy League contests, including a 38-14 blowout against Yale, who Penn beat 20-13 recently.
This is a game Penn should win. As long as they don't beat themselves, the Quakers should be able to march into Ithaca, N.Y. and play the way they had all season – dominant on defense and doing just enough on offense.
Look for a bounce-back week for Penn’s defensive front and a solid outing from sophomore quarterback Aidan Sayin and the rest of the offensive attack.
Penn 28, Cornell 14 – Walker Carnathan, Sports Reporter
Perfection cannot last forever, and Penn football found that out the hard way last Saturday as it dropped its first game of the season 34-31 at Brown. After erasing a monumental 24-7 halftime deficit, the Quakers made a few crucial blunders late, including a back-breaking holding penalty on their final offensive possession, and saw their dreams of an undefeated season slip away.
But the campaign presses on, and Cornell is next on the docket. The Big Red are just 1-3 in the Ivy League, with the lone victory coming over Brown, and their offense is predicated on dual-threat quarterback Wang. The Quaker defensive line has eaten opposing quarterbacks for lunch so far this season, and if they can repeat that feat against Cornell, it will be difficult for them to produce enough offense to come out on top. I expect Penn to win by two possessions, with three-plus sacks from the defense.