All offseason, teams work on improvement. They try to fix holes they had last year, while maintaining strengths. And then, in the first game of the new season, it is time to unveil the team's new look and show off all the work that's been done over the offseason.
Yesterday, Penn football played its first game since last November, and displayed what they'd been working on in the past nine months. And it looked good, as the Quakers went up to Colgate and defeated the Raiders 20-6.
It can sometimes take a few games for a team to shake off an offseason's worth of rust, but Penn managed to look fresh and in command within the first half of yesterday's season opener. While the offense's first few drives were a bit sluggish, the Quakers quickly found a rhythm, and were moving the ball well by the end of the second quarter, when they put together a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ended in the season's first touchdown.
Meanwhile, Penn's defense, which allowed under 20 points per game last year, returned to its same ferocious form rather quickly. Fifth-year senior defensive back Jaden Key intercepted Colgate's Michael Brescia late in the first quarter, setting up the Quaker offense with good field position.
But even though it didn't take Penn's defense long to look good, in the second half they looked downright phenomenal. Colgate was kept off the scoreboard in the second half, with three drives ending with a turnover on downs — all inside Penn territory — and another concluding when Brescia threw his second interception. Overall, the Raiders finished with just 1.8 yards per rush, zero touchdowns, and with Brescia being sacked six times, by six different Quakers. After losing last season's sack leader Jack Heimlicher to the transfer portal, it was a very welcome sign that Penn could get pressure on the quarterback.
Back to the offense, which was taking definite shape as the game wore on. While Penn did need to replace its leading rusher and receiver from last year, it did return junior quarterback Aidan Sayin, who looked composed throughout the game. While his 60.5% completion percentage and 3.86 yards per attempt leave something to be desired, he did a good job involving different receivers and making plays when he needed to.
It also appears that the Quakers have found new weapons to help Sayin. Junior halfback Jacob Cisneros was Penn's leading rusher, gaining 65 yards on the ground on only eight carries, and showcasing his explosive ability with a dazzling hurdle late in the game. And following the loss of Rory Starkey Jr. after last season, it appears Sayin has found a new top target, with sophomore wideout Jared Richardson — who didn't catch a single pass last season — racking up 62 yards on seven catches.
There were some kinks to be ironed out, though. Despite lackluster overall numbers, Brescia was able to connect with receivers downfield for big gains of 42 and 26 yards, respectively. But otherwise, as we look ahead to Bucknell next weekend and the Ivy League schedule still to come, the Red and Blue looked darn impressive Saturday. If this is the team that shows up week in and week out, then Penn should emerge victorious more weeks than not.
CALEB CRAIN is a junior and current sports editor studying European history and statistics from Los Angeles. All comments should be directed to email@example.com.