Coming off an impressive 37-21 victory against Bucknell on Saturday, Penn football (2-0) will head back to Franklin Field for its home opener against Dartmouth (1-1) — marking the beginning of Ivy League play for the Quakers as well.
Last year when Penn played the Big Green, the team went into Hanover, N.H. on a Friday night as 11.5-point underdogs, but pulled off a thrilling 23-17 double-overtime victory. That win sent the Quakers into a higher gear for the rest of their impressive 2022 campaign, signaling their legitimacy to contend for the conference title to the rest of the Ancient Eight. This season, the Red and Blue hopes that Dartmouth will not just be a measuring stick for them, but rather another roadblock on their way to capturing an elusive Ivy League title.
Despite only two games into the season, Penn has put together its most complete performance of the season last week at Bucknell, dominating the trenches on both sides of the ball. Penn put up 515 yards of total offense — led by junior quarterback Aidan Sayin’s three touchdowns and career-high 354 yards through the air — and a balanced rushing attack gaining over four yards per carry. Defensively, the Quakers held the Bison to a minuscule eight yards of total in rushing, largely thanks to the efforts of senior defensive tackle Joey Slackman. Although Penn’s secondary gave up three touchdowns without forcing any turnovers, much of the damage was done after the team had gained a comfortable lead.
A key area to watch on Saturday will be Penn’s receivers and passing game, ranking second in the Ivy League, against Dartmouth’s Ivy-leading pass defense, which has only allowed 182 yards and a 56.6% completion percentage by opposing quarterbacks this season. Sophomore receivers Jared Richardson — who hauled in an impressive 12 passes for 139 yards and two scores last week — and Alex Haight look to wreak havoc on the Big Green secondary.
Sayin, after only passing for 204 yards in this game last year, many coming on short throws, will look to test Dartmouth more vertically this year. Penn certainly hopes its offensive line’s stout performance last Saturday will continue to not only give Sayin ample time to read the field, but create holes for the Quaker backs to burst through against Dartmouth’s rush defense, which the Red and Blue struggled to do last year.
On the other side of the ball, the Quakers will have to account for Dartmouth’s dual-quarterback system of Dylan Cadwallader and Nick Howard. Last fall, Penn’s defense did a great job of limiting Howard through the air but struggled to contain him on the ground. Since that game and going into this season, the Big Green have primarily used Howard as a runner while Cadwallader has taken on the role of being the primary thrower. Dartmouth’s true offensive strength lies in its ground attack.
Dartmouth will likely try to slow down the game and limit opportunities for Sayin and the rest of the offense on Saturday, but expect the Quakers’ FCS-leading run defense to be up to the challenge.