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Senior defensive back Jaden Key covers a Colgate wide receiver during last season's matchup on Sept. 17, 2022. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Penn football took that adage to heart on Saturday, when the Quakers rolled into Hamilton, N.Y. and rolled over Colgate (0-3) for a 20-6 season-opening win. Leading the way for Penn (1-0) was sophomore wide receiver Jared Richardson, who racked up seven catches for 62 yards and a touchdown after recording zero catches as a freshman. Both Richardson’s performance and the Quakers’ overall dominance give the team plenty to look forward to in the season ahead.

 “It was just about executing,” Richardson said of the victory. “Everybody did their job — I was proud of our guys. Now we gotta keep going.” 

While the final score may indicate a smooth victory for the Red and Blue, Penn spent much of the first half shaking off an offseason’s worth of rust. While the Raiders entered the matchup with two games already under their belt, the Quakers had not played an official snap since last November, and that time off manifested in an early lack of rhythm for the Quaker offense.

While Penn was able to move the ball from the outset, they struggled to finish drives and put points on the board. The Quakers were just 3-8 on third down in the first half, including a failed third-and-three from inside the Raider 10-yard line. But luckily for Penn, Colgate’s attack was similarly stagnant. Near the end of the first half, both offenses had only a pair of field goals to show for their efforts, with the four kicks coming from an average of just under 30 yards.

“They had two games they played before us, so we had to make sure we weathered the storm early,” coach Ray Priore said. “Which our kids did a really good job of … Early on we were a little overzealous, we rushed some things, but our kids were really quick to resolve, they got their sea legs under them, and they did a great job after that.” 

But all those early struggles were wiped away with a single pitch and catch. After yet another deep drive, junior quarterback Aidan Sayin dropped back and fired a pass to Richardson in the end zone, connecting for a toe-tapping touchdown. The score gave Richardson his first collegiate touchdown and gave the Red and Blue a 13-6 advantage heading into halftime — a lead they would only extend in the second half.

For Richardson, the chance to showcase his talent was the highlight of the day.

“We have playmakers all over the field,” Richardson said. “So, coming in as a new guy, nobody really knows what I can do, because it’s my first career start, first career touchdown … It felt real good.”

While the offense was gaining momentum, Penn’s defense was shutting things down. The Quaker stop troops pitched a second-half shutout, led by a defensive line that held the Raiders to 1.8 yards per carry on the ground. 

The D-line was a huge advantage for Penn during the team's 8-2 campaign in 2022, and as they look to repeat that success in the new season, the trenches will again be pivotal.

“When you’re able to get pressure with just a four-man rush, without having to blitz, that’s really, really, good,” Priore said. “We have some really good depth on our defensive line, and we were able to show that today … We were playing very fast, we were playing very fresh.” 

The lone score of the second half came on a strike down the middle of the field from Sayin to senior wide receiver Maurcus McDaniel. Sayin delivered a solid performance on the day, demonstrating all the veteran savvy of a signal-caller that has been steering the ship for the better part of three seasons. Though his 166 passing yards and 60.5% completion percentage will not go down in any record books, he played a big part in the only stat that matters: 1-0.

 “It feels real good,” Richardson said of the season-opening victory. “Any time you get a dub over a decent opponent, it feels great. Next week, Bucknell, another Patriot League team, let’s head into next week with the momentum that we have now.” 

Next week, Penn will be on the road again for a matchup with Bucknell (1-1). From Richardson’s breakout performance to a suffocating effort from the defense, the Quakers can take lots of positives from the opener. But for all the attention that is paid to the first game on the schedule, the Red and Blue hope it is the start of something even greater.