By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s a big week for the Penn Quakers as they visit longtime rival Princeton on Saturday in a key game in the Ivy League race.
Both teams are 3-1 and tied for first place (along with Harvard) in the Ancient 8. The Quakers needed some real dramatics to get here as they rallied to hold off Brown last Saturday 20-17. Penn got two clutch field goals from sophomore kicker Connor Loftus down the stretch in the win. The first, a 45-yarder, tied the game with 2:12 left. The second, a 35-yarder, came with just seventeen seconds remaining and proved to be the game winner.
“He’s really a talented kid,” Quakers head coach Al Bagnoli tells KYW Newsradio about Loftus. “He’s one of the most highly recruited kids that we’ve ever had and really had national exposure coming out of high school. He was ranked in the top-ten kickers in the United States. His brother’s a kicker at SMU, so he’s kind of from a kicking family. He’s a got a very good leg.”
LISTEN: Matt Leon interviews Al Bagnoli
Loftus is seven for nine this season on field goals and that 45-yarder was his season long.
It hasn’t been easy for the 3-4 Quakers thus far in 2012. They played a grueling non-conference schedule (losses to Lafayette and CAA powers Villanova and William and Mary), and lost an Ivy game they probably shouldn’t have at Yale a couple of weeks ago. But that win over Brown has them in familiar position, in the midst of the Ivy title race.
“The whole goal of this league is to be playing meaningful games late in the year,” Bagnoli says. “So when you get into week eight and week nine, and you’re playing meaningful games, then that’s all you really can ask for. It’s a league built on parody. So every week is a tussle. You kind of see some of the scores going back and forth, it’s hard to predict who’s going to play well and who’s going to win and who’s the favorite and everything else. So meaningful games late are our goal. Hopefully you can prepare well enough, hopefully you can win your share of those games and if you do, then at that point you put yourself in position where you’re a title contender.”
Princeton is 4-3 overall and coming off a 37-35 loss at Cornell last weekend. The Tigers are a great story as they have bounced back from a 1-9 record a season ago.
“I think they are probably ahead of schedule,” Bagnoli says. “They are very young in a lot of positions, especially in the skill positions – quarterback, receiver, secondary. Their foundation was going to be their defensive line and their offensive line and as advertised, their defensive line has been very good. They do a great job getting after the quarterback, doing a good job versus the run game.
“I think early on they were a defensive-oriented team, they had a lot of low scoring games and then the last couple weeks their offense has matured and now they are really starting to put up some numbers.”
Penn has won the last five match-ups in this series that Princeton leads all-time, 63-39-1.
The Quakers and the Tigers will kick-off at 1:00pm on Saturday at Princeton Stadium.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.