By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It is all Ivy league action from here on out this season for the Penn Quakers, starting with a visit to New York on Saturday to take on Columbia.
Penn wrapped up the non-league portion of its schedule this past weekend with a 27-14 loss at William and Mary. It really was a very difficult spot for the Quakers, as they had to travel down to Virginia to take on a team in the rugged CAA just a week removed from a four-overtime win over Dartmouth. But Penn rallied from a 21-0 fourth quarter deficit to pull to within a touchdown, before the Tribe put the game away.
“There was a lot of adversity,” Penn head coach Al Bagnoli tells KYW Newsradio. “Coming off an emotional, four-overtime win. We expended a tremendous amount of physical and emotional energy (against Dartmouth). We had to take what amounted to a seven-hour bus ride down to Williamsburg and then play in the rain against a really good team. So I give our kids a lot of credit, they overcame a lot of obstacles. I think we can take a lot of positives out of that game and hopefully this will be a catalyst for us to continue to improve our play.”
Columbia is 0-4 this season but, like the Quakers, they did play a very challenging non-league slate. It included games against #8 Fordham (7-0) and #18 Lehigh (5-1). Last week, they really battled the Mountain Hawks, before losing 24-10.
Bagnoli thinks his squad will recognize what the Lions want to do on offense.
“They are a lot like William and Mary, so we should have some carry-over,” Bagnoli says. “They want to run a lot of different formations and motions and be able to feature a tailback running attack. Their tailback is one of the premier running backs in the league.”
That tailback’s name is Marcorus Garrett and the senior is averaging 103 yards-a-game and 6.1 yards-a-carry this season.
On defense, Columbia has had more than its share of struggles, allowing 41.5 points a game. But Bagnoli says it’s a unit he thinks is starting to steady itself.
“They’re coming off of a 4-3 base with some pretty good down kids and they do a lot of pressures now,” Bagnoli says. “So we’ll have to be ready for the blitz game, we’ll have to be ready to get and handle the eighth guy in the box.”
Now Penn has truly dominated this series for years. They have won 16 straight against the Lions. But last year Columbia gave the Quakers all kinds of fits at Franklin Field, taking a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter before Penn rallied late for a 24-20 win. So Bagnoli says they know they can’t take the Lions lightly.
“I think it’s a constant theme, go back to last year’s film,” Bagnoli says. “They, at times, dominated us. I told our players, and I think they’ll agree, we were very fortunate to win that game at the end. So we don’t want to make the same mistake that maybe we made last year. So we have to have the maturity to go in there and continue to get better, not to take anything for granted, and play as hard as we did last week against William and Mary.”
Penn and Columbia will kick-off at 1:30pm on Saturday at Wien Stadium in New York City.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.