Penn tries to build on stunning upset against Dartmouth
(STATS) – After Penn’s latest performance sent shock waves through the FCS, first-year coach Ray Priore need only point to the schedule to keep the Quakers focused.
Penn is set for another tough test Saturday when it opens its Ivy League season against Dartmouth, one of the favorites to win the league.
The Quakers (1-1) stunned then-No. 5 Villanova 24-13 on Sept. 24, snapping a 14-game slide in the crosstown rivalry with their first win since 1911.
The team’s schedule and the layoff may prove valuable in avoiding a letdown.
"Coming off such a big victory and playing a very, very good Dartmouth football team – picked second in the league – definitely helps us get our kids grounded there," Priore said. "The other part of it, too, that I think is helpful is that the Villanova game feels like it was two weeks ago because of us playing on Thursday. It was out of our kids’ system on Sunday when we took the field and began our prep against Dartmouth."
The time off also benefits Justin Watson, who is expected back after leaving at halftime against the Wildcats with a shoulder injury. However, the sophomore wide receiver had already made an impact with 87 yards and two touchdowns on five catches, earning Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Watson emerged as a key weapon for quarterback Alek Torgersen in a season-opening 42-21 loss at Lehigh on Sept. 19. He had career highs with 10 receptions and 143 yards – 74 coming on a touchdown. His three scores are one more than his total from last year.
"He’s very talented at catching the football," Priore said. "I think the nice part that we’ve seen in him taking the next step this year; he took a little quick screen against Lehigh and took it 60-plus yards for a touchdown. The run after the catch has been very, very valuable."
Penn has won eight straight at home against Dartmouth (2-0) since a loss in 1997. However, extending the streak will mean limiting quarterback Dalyn Williams.
Williams went 13 of 23 for just 107 yards against the Quakers on Oct. 4, but he scored three rushing touchdowns while gaining 53 yards on 14 carries in a 31-13 win.
"You have to get them to third-and-long and then when you get them in those situations, you have to put people in accountable for him," Priore said. "We did that last year, but he’s just that gifted of an athlete that he made us miss a handful of times."
Williams was effective in every facet last Saturday, completing 21 of 28 attempts for 314 yards and a touchdown while running for another in a 49-7 romp over Sacred Heart.
Victor Williams was the preferred target, setting career highs with 11 catches and 178 yards while pulling down a 60-yard score. The wide receiver managed only three catches for 25 yards against Penn last season.
"He’s matured a lot. He’s a smarter player," coach Buddy Teevens said. "We put him outside. A year ago, we played him as a slot receiver. He’s not a real big guy. He might get lost in the interior a little bit, but on the perimeter – great quickness, real good speed, he catches the ball well."
Dartmouth is expected to get a boost from the returns of receiver Ryan McManus and linebacker Will McNamara from injuries.
"Bumps and owies. That’s coach-speak for ‘I’m not telling you any more,’" Teevens said.
Princeton is trying to start a season 3-0 for the first time since winning its first six games of 2006. The Tigers shouldn’t have much trouble accomplishing the feat Friday night on national television against Columbia (0-2), which extended its losing streak to 23 with last weekend’s 24-16 loss to Georgetown.
Princeton has won four straight against the Lions, outscoring them 124-19 in the last three. The Tigers got on the scoreboard at ease last weekend, beating Lehigh 52-26 behind four rushing touchdowns – two from junior running back Joe Rhattigan.
No. 24 Harvard (2-0) has the FCS’ longest active winning streak at 16 games. The run was never under threat last weekend when the Crimson scored the first 46 points in a 53-27 victory over Brown in their Ivy league opener.
Harvard is also looking to extend its 12-game winning streak against non-conference opponents when it faces Georgetown (2-2) on Friday night. The Crimson coasted to a 34-3 win in the first ever matchup with the Hoyas on Oct. 4.
TABLE FOR FOUR=
Four Ivy League teams received votes in the latest STATS FCS Top 25, with Harvard the only one cracking the poll at No. 24. Penn (20), Dartmouth (14) and Princeton (11) also garnered recognition, giving the league hope of having two teams in the rankings for the first time since Harvard was 17th and Princeton 21st on Nov. 6, 2006.
"The league itself has done a great job of national recruiting," Priore said. "We have a great product to sell a young person, we like to phrase it, ‘It’s a scholarship for life not a four-year scholarship.’
"We’re able to each year, all of our programs, able to yield a number of ‘scholarship- level athletes’ that can join our programs, impact things and help our teams have success."