NCAA

Penn at Cornell: Quakers look to capture back-to-back Ivy titles

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Penn at Cornell: Quakers look to capture back-to-back Ivy titles

Penn (6-3, 5-1 Ivy) at Cornell (4-5, 2-4 Ivy)
Schoellkopf Field, Ithaca, N.Y.
Saturday, Noon, Fox College Sports

For the Penn football team, it all comes down to this. After beating Harvard in dramatic fashion last week, the Quakers are one win away from capturing at least a share of their second straight Ivy League championship. Here’s a look at their final game of the 2016 season:

Scouting Penn
After allowing Harvard to come back and tie the game on a deep ball and trick-play two-point conversion in the final minutes of last week’s Ivy League showdown at Franklin Field, Penn responded with a drive for the ages to hand the Crimson their first Ivy League loss of the season and move into a three-way tie for first place in the conference. And to nobody’s surprise, it was the dynamic duo of quarterback Alek Torgersen and wide receiver Justin Watson that led the way and connected for the go-ahead touchdown that sent Penn to a 27-14 win over Harvard — the Quakers’ second straight year upsetting a nationally ranked Crimson team. Perhaps of equal importance was the performance of the defense as the unit scored two touchdowns, including one on the final play of the game to put a cherry on top of the win, and finished with six sacks, with three coming from defensive end Louis Vecchio, who also scored one of the TDs. Penn has now won six of its last seven after two straight losses to the start the year.

Scouting Cornell
The Big Red snapped a five-game losing streak with a dramatic 42-40 win over New York rival Columbia last week. A pair of sophomores led the way with Chris Walker rushing for 179 yards and three touchdowns and Dalton Banks completing 24 of 37 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns while running for a third. But while those two players rank second in the Ivies in rushing and passing, respectively, Cornell’s defense has struggled throughout the year, having allowed 459.1 yards per game, which ranks last in the Ivies and 110th out of 122 teams in the FCS. Still in rebuilding mode under fourth-year head coach David Archer, Cornell’s four wins on the season matched the victory total of the previous two years combined, and the Big Red also finished with a winning road record (3-2) for the first time since 1994. 

Series history
In what is the fifth-most played rivalry in college football, Penn holds a 71-46-5 lead heading into the 123rd all-time meeting. The Quakers are 13-12-1 at Schoellkopf Field but have won eight of their last nine, as well as four straight, up in Ithaca.

Storyline to watch
Although Penn had a win to remember against Harvard last week, it wasn’t because of its rushing game as running back Tre Solomon was bottled up to the tune of 26 yards on 12 carries. And as a team, the Quakers finished with a mere 21 yards while relying on their defense and passing attack to get the job done. They’ll want to correct that and focus on controlling the pace of the game and slowly moving the chains in freezing, unpleasant Ithaca. And they should be primed to do just that against a rushing defense that ranks last in the Ivies, allowing 188.8 yards per game.

What’s at stake?
With one game left in the 2016 season no matter what — Ivy teams are not allowed to go the FCS playoffs due to an archaic rule, and there are no league playoffs if teams finish tied — Penn, Harvard and Princeton are tied for first with 5-1 records. And they all have games against teams with losing records with Harvard playing rival Yale and Princeton facing Dartmouth. The most likely scenario is all three teams winning and sharing a piece of the Ivy League championship. That also means a loss for Penn would very likely end its quest for a title. Meanwhile, the Quakers still have a chance to claim the outright crown, but only if Harvard and Princeton are both upset. 

Prediction
In their final time playing together, Torgersen and Watson will shred Cornell’s leaky defense and lift the Quakers to a share of their record-tying 18th Ivy League championship and their first back-to-back crowns since 2009-10.

Penn 35, Cornell 14

Temple-UConn observations: Despite valiant effort from Marchi, Owls lose 1st homecoming game since 2008

Temple-UConn observations: Despite valiant effort from Marchi, Owls lose 1st homecoming game since 2008

BOX SCORE

That’s why football is a week-to-week game. Forget about momentum.

Temple found that out the hard way. After coming alive in a big road win over East Carolina last week, the Owls were humbled when a fourth-quarter rally fell short Saturday in a 28-24 homecoming loss to Connecticut at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Owls had one final shot at the victory with a drive in the final minute, but a Logan Marchi heave to the end zone was broken up.

The loss dropped Temple back under .500 at 3-4 (1-3 American Athletic Conference). UConn moved to 2-5 (2-2) with the victory.

• Say what you want about Temple quarterback Marchi (and you surely will after this game), but the guy is a fighter. Whether things are going his way or not, he continues to try to search for his receivers and attempt to squeeze the ball into those windows on the field. He made it two consecutive games with 300-plus yards passing as he was 33 of 54 for 356 yards with one touchdown and one interception Saturday.

• The game marked Temple’s first homecoming loss in nearly a decade. TU hadn’t suffered a homecoming defeat since a 7-3 loss to Western Michigan on Sept. 27, 2008. On that day, former Eagles DB Jaiquawn Jarrett was beaten in coverage on a double move in the third quarter for the game’s lone touchdown. Coming into Saturday, the Owls had won eight straight homecoming matchups by an average margin of 19.3 points.

• There was a rare sighting for Temple at the Linc: a rushing touchdown from a tailback. In fact, there were two. David Hood, who became the first Owls tailback to score on a run this season in last week’s rout of East Carolina, punched it in from one yard out to open the scoring in the first quarter. Ryquell Armstead weaved his way into the end zone for a 10-yard TD on the first play of the fourth quarter.

• Delvon Randall is simply a playmaker. The Owls’ leading tackler, Randall added another five stops in Saturday’s win. The junior DB also made a beautiful play along the sideline in the first quarter when he undercut an out route for an interception. It marked Randall’s third straight game with a pick. The Owls only have four interceptions this season and Randall has three of them.

• My colleague Greg Paone touched on college football’s targeting rule a couple of weeks ago (see story)We agree on pretty much all of the nuts and bolts of the rule. I’m glad it’s in place to protect players from violent and unnecessary hits. However, the more I see it called each week — and it seems like there is at least one in every game now — the more I’m starting to dislike the implementation. Temple defensive lineman Sharif Finch was ejected for targeting on Saturday when he went high on Huskies quarterback Bryant Shirreffs on a third-quarter touchdown pass. Shirreffs sold the hit by jerking his head back as he fell to the ground, but it was definitely worthy of a penalty. Was it a late hit? Yes. A bone-headed hit? Absolutely. But one worthy of Temple losing a top defensive player for the remainder of the game? I don’t think so.

• Speaking of Shirreffs, it’s easy to see why the Huskies have the best passing offense in the AAC. He didn’t show it with yardage in this tilt (just 105), but he was able to connect on three touchdowns through the air. He also added 39 yards on the ground, including a key run up the middle late in the fourth quarter.

• The Owls simply aren’t a good enough team to overcome 12 penalties for 117 yards.

• Like any other major college football game around the country, Saturday’s matchup at the Linc had scouts from NFL teams listed to attend. Of course, the Eagles were listed for several scouts in their home stadium. While the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers were also among those expected to have representatives at the game, there was only one other team labeled for more than one scout besides the Eagles — the New York Giants. At 0-5, they can certainly use all the help they can get right now.

• Temple will look to rebound when the Owls travel to play their final non-conference opponent in Army at 12 p.m. next Saturday.

Temple eyes streak, Penn looks to dethrone Columbia, Villanova on the road

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USA Today Images

Temple eyes streak, Penn looks to dethrone Columbia, Villanova on the road

Temple (3-3, 1-2 American) vs. UConn (1-4, 0-3 American)
Lincoln Financial Field, ESPNews
Noon Saturday

Last time out
Temple beat East Carolina, 34-10, last Saturday.

UConn lost to Memphis, 70-31, last Saturday.

Scouting report
Last week, quarterback Logan Marchi finally got on track with his first 300-yard game of the season against East Carolina. This week, the redshirt sophomore will face UConn, the team he initially committed to in high school under former coach Paul Pasqualoni. Marchi was then denied after a coaching change was made. The Huskies have the worst passing defense in the AAC, giving up 399.8 passing yards per game, and have allowed 19 touchdowns through the air in 2017. If Marchi can play well for a second week in a row, look for Temple’s offense to put up some points. 

Another matchup to look at is UConn’s passing attack against Temple’s defense. The Huskies’ boast the best passing offense in terms of yards in the AAC, averaging 325.8 yards per game, but have only scored nine touchdowns this year. Temple, on the other hand, allows the eighth-most passing yards in the conference (253 yards per game), but is ranked fourth in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 26 points per game. Connecticut must convert drives into touchdowns against this Owls defense if it wants to compete.

What it means
Temple’s hopes to reach the AAC championship game might not be realistic anymore but its bowl hopes are still alive. A win against UConn would put the Owls just two victories away from becoming bowl-eligible, which after their start would be good for Owl fans.

Series history
Temple holds the 12-5 series advantage over Connecticut, and is currently on a three-game win streak.

What’s next?
Temple travels to Army.

UConn hosts Tulsa. 

Penn (2-2, 0-1 Ivy) at Columbia (4-0, 1-0 Ivy)
Robert K. Kraft Field at Lawrence A. Wien Stadium
1:30 p.m. Saturday


Last time out
Penn lost at Central Connecticut State, 42-21, Saturday.

Columbia defeated Marist, 41-17, Saturday.

Scouting report
Penn’s strength is its rushing attack. They rank second in the Ivy League averaging 204 yards per game on the ground. Karekin Brooks has 543 yards rushing and five touchdowns so far this season. Getting the ground game going will be key for the Quakers this week.

Columbia defense has been strong so far this season. The Lions rank second in the Ivy League in total defense only allowing 316 yards per game and are third in the Ivy in pass defense. The Lions allow 194.8 yards per game through the air.

Series history
This is the 96th meeting between the teams. The Quakers hold a 73-21-1 advantage and have won the last 19 editions.

What’s next?
Penn hosts Yale.

Columbia is at Dartmouth.

Villanova (4-2, 2-1 CAA) at James Madison (5-0, 2-0 CAA)
Bridgeforth Stadium
6 p.m. Saturday


Last time out

Villanova defeated Maine, 31-0, Saturday.

James Madison beat Delaware, 20-10, Saturday.

Scouting report
Villanova has allowed just 1.6 yards per carry and 52 rushing yards per game this season. The Wildcats boast a strong scoring defense as well, the best in the Colonial allowing only nine points per game.

James Madison boasts the second-best rushing offense in the CAA averaging 223 yards per game and is second in scoring defense. The Dukes allow just 10 points per game to opposing offenses. Look for this game to be defensive showdown.

Series history
This is the 26th meeting between the teams. James Madison leads the series 14-11 and won 20-7 last season.

What’s next?
Villanova hosts Elon next Saturday.

James Madison travels to William & Mary next Saturday.