Penn (1-0, 0-0 Ivy) at Lehigh (0-3, 0-0 Patriot)
Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
After opening its season with a home win over Division II Ohio Dominican last week, Penn faces its first true test of the season as it hits the road to face a team better than its record would indicate.
Here’s a closer look at the matchup:
One of the biggest question marks coming into the season for the two-time defending Ivy League champion Quakers was at quarterback following the graduation of standout Alek Torgersen. And it’s still somewhat of a question mark heading into their second game as starter Will Fischer-Colbrie struggled a bit in the first half while Nick Robinson looked sharper in more limited playing time. Allowing 24 points to a D-II team was also not an ideal start for Louis Vecchio and Penn’s defense. But third-year coach Ray Priore must have been happy with the emergence of running backs Karekin Brooks (142 yards, two touchdowns), Abe Willows (73 yards) and Isaiah Malcome (49 yards) after senior starter Tre Solomon went down with a minor injury. And All-American wide receiver Justin Watson was his usual dominant self, catching eight balls for 134 yards and two TDs.
The Mountain Hawks were impressive in their opener, falling by only three points to nationally ranked Villanova, 38-35. They’ve been less impressive since then, losing to Monmouth, 46-27, and to Penn’s Ivy League rival Yale, 56-28. Through three games, they’re allowing an average of 46.7 points per game, which ranks 113th out of 123 FCS teams. But Lehigh, coached by former Penn offensive coordinator Andy Coen, is far more formidable on the other side of the ball thanks to junior quarterback Brad Mayes, who has recorded three straight 300-yard passing games, and Troy Pelletier and Luke Christiano, the Patriot League’s two top receivers so far this year.
This will be the 60th meeting between the long-standing Pennsylvania rivals with Penn leading the series, 44-15. But Lehigh has won the last two meetings and seven of the last nine dating back to 1990. And since 1975, the Quakers are just 1-8 in Bethlehem.
Storyline to watch
Watson, one of the best football players in Penn’s storied history, is always a player to watch. Even more exciting is the fact that another All-American wide receiver will be on the other sideline in Pelletier. Both Watson and Pelletier are on the Walter Payton Award watch list, and both players lit it up in last season’s Penn-Lehigh matchup with Pelletier going for 10 catches, 123 yards and a TD, and Watson going for eight catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns. Who will fare better in their last college matchup?
What’s at stake?
For the Quakers, non-conference games don’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things since Ivy League teams are ineligible for the FCS playoffs. But against a leaky defense, it will be important for the Quakers to continue to let their young offensive players at running back and quarterback grow while trying to avoid another injury like the one Solomon suffered last week.
The Quakers have had a rough time of it in Bethlehem but look for them to hand Lehigh its second straight loss to an Ivy League team.
Penn 28, Lehigh 27