Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Roots of a Rivalry

Al Bagnoli is rarely smiling on game day

Why does Penn seem to gear up for Columbia games? I'm sure every Quaker coach and player would deny it, but the hard fact is that for the last three seasons, Penn has played its best game of the year against the Lions.

Over the years, the motivation factor for Penn is obviously there when it comes to Columbia games, no matter how far apart these two teams are in the standings.


If this were 1985 or maybe even 1995, I guess you could look at academic standing as a reason. For about 25-30 years, Penn was a notorious second choice for a lot of New York area high schoolers who didn't get into Columbia. But I really don't think that's true anymore. It's basically impossible to get into both schools right now, and all the Ivies have become so super-aware of admissions "preferences," that very often a supposed second choice school like Penn or Cornell will REJECT an applicant they think will be accepted by Harvard or Yale, (just so they don't look like they're settling and to improve the number of accepted students actually enrolling, etc.).

But I really don't think any Penn football players or current students feel academically inferior to Columbia anymore. Again, maybe in 1988, but not anymore.

It could have something to do with Head Coach Al Bagnoli's predecessor Gary Steele, who DEFINITELY lost his job in 1991 the day the Quakers lost to Columbia, (even though they didn't officially remove him until after the season). The local Philly press depicted that loss as the absolute nadir for any other Ivy program and Bagnoli was definitely hired with that kind of "never again!" thinking in mind at the Penn athletic department. Al Bagnoli gets mad on the sidelines a lot, but you rarely see him madder than he gets during Columbia games... even when the Quakers are way ahead.

When Columbia makes the trip to Franklin Field every other year, you usually sense that hatred in the stands more than anywhere else. I suppose to every other Ivy school, we've regrettably become the lovable losers, but the Penn crowd seems genuinely angry at us. Again, I'm not sure why. If Penn students were all actually from Philadelphia, I could understand it as being a little part of the NYC-Philly sports rivalry, but what percentage of Penn's student body is really from Philly and its environs? I'm willing to bet that percentage is way down compared to 50, 30 and 20 years ago.

So frankly, I'm at a loss here. But I have to say it's an exciting little "intangible" to focus on over the next few days. Another exciting turn of events is that Penn's fall break will actually be over this week instead of just beginning on gameday Saturday as it usually is when the Lions head to Penn. It's also going to be Penn's family weekend which should mean attendance will be decent in the cavernous Franklin Field.

After four very close losses, one has to think that something's gotta give with this Lions team very soon. Whatever the reason why they hate us, a win over Penn would be very sweet indeed and would jump start the team for the remainder of the season.

The danger here is for Columbia to look ahead to Dartmouth, which is also 0-4 after playing super top quality opponents week after week, and figure that's their best chance for a win. I don't think Dartmouth is as weak as they look, and even if they are, this game against Penn holds the potential for salvaging an entire season.

Get on the bus and cheer them on.


At Wed Oct 15, 05:33:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it means anything, I hate Penn right back.

Lion Ran

At Wed Oct 15, 10:33:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Based on the previous 4 games this week is a toss up. While Penn is a smidge better on special teams other categories are a dead heat- what's that mean? Give Penn the nod for home team? Not necessarily, I like the Lions chances. The Penn defense may be downgraded a bit over last years crew and our defense is definately improving. It comes down to intangibles, if we come in with a good scheme and execute this is a very good win opportunity for the Lions. Lions by 3 on the road.
From the often censored Swami.

At Wed Oct 15, 07:08:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Penn's defense is tremendous. If the Quakers get 14 points they win the game.

At Wed Oct 15, 10:29:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Penn students from Westchester and Long Island are responsible for 99%of the problem. My experience is that Penn suffers from a massive sense of inferiority and as a result have the most obnoxioous fans who live vicariously through their football and basketball teams. I think that the coaching staff is also a problem. I would love to see us come up with a decent offensive game plan in which we stop wasting first downs by sending Rangel inside for no gain. The way to win is to pass first and run second. Pass early and often. Develop a vertical game. Give Knowlin a chance to make some plays down the field. Play to win. Look what the Browns did to the Giants on Monday night. Open it up on offense.

At Wed Oct 15, 11:19:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only 1 ingredient missing for a win @ Penn. Get some help with imaginative play calling.

This is a guaranteed win for the Lions. Just shake up the play calling on offense and blitz some linebackers on defense.

4th N Ten

At Wed Oct 15, 11:20:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But you know that Penn will be preparing for a primary passing approach and will blitz, increase the DB coverage, ect. I dont disagree with approach, but think they will be ready for what they have seen before from us this season. Are there different offensive sets, trick plays, no huddle offense, ect? Give one look, but do something different from that set.

Sometimes an offensive plan seems like playing golf and hitting irons off the tee on every hole - you are always in play, but it's hard to score and win on a tough course. Sometimes you have to pull the driver out of the bag on a tew holes and let it fly. Be bold. Be confident. Get the PENN's crowd out of game early.

They will try to force Kelly to make bad decisions, especially early so that we start doubting ourselves.

Watch special teams play again - in teams evenly matched, it often comes down to this. They had kick return for TD last week, but we did better.

Try to give defense time to rest - I believe that running plays are needed frequently even if not working great not only to mix things up, but to give the defense a little more time on sidelines.

Know that they will try to neutralize our strengths on offense and defense. This means playing for pass first, doubling Knowlin, ect. They will likely stick with what has worked for other teams on offense - quick short passes ect.

Refuse to lose. Be mentally tough and play with attitude.

At Wed Oct 15, 11:26:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

#82 can have a big game for us; he is the best looking pass catching TE since Fletch as a junior. #71 is the best looking first year DL I've ever seen and can be a force for the next four years. I am waitnign for Mitchell to show up.

At Wed Oct 15, 11:32:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have often been mystified by the enmity that Penn students and alumni sometimes express for Columbia. It may be that, currently, Penn and Columbia seem to occupy the "mid-tier Ivy" level below HYP. If that is the ultimate reason, it's all the more surprising because, in my humble opinion, there could not be a greater difference between the student bodies at Penn and Columbia even though they are similarly selective.

Penn is as preprofessional a school that one can find in the Ivy League and, arguably, anywhere in the Northeast.

Columbia, often to its detriment, offers a classic liberal arts education and attracts the type of students that such a curriculum would interest.

We often lament on this site the fact that Columbia students seemingly fashion themselves urban intellectuals who have little time or interest in competitive sports. Penn students, on the other hand, are the most vocally supportive of their basketball and football teams in the Ivy League. The Quakers are like a Big Ten school with higher SAT scores.

Penn vs. Columbia -- I don't get it.

At Thu Oct 16, 12:23:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our running game against Lafayette was almost non-existent with one running back getting all of the carries and averagin about one yar, per carry. Obviously, the coaches cannot allow that to happen again. Hopefully, Rangel, Davis and a third running back will be ready for Penn. I totally agree with the blogger who complimented #82, the tight end, Andrew Kennedy. He's very talented and we need to throw the ball to him more often, particularly in the red zone. We also need to get the speedy Zack Kourouma involved in more plays. Finally, we need to mix up our attack by getting M.A. Olawale on the field together with Shane Kelly. Those two big athletic guys in the same backfield would give Columbia multiple passing and running options. Another way to open up the attack would be to use Jason Pyles in the same backfield as Shane Kelly. Again that would enable the Columbia offense to have two big, talented runners/passers in the same backfield. You can't win Ivy League football games on one yard runs up the middle.

At Thu Oct 16, 01:26:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fully agree with the last blogger, who agrees with me on #82. I think that Pyles is not a WR but is a tough running back, that Kourouma has excellent speed and should be incorporated into our attack, and that we can run a modified Wildcat with Kelly and MA in the same backfield. On defense, I lament the failure of Mitchell to make the most of his physical gifts and become the dominant pass rushing DE that he is capable of becoming. One further thought on #71: with a run first team like Penn he can play the nose in a five man front. He looks like a young Warren Sapp.

At Thu Oct 16, 04:33:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

does anybody know why the coaching fraternity generally dislikes Bags?


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