PHILADELPHIA - It has been a decade since Penn captured the Collegiate Sprint Football League championship, but the Quakers have a chance to clinch a share of the CSFL crown on Friday night when the Red and Blue host Army at Franklin Field (7 p.m.)
Penn is the lone unbeaten team in the CSFL with a 5-0 overall record, going 3-0 in league games so far in 2010. The Quakers have a one-game lead over Army, Cornell and Navy - each team with a 2-1 mark entering the weekend. The Big Red and Midshipmen also play n Friday, further helping to shake out the CSFL standings.
A win by the Quakers over the Black Knights ensures that no team can finish with a better record than the Red and Blue, regardless of the outcome when Penn and Princeton meet Nov. 5. However, before anyone looks forward to the rivalry game, there is business to tend to on Friday.
Penn and Army have played 52 times over the years, with Army holding a decided advantage in the series with a 47-6 edge. However, the Quakers have had the better of it in recent years with two wins in the past three meetings. In 2007, Penn won a thriller in West Point, 13-12, with an extra point from then-freshman Mark Dziemianowicz providing the difference. In 2008, the Quakers won again, that time a 20-13 win at Franklin Field on the strength of two Mike Bagnoli touchdown runs. Last year, Army got a win back with a 35-26 decision in West Point.
In the meeting last season, quarterback Todd Busler set a program-record for passing yards in a game, throwing for 429 yards on 27 completions. Nine of those passes went complete to Whit Shaw for 274 yards - second-most receiving yards in a game by a Penn receiver.
Penn's aerial attack hasn't been called upon to light it up as much this season as it did in the Army game last year - or the 2009 season in general. Busler is still getting the job done, throwing for seven touchdowns with at least one in each game. Shaw is still his favorite target, with 22 completions and five touchdowns. The duo has a penchant for the big play, with touchdown plays of 82 and 83 yards this season.
The reason the passing attack has not been the focal point off the Red and Blue's offense is the continued development of Mike Bagnoli as a featured back. The senior tailback is averaging 133.2 yards-per-game and 5.6 yards-per-rush while finding the end zone six times. He became just the fifth back in Penn history to surpass the 2,000-yard mark for his career earlier in 2010 and with 2,185 yards entering the weekend finds himself in second-place all-time on Penn's career rushing list.
Bagnoli isn't the only Penn player moving up the career offensive statistical charts. Shaw - still only a sophomore - is 125 yards away from setting a new Penn record for career receiving yards. Busler is 343 yards away from establishing a new mark for passing yards by a Penn player. Based off their respective performances against Army last year, those two marks are not entirely out of reach.
Penn's defense will have its hands full with Army's top-ranked offense. The Black Knights average 408 yards a game, with about two-thirds of that coming via the passing game. Tim Meier is the leading passer in the CSFL, throwing for 741 yards and eight touchdowns. The Black Knights do like to spread the ball around with four players averaging over 30 yards rushing a game. Tim's brother, Michael, and Marquis Morris are the two featured backs, each over eight touches a game.
The Quakers have risen to the challenge on defense throughout the year, holding opponents to 66 points and never more than 14 in a game. Last week at Cornell, Gage O'Connell had 11 tackles, including a combined sack in the final 10 seconds with the Big Red in scoring range. For his efforts, O'Connell was named CSFl Defensive Player of the Week. Alexander Starr leads all defenders with 42 tackles. Life has been difficult for opposing teams as Penn has recorded 14 sacks, seven interceptions, seven break ups and forced seven fumbles - all of which Penn recovered.
For those unable to attend the game during Homecoming Weekend, a live broadcast of the game can be found here.