PHILADELPHIA -- The wait is over! The 2016 Penn Quakers football season kicks off at historic Franklin Field as the Red and Blue host Keystone State rival Lehigh. The defending Ivy League champions return 16 starters and 38 letterwinners — including five who earned All-Ivy honors during 2015’s championship campaign. Today is the first time since 2013 that the Red and Blue have opened a season at Franklin Field — a 27-21 win over Lafayette.
The Penn-Lehigh Series—59th Meeting
Last year, Penn and Lehigh renewed their rivalry after an 11-year hiatus. The Mountain Hawks spoiled Ray Priore’s head coaching debut with a 42-21 win in Bethlehem, but up and down the lineup there were glimmers of the bright future which Penn realized by the end of 2015 as Justin Watson had the first 100-yard receiving game of his career and Christian Pearson hauled in a 45-yard touchdown. The two teams have met just four times since 2000, each side picking up two wins.
Last Time Out
- An Ivy League championship was earned as Penn defeated Cornell, 34-21, at Franklin Field.
- The Red and Blue jumped out to a 20-0 lead before the first quarter was halfway over and never looked back en route to the program’s 17th Ivy League championship.
- Justin Watson had nine catches for 133 receiving yards, becoming just the fourth receiver in Ivy League history to record seven 100-yard games in a season.
- Alek Torgersen was 15-for-22 passing with two touchdowns – each to Watson. Torgersen added 42 yards rushing, including a three-yard touchdown run.
- Wide receiver Eric Fiore threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Ryan O’Malley
- Ray Priore became just the second head coach in Penn history to win an Ivy League championship in his first season (Ed Zubrow, 1986)
Penn will face a rested Fordham team in The Bronx on September 24. After a 52-16 loss at Navy to open 2016, the Rams routed Division II Elizabeth City State, 83-21 on September 10, setting a program and Patriot League record for points. Last year, Penn and Fordham engaged in a wild contest at Franklin Field, the #13/12 Rams escaping with a 48-45 win on a last-second field goal.
Coach Cohen Connections
Penn Head Coach Ray Priore and Lehigh Head Coach Andy Coen worked as together as the coordinators at Penn for six years (2000-05). Priore was the head of the defense and Coen led the offense. The Quakers won three Ivy League championships in that span, including Penn’s last perfect season (10-0) in 2003. The Quakers went a combined 47-12 (.796) with Priore and Coen as the coordinators, including 35-7 (.833) against the Ivy League. This will be Penn’s second matchup against Lehigh since Coen took over as head coach in Bethlehem.
Let the Games Begin
Today marks the 141st season opener for Penn. The Quakers have been superb in openers, with an all-time record of 104-35-1 (.746). Penn lost last season’s opener at Lehigh, and is looking for its first win in a season opener since a 27-21 win over Lafayette at Franklin Field in 2013.
All-Time Against Lehigh in Season Openers
The last time Penn opened a season with Lehigh at Franklin Field was 1971 — a 28-18 Penn win on September 27. In 15 all-time season openers against Lehigh, Penn is 12-3.
The Red and Blue are 2-8 in their last 10 home openers, with four of those losses coming against ranked opponents. Both recent wins in home openers have come against Lehigh’s storied rival, Lafayette. When the home opener has also been the season opener, Penn has fared a bit better — Penn is 5-5 in its last 10 games where a season has opened at Franklin Field.
Last to Start
As is the annual tradition, Penn will be among the last Division I teams to kick off its season. The Ivy League is the last Division I conference to begin play, and this season, the only teams to kickoff after the Quakers will be Cornell (6 p.m.) and Dartmouth (7 p.m.)
All Things Considered, Still An Early Start...
The start date of September 17 is the earliest Penn has played a game since taking on Lafayette on 9/15/12. Penn has played a game before September 17 just seven times in the last 30 seasons. Last year, Penn did not play at Franklin Field until October 6, making today’s game the earliest home game in the brief tenure of Ray Priore as head coach.
Penn Scoring Trend
Home is where the points are. Penn has gone 132 consecutive games at home without being shut out. The last time the Quakers were scoreless at home was a 24-0 loss to Dartmouth on Nov. 18, 1989.
The Red and Blue enter today’s contest with the nation’s second-longest winning streak among FCS programs at 6 games. The Quakers have not lost since a 48-45 defeat at the buzzer to #12/13 Fordham on 10/10/15. Only defending national champion North Dakota State (11) has won more games in a row than Penn. Among all Division I programs — FCS and FBS — Penn’s six-game winning streak ranks sixth. In addition to the Bison, only Alabama (14), San Diego St. (12), Tennessee (8) and Georgeia (7) have won more games in a row than the Quakers.
Penn protected leads as well as anyone in the country last season. The Red and Blue were 5-0 when leading at halftime, and 6-0 when leading at the end of the third quarter.
No program in the history of college football—at any level—has played more games than Penn. Every time they play, the Quakers set an NCAA record. Saturday’s game will be the 1,364th in the Red and Blue’s illustrious history. Penn is one of only four programs to pass 1,300 games, and was the first to hit that mark on Oct. 31, 2009 in an overtime win at Brown.
Look, Ma! We’re On TV!
A nation’s eyes will be on the defending Ivy League champions as the Quakers will make a program-record six national television appearances as announced by the Ivy League as part of the Ancient Eight’s largest-ever national television package. Penn will appear on NBC Sports Network three times in 2016 – most of any Ivy League team and most for a Penn team since doing so in both 2011 and 2012.
National TV Appearances
Sept. 30 at Dartmouth (NBCSN)
Oct. 15 vs. Columbia (One World Sports)
Oct. 21 at Yale (NBCSN)
Nov. 5 at Princeton (American Sports Network)
Nov. 11 vs. Harvard (NBCSN)
Nov. 19 at Cornell (Fox College Sports)
Alek Torgersen is making a full-on assault on the program’s record books as he enters his senior season. Of the six major passing statistics the program tracks, Torgersen ranks No. 4 all-time for a career in five, and is No. 3 in the sixth. With 10 games left in his career, it is not out of the realm of possibility that he sets all six.
What to Watch For With Watson
The 2015 runner-up for Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year and a unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection, Justin Watson has taken the Ivy League by storm in his first two seasons at Penn.
He has also garnered the attention of national pundits:
2015 STATS FCS Third-Team All-American
2016 STATS FCS Second-Team Preseason All-American
2016 STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List
Watson’s 2015 season was one of the finest seasons by a Penn receiver in program history:
He led the Ivy League in receptions (74), receiving yards (1,082), and receiving touchdowns (nine)
He ranked No. 5 nationally in receptions and receiving yards per game.
He ranked No. 11 nationally in receiving yards.
He ranked No. 14 nationally in receiving touchdowns.
1,082 receiving yards rank No. 2 all-time in a single season by a Quaker.
Two-time Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week (9/27, 11/16)
STATS FCS National Offensive Player of the Week (11/14)