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College Football: After Four Games Penn Football Remains a Work in Progress

By Marc Narducci (photos by Mike Nance & Zamani Feelings), 10/10/21, 5:45PM EDT


Two Local Rivals Go Head-To-Head on the Field Once Again

University of Pennsylvania vs. Lehigh University 10/9. (photo/Zamani Feelings for PSD)

By Marc Narducci


PHILADELPHIA--Football coaches, especially after wins, can either be brutally honest or attempt to hide their true feelings. Give Penn coach Ray Priore credit for going the first route after Saturday’s 20-0 win over Lehigh on a glorious Saturday afternoon at Franklin Field.

“We are working to be a good team,” Priore said. “We are not there yet.”

Now in his sixth season and seventh year as head coach, Priore couldn’t have made a more accurate statement.

Penn is now 2-2 and will play its final six games against Ivy League competition.

The two wins are over Bucknell and Lehigh, who are a combined 1-10. Penn’s two losses are to Lafayette (2-4) and Dartmouth (4-0).

What Penn has shown is that it can beat struggling teams, lose to a below .500 squad and also lose to a serious Ivy contender.

Now what Priore and his team will try to find out is whether the Quakers are capable of beating strong teams.

We’re not sure that this week’s opponent, Columbia qualifies as a strong team, but the Lions, guided by former Penn coach Al Bagnoli, are 3-1 and will be a much better gauge than Lehigh, which is 0-6 and still looking to score its first touchdown this year.

The fact that Penn struggled with Lehigh, might not appear too comforting. The game was scoreless at intermission and Penn led just 3-0 heading into the fourth quarter.

Post Game Comments from UPenn Head Coach Ray Priore and Lehigh Head Coach Tom Gilmore

As the game showed, Penn is still looking for its offensive identity. The passing game is a work in progress, so Penn will likely have to lean on the run and much of its hope rests on a 5-foot-5, 170-pound blur of a back, graduate student Isaiah Malcome.

Entering the game he had rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown. Against Lehigh, he rushed for a career high 201 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries. Malcome also added five receptions for 26 yards.

In addition, senior running back Trey Flowers rushed for 115 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries. Flowers, who scored on a 6-yard run in the fourth quarter, now leads Penn with three rushing touchdowns. He also enjoyed his first 100-yard rushing game as a Quaker.

It might not be prudent to give somebody Malcome’s size 26 touches a game, but he’s up for anything.

Penn WR Isaiah Malcome had career high of 201 rushing yards in game against Lehigh. (photo by Mike Nance)

“At the end of the day I want my team to win and if that is having me have 26 touches a week or five, I am going to go out and play my heart out,” Malcome said.

That’s a great attitude but it would take a little pressure off Malcome if the passing game could ramp it up. 

During last week’s 31-6 loss to Dartmouth, senior John Quinnelly completed 6 of 15 for 106 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Against Lehigh he completed 12 of 19 for just 76 yards and was sacked twice.

In an interesting little subplot between these FCS non-league opponents, an Inter-Ac game almost broke out, with some Philadelphia Catholic League flavor to boot.

That’s because Lehigh’s Dante Perri, a sophomore from the Haverford School, and Penn sophomore Maurcus McDaniel from Episcopal Academy were both in the game together at quarterback during various times in both halves.

Perri, who has seen significant time this season, entered the game in the first quarter after teammate Nate Summerville suffered an injury that wouldn’t allow him to return.

McDaniel, who began the season as a defensive back and then a receiver, is lightning when running the ball and adds to the ground game. This was his most extensive action as he saw time in both halves.

UPenn sophomore and former Episcopal Academy standout Maurcus McDaniel served as relief QB in game vs. Lehigh. (photo/Mike Nance)

Lehigh sophomore QB and former Haverford School standout Dante Perri in game vs. UPenn. (photo/Mike Nance)

McDaniel only carried the ball one time for 15 yards, but the threat of him taking off, opened up the running game on the read option. His only pass attempt went incomplete.

“We thought we needed to run the football and take the pressure off John, the starting quarterback and the other running backs,” Priore said in explaining his decision to go with McDaniel for several series. “He adds another dimension to it.”

Perri and McDaniel dueled in high school. When Perri saw his former friendly rival, he was glad a fellow Inter-Ac quarterback was seeing the field.

“I didn’t know much about their offense and I was pretty excited to see him,” Perri said of McDaniel. “He played great and it was cool to see him out there making plays.”

Perri also made some but facing a fierce pass rush, he was often on the run. He completed 7 of 27 for 118 yards, and one interception and was sacked three times. Early in the second quarter, he had led the Mountain Hawks to a first-and-goal from the Penn 10, but then a failed exchange led to a fumble that Penn’s Shiloh Means recovered. That would be Lehigh’s best scoring chance.

Perri was asked afterwards if facing McDaniel brought back memories of high school?

“A little bit,” Perri said.

Part of the Catholic League portion of this game was provided by Daniel Karrash, a Penn senior from La Salle, who kicked field goals of 39 and 40 yards, the second which extended the lead to 6-0 with 9:27 left in the game.

So, Penn will take the win because nobody gives them back, but Priore and the team realize that improvement is needed.

UPenn senior and former La Salle College High School standout Daniel Karrash kicked 2 field goals in game vs. Lehigh . (photo/Mike Nance)

It would take a lot for Penn to compete for the Ivy League title, especially with the loss already to Dartmouth, but even for the Quakers to survive against its upcoming competition, there is plenty of work left as their coach correctly stated.


University of Pennsylvania vs. Lehigh University (Gameday photos by Mike Nance).