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Penn offense starting to click with QB Aidan Sayin as rivalry with Cornell resumes

Coming off their first Ivy League win in 714 days, the Quakers look to continue their offensive momentum in the resumption of their rivalry game against Cornell.

Freshman quarterback Aidan Sayin threw two touchdown passes in a win over Brown last Saturday.
Freshman quarterback Aidan Sayin threw two touchdown passes in a win over Brown last Saturday.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

Things are looking up for Penn, which notched its first Ivy League football victory in 714 days with a win over Brown ahead of its matchup with Cornell on Saturday.

The Quakers (3-4, 1-3 Ivy) look to maintain their offensive production when they host Cornell (1-6, 0-4) in a battle for the Trustees’ Cup. The homecoming game is a resumption of a rivalry that was interrupted with the cancellation of the 2020 Ivy League season because of COVID-19, ending a 101-year streak of games between the two schools.

The Quakers’ 45-17 victory over Brown last Saturday marked Penn’s highest-scoring game of the season. Freshman quarterback Aidan Sayin started his second straight game, completing 11 of 16 passes with two touchdowns.

“Aidan is growing and will continue to grow. He can only get better at this point in time,” Penn coach Ray Priore said. “The speed of the game is the biggest thing, between high school and college and the next level.”

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With a new quarterback at the helm, Penn’s offense has started to click. Sophomore wide receiver Joshua Casilli and freshman wide receiver/running back Julien Stokes scored their first career touchdowns against Brown. Graduate student running back Isaiah Malcome scored a rushing touchdown in his fifth straight game on Saturday.

“We’re finally executing. We’re doing what we need to do, especially the run game,” Sayin said. “[We’re] working up to the second level, getting busy, so it’s good for our confidence.”

The Quakers have won their last six games against the Big Red, who are in last place in the Ivy League. Penn leads the series, 75-46-5.

History has a chance to repeat itself on Saturday. In 2019, the Quakers also notched their first Ivy League victory against Brown at home, and carried an identical 1-3 conference record into homecoming against Cornell. The momentum from the 2019 win over Brown propelled the Quakers to a three-game conference win streak.

“This is great energy that we can build up as we head into our last few conference games,” Priore said.

Penn’s offense is finally coming together, but the defense has been strong all season. Senior linebacker Jake Heimlicher ranks second in the Ivy League in tackles for losses with 10½, and had three sacks against Brown. Senior linebacker Garrett Morris was named Ivy League defensive player of the week after notching six total tackles and returning an interception for a touchdown against the Bears.

“The Penn-Cornell rivalry is a big one for our alums,” Priore said. “This is going to be a big game for us. Hopefully [we’ll] make them proud.”