Not much separated the Penn football team from a third consecutive Ivy League title last season. The difference between a perfect conference record and the Quakers' fourth-place finish was 11 points in three games.

After a 2-4 start, Penn recovered with four straight wins to finish 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the Ivy. The Quakers will open their season against Bucknell on Saturday hoping to avoid a repeat of last season's close losses.

"Two games came down to the last play, and one came down to overtime," senior defensive back Sam Philippi said. "So it's just about finishing. It really is a game of finishing."

With the graduation of last year's starter, Will Fischer-Colbrie, the Quakers will deploy two new quarterbacks Saturday.

Sophomore Ryan Glover has been named the starter for the opener, although junior Nick Robinson also is expected to play. Glover made one appearance last season, completing both of his passes for 12 yards against Princeton.

"Our offensive staff is trying to do a good blend of utilizing their assets and their skills," fourth-year Penn coach Ray Priore said of the two QBs. "You're seeing it across college football right now. You watch Clemson do it, Alabama, different people, different places, but you can do it when you have the right kids."

Robinson served as Penn's backup last season. He appeared in six games and completed 48 of 73 passes for 604 yards and six touchdowns. He threw for 173 yards and two touchdowns to guide the team to a 17-7 road win against Brown in his only start.

Penn quarterback Nick Robinson watching from the sidelines during practice at Franklin Field.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Penn quarterback Nick Robinson watching from the sidelines during practice at Franklin Field.

Former wide receiver Justin Watson is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the Quakers have two experienced running backs to support whichever quarterback is in the game.

Junior Karekin Brooks ran 125 times for 840 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He is joined in the backfield by junior Abe Willows, who rushed 66 times for 373 yards and two touchdowns.

"Both kids there, they've played in some big games," Priore said.

Philippi said both quarterbacks have impressed in camp, and the team is ready to rally behind whoever is under center.

The seniors on this year's roster went 12-2 in the Ivy League to earn a share of the conference crown during their first two seasons in the program. The group hopes to return the Quakers to the top of the league in its final season.

"We've emphasized just making sure everything is the way we want it to be as a senior class and as our coaches want it to be," Philippi said. "Sweating the details and making sure those details aren't being missed this season, kind of like what we saw from our first two years here."

Bucknell at Penn

3 p.m. Saturday, Franklin Field

Records: Penn (0-0); Bucknell (0-2)

Coaches: Ray Priore, 20-10 in fourth season at Penn. Joe Susan, 47-53 overall, 37-53 in ninth season at Bucknell

Radio: AM560 WFIL/AM990 WNTP

History vs. team: Penn leads the all-time series 29-5

3 things to watch:

  • Sophomore Ryan Glover was just named starting quarterback for the season opener, but junior Nick Robinson is also expected to see some playing time. Glover appeared in one game as a freshman, completing both of his passes against Princeton.
  • Penn had three players on NFL rosters for the opening weekend, and senior linebacker Nick Miller begins a campaign that could land him a NFL roster spot in 2019. Miller is a 2018 FCS Preseason All-America selection and on the watch list for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the best defensive player at FCS level.
  • Seniors Christian Pearson (83 career catches for 1,143 yards and 13 touchdowns) and Steve Farrell (23.3 yards per catch in his career) lead a wide receiver corps that must overcome the loss of 2017 first-team All-America selection Justin Watson, who is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

— John Smallwood