There should be an award for performances like the one Pat McDermott turned in last Saturday night.
Not the Offensive Player of the Week type—though McDermott’s 334 yards and 67.5 completion percentage certainly could have merited it—but rather a distinction that rewards the intangible quality of heart or desire in the face of a seemingly lost cause.
After Villanova had strung together three-straight scores to rally for a 28-24 lead with 2:29 to play, McDermott was charged with the task of jump starting a dormant offense that stood 87 yards from a game-tying score.
The offensive line collapsed—allowing three sacks on the final drive—but McDermott remained unfazed. On fourth-and-five at the 45, the Penn quarterback had his helmet turned around by an oncoming Villanova pass rusher. McDermott proceeded to tear the helmet off, throw it to the ground and continue on with the play. The 15-yard facemask penalty set the Quakers up in Wildcats territory.
Facing fourth-and-13 at the 45 with just 14 seconds remaining, McDermott heaved a bomb that fell into the hands of wideout Dan McDonald, who wiggled out-of-bounds at the Villanova three with seconds left. McDermott said afterwards that he saw his target break open on the final play, but it was too late. The offensive line didn’t hold, and the senior signal caller went down at the 12.
Those who would dub the drive a failure miss the point. With the departure of Mike Mitchell and Dan Castles, Penn found its new leader. With seven Ivy games on the horizon, it couldn’t have come soon enough.
GAME OF THE WEEK: PENN (1-1) AT DARTMOUTH (1-1)
Both teams come into this one fresh off losses to Atlantic 10 schools. That’s pretty much where the similarities end, however. The Big Green got thrashed by No. 1 New Hampshire for the umpteenth consecutive year, while the Quakers dropped the aforementioned heartbreaker to Villanova.
Penn has beaten Dartmouth seven consecutive times and hasn’t lost to a non-Harvard Ivy team since 2000. The “slightly amusing, but entirely irrelevant” stat states that Big Green coach Buddy Teevens brings a 13-game Ivy unbeaten streak—from his last stint as the team’s head man—to this contest. That’s going to end Saturday, as the Quakers will roll to a 20-plus-point win.
COLUMBIA (2-0) AT PRINCETON (2-0)
It’s a shame that one of these teams is going to wind up 3-0. Even further, it’s a travesty that the Lions even have a shot at hitting that mark.
Columbia is by far the worst undefeated team in I-AA, and the Tigers, despite their win on the road at Lafayette, aren’t far behind. The recent showdowns between these schools have largely been instant classics. Even if the score is close, Saturday’s contest and classic probably won’t mesh well in the same breath.
Seeing Princeton at 3-0 is less likely to induce vomiting than Columbia, so let’s go with the Tigers at home by a touchdown.
RHODE ISLAND (3-1) AT BROWN (1-1)
Things are going to get worse for the Bears before they get better. The Rams are just too strong, and Brown will likely be too emotionally spent from last weekend to topple its intrastate rival. Running back Nick Hartigan should respond with a big day, but it won’t be enough, as the Bears fall by 10.
CORNELL (1-1) AT COLGATE (1-2)
Which is less desirable? A Big Red squad that just got waxed by the, at-best, fourth-best school in the Ivies, or a Raiders team that turned the ball over four times in a loss to Dartmouth.
While it’s hard to respect a team that lost to the Big Green, Colgate has some talented players, and it’s entirely possible that Cornell could go into the tank after being humiliated in New Haven.
The Raiders take this one by 14.
HOLY CROSS (2-2) AT YALE (1-1)
Anyone with a lead on which Bulldogs squad will show up to the Yale Bowl on Saturday, let me know. Will it be the one that folded in San Diego, or the one that destroyed everyone’s darkest Ivy darkhorse Cornell? Picking Yale is always a frightening experience, so take the Crusaders on the road by three.
—Staff writer Michael R. James can be reached at email@example.com.