Heading into last week’s contest against the University of Pennsylvania, many Bulldogs labeled the game a “must win.” But despite being on the wrong end of a 21-3 score, and witnessing their title chances take a serious blow, the Elis are not discouraged heading into Columbia.

Head coach Jack Siedlecki delivered an emotional speech on the field immediately following the game, cautioning the Bulldogs against taking too much or too little of the responsibility for the loss.

“We have to react positively to what happened to us,” Siedlecki said. “We can turn our tails and say we didn’t play very well, or we can get mad about it and get better.”

Siedlecki said the Bulldogs’ mental state could play a large role in determining Saturday’s outcome.

“If we are emotionally ready to play we should be fine,” Siedlecki said. “But if we are not, in this sport, anything can happen.”

Judging by the team’s practices this week, the Bulldogs have the right state of mind — as always, they are focused exclusively on this week’s opponent.

“The mentality in practice has been really good,” quarterback Peter Lee ’02 said. “Coming off a tough loss, it is really important to have a positive attitude and take things one week at a time, and that’s what we are doing.”

Not that the Bulldogs needed any extra motivation, but the team’s core of seniors is realizing that their collegiate careers are coming to a close. With only four games remaining, they recognize the need to capitalize on every opportunity.

“We still have enough football left to play where we can do some positive things,” wide receiver Keith Reams ’02 said. “Last week was not that fun.”

Lee said that while he is concentrating on the Lions, thoughts of nearing the conclusion of his college playing days are creeping into his head.

“It’s a tough feeling and I don’t want to be focused on that,” Lee said. “I am focused on playing Columbia.”

But football games are not decided by mental readiness alone, and the Bulldogs offense — which had averaged over 30 points per game before Penn — knows it needs to get back on track.

And according to Lee, the key will be coming out of the blocks strong.

“Getting a good start is important in every game, but it will be especially important for this one,” Lee said. “As an offense we think we can score on any drive — it will be important to get that swagger back early on.”