Unlike last weekend’s loss at Lafayette, the outcome of the football game Saturday wasn’t the result of the Quakers’ inability to execute plays.
Rather, Penn’s 24-8 loss to Villanova was due to the failure of the coaches to adjust to the demands of the game.
Penn coach Al Bagnoli acknowledged that the Quakers came into the game prepared to stop the Wildcats’ ground game.
After all, ’Nova was averaging 247.7 rushing yards per game in its first three games, compared to 134 passing yards.
Yet Villanova coach Andy Talley knew just what to expect in the Penn defense and therefore gave his quarterback the freedom to air it out.
In the first half alone, Villanova redshirt freshman John Robertson threw for 152 yards, including five completions to Joe Price for 113 yards.
The Quakers’ secondary had no answer for its opponent’s passing game. Last year, the mistakes could be blamed on inexperience. Of the four leading safeties and cornerbacks on Penn’s depth chart this year, however, two are juniors and two are seniors.
“I know [Robertson] looks on paper like a running quarterback, but I think he proved today that he has a good arm and he knows what do with the football,” Talley said.
As Bagnoli said, Robertson had his best passing game of the year and “it came at a very inopportune time” for the Quakers.
“We just didn’t anticipate him being able to effectively throw the ball as well as he did,” Bagnoli said.
However, the coaches should have been prepared for a balanced ’Nova offense. That’s their job.
What hurt the Red and Blue more than Robertson’s arm was the inability of the defense to properly adjust to Villanova’s unexpected offensive strategy.
In the second half, the Wildcats threw Penn for another loop, returning to their preferred rushing attack. They finished with 225 rushing yards after just 70 in the first half.
And again, the Quakers had no answer, despite preparing for Villanova’s ground game during the week.
Talley admitted that at times he was surprised at how easily his offense moved the ball against the Penn defense.
“Coming into this game, you’re going, ‘Wow, what we do well is what they do well: stop the run,’” he said.
Not this week.
Villanova may be a more athletic team, but the Quakers could have stayed in Saturday’s game. Instead, they looked like the Wildcats’ pawns.
With Ivy League play starting at Dartmouth next weekend, the Red and Blue have to play with more heart and the coaches have to come in with a more balanced game plan.
This is all too important considering how the Ancient Eight fared this weekend. Cornell crushed Yale, 45-6, and had 482 yards of offense, including 340 in the air. Harvard beat Brown, 45-31, with the teams combining for 687 passing yards. The Big Green pulled out a 13-10 victory over Holy Cross and averaged 13.2 yards per completion.
If the Quakers hope to keep up with their Ivy opponents, it starts at the top. Al Bagnoli and his staff cannot get outcoached the way they did on Saturday.
“We still really didn’t compete as hard as we’re going to need to compete,” Bagnoli said.
And he didn’t coach as well as he needs to if Penn has any chance at competing for the Ivy League title.
ALYSSA KRESS is a senior communication major from Abington, Pa., and is sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. She can be contacted at Kress@theDP.com.
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