Penn’s homecoming victory over Brown on Saturday featured two elite wide receivers. One of them pulled in 17 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown. The other had 5 receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Though the Quakers wished the situation was reversed, Brown’s Tellef Lundevall was the 170-yard man, while the Quakers’ Conner Scott was the game’s second-most productive receiver.
As is so often true in sports, however, the numbers don’t tell the full story. For one drive at the end of the second half, Scott looked uncoverable. Working against Brown’s best cover corner, A.J. Cruz, Scott repeatedly ran open on the drive. And there was quarterback Billy Ragone, delivering passes on time and on target. On the drive, Scott made three catches for 59 yards including a 22-yard touchdown reception to score the game’s first points.
That reception would be Scott’s last of the game. In fact, the junior receiver was not targeted even once in the second half. Meanwhile, Lundevall continued to haul in catches, including a crucial 29-yard reception on a fourth-and-15 play near the end of the game. What’s to explain the decision to avoid Scott?
Part of it may have been the absence of senior wide receiver Ryan Mitchell, who did not play in the second half. Without Mitchell in the game, the Brown defense, which came into the game leading the nation in negative plays, may have been better able to guard Scott and take him out of the game.
“We’d been looking for a little bit of a spark opposite of Conner [Scott] ever since Joe Holder went down with his [broken fibula],” coach Al Bagnoli said.
Opposite Lundevall, the Penn defense had to worry about Jonah Fay, another talented senior wide receiver for the Bears. That said, Fay had just four catches for 29 yards. It seems like the Quakers could have rolled more coverage to Lundevall, who seemed to come up with every big catch for the Bears. With or without Mitchell, Penn seemed unable to adjust to Lundevall from a defensive scheme perspective.
Bagnoli mentioned that injuries to safety Sebastian Jaskowski and corner Kevin Ijoma likely played a part in Lundevall’s big game.
“We’re playing an awful lot of young kids out there,” he said.
Youth has been suggested before as a possible reason for Penn’s secondary struggles. Granted, that explanation is truer today than it was at the beginning of the season. Bagnoli has said that the key to this season is getting better every game and injuries have slowed that process in the secondary.
Whether Lundevall exposes a lack of personnel or a lack of in-game adjustment, both situations are worrisome for Penn as the league’s top teams loom in the second half of the Ivy season.
ETHAN ALTER is a senior history major from Los Altos, Calif. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.
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