Friday night, Penn reached the end zone more often than usual, recording a season high in points in a regulation game.
But the Quakers’ last-place defense allowed Post score a season high in points as well, as the Eagles topped Penn, 48-27, at Franklin Field.
It was Penn’s first-ever loss to Post, which is in its third year as a varsity program.
The Red and Blue (2-3) came out of the locker room guns blazing. On the opening kickoff, senior wide receiver Whit Shaw whisked past the Eagles defense and took the ball 95 yards to paydirt.
Post’s kick returner Jay’Len Mahan did him one better, taking the ensuing kickoff to the end zone 15 seconds later. On the very next possession — which resulted in a Penn punt — the Post special teams demoralized the Quakers again with a 67-yard return to the 6-yard line. Two plays later, the Quakers found themselves down by a touchdown.
“[The kick return and the punt return] affected the emotion of the game,” coach Bill Wagner said. “We went from a super high all the way to the bottom of the pits. They turned around and ran the ball back on us when we should have had them pinned down there.”
Even though the Red and Blue reduced the deficit to one with a touchdown and missed extra point at the end of the first quarter, they never retained the lead. The Eagles (3-2) went on a 27-7 run and held a 41-20 lead at the beginning of the final quarter.
After an early fourth-quarter score and a Post turnover deep in Penn territory, the Quakers were driving down the field with six minutes remaining, looking to make it a one-possession game. But a Keith Braccia pass was intercepted and returned inside the Penn 20-yard line, ending any possibility of a comeback win.
In the loss, the Quakers struggled giving up big plays. While the Red and Blue did cause four turnovers, they were burned by Post’s long-yardage plays. Penn gave up three special teams plays of 40 yards or more, three passing plays of 30 yards or more and a 20-yard run.
“When we came out in the third quarter, our defense didn’t step it up, and we gave up the big play,” Wagner said. “We have to tackle better. Our special teams can’t give up those big plays, and our secondary can’t give up those big passes.”
Shaw believes the team’s inexperience could have contributed to the loss.
“At the end of the day, we are a young team,” he said. “I think that as a team we need to want to win more. I don’t think we have that winning mindset that we’ve had in years past, and that’s just something that we have to work on.”
Penn has a chance to bounce back Saturday against a Navy team that hasn’t lost in over a year. Yet, there is reason for optimism for the Quakers: Navy’s last road loss was at Franklin Field.
“We were the first team to beat Navy in a long time,” Shaw said. “I think that would feel good to do again, so we’re looking forward to beating Navy.”
In order to get the win on Saturday, Wagner believes his team has to be consistent for all four quarters.
“We haven’t had a consistent four quarters of football yet,” Wagner said. “Every game is a struggle, struggle, struggle. We need to put it all together.”