Wenik | Penn football needs to stop sleepwalking
November 4, 2013, 9:21 pm·
Katie Rubin | DP
Now that the dust has settled and the initial shock of Penn football’s baffling 27-0 loss to Brown on Saturday has worn off, something has become abundantly clear about the 2013 Quakers.
They have a bad case of narcolepsy.
Penn has earned four wins this year, each of them nearly marred by a stretch where the team has suddenly, inexplicably forgotten how to play winning football.
Let’s go game by game.
Sept. 21 vs. Lafayette. Penn builds a 27-7 lead in the third quarter before deciding to pack it in for the evening. The Leopards bite back with two fourth-quarter touchdowns and get the ball back with a chance to win the game before the Quakers defense holds up and forces a turnover on downs.
Coach Al Bagnoli postgame: “Obviously there’s concern with a little bit of momentum change. I don’t know if there was ever total panic, but there were some concerns, it was a close call.”
Oct. 5 vs. Dartmouth. In a quadruple-overtime thriller, Penn wins, 37-31, but only after Dartmouth kicker Riley Lyons flubs three game-winning or go-ahead field goals, including a 21-yarder that was blocked by Quakers linebacker David Park as time expired in regulation.
Bagnoli postgame after another heart-attack finish: “This game had as many highs and lows as any game I could recall.”
Oct. 19 at Columbia. Penn’s defense plays its best game of the season, holding the Lions to four (four!) first downs all afternoon. This time, Penn’s offense can’t get out of its own way, as quarterback Billy Ragone threw a pick and the Quakers fumbled the ball three times (losing possession once) to help keep a 21-7 triumph a one-score game until early in the fourth quarter.
Bagnoli postgame: “We’ve just got to become a better and more consistent team from top to bottom, and learn how to finish things and just understand how difficult it is to overcome inconsistent play.”
Oct. 26 vs. Yale. After taking a 28-3 lead into the fourth quarter, Penn let an inferior opponent back into the game — again. This time, Sam Chwarzynski saved the Quakers’ skin, picking off a Morgan Roberts pass after the Bulldogs had recovered an onside kick and then adding a second interception as an exclamation point to ensure that Penn would hold onto a 28-17 win.
Bagnoli postgame : “We’ve still got to finish the games a little bit better than what we are [doing] right now. There’s still room to grow.”
Notice a trend?
Time after time, Penn has fallen asleep and needed things to break its way last-second to win a ball game. A fourth down stop. A blocked chip-shot field goal. A sudden interception.
There was no one that stepped up to bail Penn out on Saturday. Rather, what fans got were images of the same old problems.
Fans witnessed Penn defenders left in the dust as an elite running back charged his way for six points. This time, John Spooney did the Quakers in, following in the footsteps of William & Mary’s Mikael Abdul-Saboor and Dartmouth’s Dominick Pierre.
Fans were treated to images of a jittery Ryan Becker getting blasted to the turf again and again by defensive linemen.
And fans witnessed Bagnoli walking the sidelines in frustration after watching his team get stuffed on a short yardage play.
Well, if Penn was looking for a wakeup call, it got one — albeit in the form of “Slayer blasted full-volume in your ears at 5 a.m.”
Now that the Quakers are (hopefully) wide awake, it’s five days until Princeton, undefeated in the Ivy League, comes to town.
One false move, and the Tigers will be sending the Quakers back into la-la land. Permanently.
IAN WENIK is a junior history major from Short Hills, N.J., and is a sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at email@example.com.