NEW YORK — Last year, Penn football and Fordham played one of the most exciting games in recent memory.
This year, things were much different.
In a turnover-ridden, mistake-filled game, Fordham managed to make fewer costly errors en route to a 31-17 defeat of the Quakers.
With the loss, the Red and Blue drop to 0-2 heading into the start of conference play next week.
“We had some miscues in the first half, with the fumbles and the pick,” Penn coach Ray Priore said. “It really put our defense’s back to the wall.”
Those miscues — all by senior quarterback Alek Torgersen — killed three separate early Quaker drives. After Penn looked sharp on its first drive, a 72-yard romp capped off by a Tre Solomon run, the next three possessions all ended in failure.
Torgersen first threw an interception to Fordham senior George Dawson, which the linebacker returned all the way down to the Penn 10-yard line. The Rams (2-1) proceeded to kick a field goal to go up, 17-7.
Penn got the ball back and managed to advance only four yards before Torgersen coughed up a fumble. Fordham took over and scored a touchdown.
Torgersen fumbled once again just three plays into the next drive, but was bailed out when Fordham quarterback Kevin Anderson was picked off in the end zone by Penn sophomore Mason Williams.
The resulting drive for the Red and Blue was more successful — excellent rushing from Solomon brought the Quakers all the way down to Fordham’s one-yard line. However, in yet another frustrating mistake, the Quakers were hit with a delay-of-game penalty when wide receiver Adam Strouss — playing quarterback in a wildcat formation — was unable to get the snap off in time.
“We were trying to check the play. We lost sight of the clock,” Priore said. “That was more on the coaches than it was on the players. It had nothing to do with them.”
Penn, backed up to the six-yard line, was forced to settle for a Jimmy Gammill field goal to make it 24-10 at the break.
Penn played better, especially on defense, in the second half. Starting with a goal-line stand just before intermission, the Red and Blue held tough, allowing just one more touchdown.
By then, though, the damage had largely been done — most of it by Fordham running back Chase Edmonds. The junior accounted for four touchdowns on 203 total yards, an encore performance to his identical four-TD showing against the Quakers a season ago.
The Red and Blue were further hampered by an uncharacteristically pedestrian performance by star wideout Justin Watson. After going off for 148 total yards and two touchdowns a week ago, the junior was held to just three catches for 33 yards.
“With all offenses, you have to take what they give you. They were out there trying to double Justin,” Priore said of his team’s aerial struggles. “We had to answer with the running game.”
And that answer came in the form of Solomon. The junior was both the team’s leading rusher and receiver, picking up 93 yards on the ground while adding eight catches for 52 yards. His early success was one of the reasons Penn, in atypical fashion, attempted more runs (40) than passes (31) in the game despite trailing the entire second half.
“The object is to win the game. It’s not how many passes or how many runs,” Priore said. “You just gotta score one more point than they do.”
The consternation of Saturday’s loss will likely be quickly forgotten, though, if the Red and Blue manage to do well in their first game that truly matters — Friday night’s Ivy opener with Dartmouth in Hanover. Both the teams won a share of the Ivy title a season ago, and the Big Green (2-0) put a 35-10 whooping on Holy Cross Saturday afternoon. In keeping with the gravity of the contest, the tilt will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network..
Saturday’s loss was frustrating, discouraging and unlike Penn football.
But, the Quakers hope, that was perhaps a game the team simply needed to get out of their system.
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