Not quite. While a glowing Quakers coach Al Bagnoli might have been expected at the press conference after witnessing sophomore tailback Kris Ryan's near-record-setting display, only a concerned Bagnoli showed up. "We are still not where we want to be," Bagnoli said. "We are still a little bit too erratic. Our offense is based on having balance." Running the ball for 293 yards and throwing it for 140 yards in their 35-18 win over the Rams (0-5), Penn's offense was anything but balanced Saturday. Remember the old adage: "First establish the run, then the pass." In Saturday's game, the run was established, but the pass went out the back door. Some might excuse the unevenness because of Penn running back Kris Ryan's stellar day (35 carries, 256 yards rushing) but the Quakers did not simply give the ball to Ryan and say, "Thank you very much." Penn still attempted 32 passes, completing 15. Averaging just over four yards a pass attempt (two-thirds less than last year's average) against a defense positioning eight men to guard against the run can often spell trouble. In Penn's case, it most certainly does. The Quakers have spent the past 10 months, including their four regular season games this year, trying to develop their passing game in the post-Matt Rader era. Unfortunately for Penn, the team has not been blessed with large amounts of luck. Besides graduating their second-team All-Ivy Quarterback from last season, the Quakers have dealt with a dwindling receiving corps. Penn, first trying to solve the quarterback problem, handed the reins over to a Division I-A transfer student. Trying to play the role of savior, Penn sophomore quarterback -- and former Northwestern starter -- Gavin Hoffman has not lived up to lofty expectations and has only thrown for 614 yards on 124 attempts. He has thrown five interceptions and three touchdowns and has been sacked 12 times. Although Hoffman has not come around yet, Bagnoli has kept everything the same as day one, hoping things would eventually click. Instead of turning into a well-oiled machine, Penn's offense has not left the shop. "We are not connecting right now," senior wide receiver Brandon Carson said. "As receivers, we might run the right route but we might not run a good route. The offense needs to work together and be more consistent." So with a superior running attack and a sub-standard passing attack, what can the Quakers do? A possible solution would be to keep going to the passing game, relying on it as a major part of the offense. Those who watched the Villanova game and Penn's first three quarters against Bucknell might not agree. In both situations, the Quakers tried a balance attack and were found buried deep in a hole. The Quakers no longer have the luxury of trying new things and using the best game plan to win football games. The only signs of progress in Penn's passing game came in the final five minutes against Bucknell, when Hoffman completed his final 13-of-18 passes for 155 yards. Hopefully for the Quakers in future games, it will not take a 16-point deficit to establish a passing attack. Another solution might be to simply hand the ball to Penn's running backs. Ryan has shown in these first four games that he is a force to be reckoned with. Averaging 6.8 yards per carry and 21.5 carries per game, Ryan has been handling most of the load. Sophomore Matt Thomas and junior Mike Verille add two more willing and able bodies to fill in when Ryan takes a breather. With Ryan receiving the attention from defenders, Hoffman and his receivers will have their opportunity to make connections without facing double or triple coverage, as in Saturday's game. "It's nice to have a kid back there you can give the ball to and make some plays," Bagnoli said. "He can take some pressure off of some positions right now that we are not as consistent as we would like to be." "He is the most consistent person right now," Carson said. "It will open up a passing game eventually." It is nothing new for the Quakers. Last season, Penn kept the ball on the ground 60 percent of the time. This resulted in one of the Quakers' best passing seasons ever, as they averaged 7.3 yards per pass attempt and had 17 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. While the Quakers did have Jim Finn, the Bushnell Cup winner, in the backfield, Kris Ryan could possibly be even better. "He is definitely up there," Fordham coach Dave Clawson said. "For what Penn does offensively, this guy is perfect. They run a lot of power plays. They get him behind two or three pulling offensive linemen. He does a great job feeling his way."Comments powered by Disqus
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