Good things don't always come in threes. For the Penn football team, third down was the worst down in its 20-12 loss to Cornell on Saturday. The Big Red converted almost half of their third-down tries, going 11-for-23 on the day. And the one fourth-down play that Cornell attempted was also converted -- a fourth-and-25 Hail Mary that turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. The Quakers "D" was having little problems stuffing the Cornell offense on first and second downs. In fact, Penn held Cornell to a paltry 27 yards rushing for the entire game. It seemed that it was only when the Big Red were stuck in third-and-long situations that sophomore quarterback Ricky Rahne reached back and made something special happen. All four of Cornell's scoring drives included third-down conversions in some form, and all but one of those conversions came in the air. "That's very, very frustrating because they're an explosive offense," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said of Cornell, which put up 296 passing yards on the Quakers. "You think you really have the advantage when it's third-and-15, fourth-and-18, third-and-12. You think the advantage decidedly swings in your favor." A 13-yard pass on third-and-six extended the Big Red's first quarter drive to a field goal. And in the second quarter, Cornell picked up three third-down tries en route to a touchdown and a 10-6 lead going into the half. After an incomplete pass, a three-yard run and a penalty, Rahne hit wide receiver Kevin Farese for a 25-yard gain. Three plays later, on third-and-17, Rahne found Farese again, this time for 19 yards. Cornell eventually found the end zone with a one-yard touchdown pass from Rahne to wideout Keith Ferguson on -- yep -- third and goal. At the end of the third quarter, with Cornell driving deep into Penn territory, the Big Red had a first-and-10 on the Quakers' 16-yard-line. Penn defensive lineman Jason Maehr sacked Rahne for a nine-yard loss. Then Rahne, who was under pressure all day, threw an incomplete pass. And Penn finally appeared to exorcise its third-down demons when Maehr again dropped Rahne for a loss of six. This time, the nail in Penn's coffin came on fourth down. On fourth-and-25, Rahne rolled out left and threw up a prayer across the field into the end zone, getting hit as he released the ball. But his prayer was answered, as Cornell wideout Joe Splendorio -- draped in double coverage -- grabbed the faltering duck out of the air and fell into the end zone. "I was pretty confident that was far enough," Maehr said of his two sacks. On offense, Penn was as bad on third down as Cornell was effective, converting only two of 12 chances. And Penn's inability to get first downs deep in Cornell territory led to four Jason Feinberg field goal attempts, two of which failed.Comments powered by Disqus
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