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BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- The sky was blue, the clouds were white, but little yellow flags spoiled an otherwise perfect September day at Lehigh University's Goodman Stadium for the Penn football team. The Quakers kicked off their 2000 season Saturday with a strong but penalty-filled showing in their 17-10 loss to the Engineers, ranked No. 21 in the ESPN/USA Today Division I-AA Coaches' Poll. At halftime, Lehigh and Penn headed to the locker rooms deadlocked at three, but it was the Quakers, not the non-scholarship juggernaut Engineers, that were kicking themselves during the break. The Red and Blue saw 17 points vanish from the scoreboard because of first-half penalties. "I give our kids a lot of credit," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "They could have very easily put their hands up after the 17 points were taken off, and they could very easily have given up. We had a couple of things in the first half where we really had a chance to get out in front. Maybe it's a different game if it's 17-3 at halftime, but now it's all speculation." While Lehigh actually drew more flags than Penn (the Engineers had 13 penalties for 112 yards, and the Quakers were flagged 10 times for 75), the Quakers had three mistakes that were about as costly as the two teams' penalties put together. First, on Penn's second possession, senior kicker Jason Feinberg nailed a 42-yard field goal directly into a stiff wind, but the Quakers' chance to take an early lead was negated thanks to an illegal procedure penalty knocking them out of field goal range. Later, after driving from their own 37, the Quakers faced a third-and-10 at the Lehigh 15-yard line. Junior quarterback Gavin Hoffman found his big tight end, 6'7" senior Ben Zagorski, at the three. But Zagorski, who had to wrest the ball from the grasp of a Lehigh defensive back and then fight his way into the end zone, had his great catch wiped out because of holding back at the line of scrimmage. The Quakers' drive stalled after that, and Feinberg was called out to try another 42-yard kick, which he nudged wide right. Toward the end of the first half, with Lehigh up 3-0, the Quakers got the ball back on their own 29 with 3:25 left in the half. The Quakers drove to the Lehigh five, but after a spiked ball stopped the clock and a delay of game pushed them back, the Red and Blue faced second-and-goal from the 10 with just under half a minute left. Hoffman called Zagorski's number again, on a fade to the left corner of the end zone. Zagorski made the catch, but this time his own mistake cost him six, as he pushed his defender in the back before jumping to haul in the pass. On the next play, Hoffman hit junior wideout Colin Smith for a 12-yard gain, to the Lehigh 13. The Quakers, however, found themselves without timeouts and, had the referee not stopped the clock for a Lehigh injury, they wouldn't have been able to get the kicking team on the field for Feinberg's 31-yard attempt, which sailed through the uprights as the horn sounded. "It was really frustrating because I thought we were getting some good drives together and moving the ball," Hoffman said. "And to march 60 or 70 yards and then sort of self-destruct inside the red zone, it's really frustrating." "That's not the best way to start off," Bagnoli said of the Quakers' 17 would-be points that never found their way to the scoreboard. "It's tough to overcome, it really is -- especially... when you're playing a very good football team away. Another bad way to start off -- a half, anyway -- is to give up two consecutive scoring drives for touchdowns, but that's what the Quakers did when they took the field after the break. A 43-yard kickoff return by cornerback Abdul Byron put Lehigh in business at the Penn 47 to start the second half. Four and a half minutes later, Engineers running back Phil Pleasant capped an 11-play drive with a touchdown. The Quakers punted after three plays, and Lehigh set up from its own 37. Despite setting up further back, the Engineers broke off runs of 13, 26 and 18 yards, to march down the field in just over a minute and go up 17-3 on a somewhat shellshocked Quakers defense. But the Red and Blue defense managed to keep the Engineers off the scoreboard for the rest of the game, including a big sack late in the fourth quarter that knocked Lehigh out of field goal range. With 2:25 left in the third quarter, the Quakers started a 10-play, 89-yard drive that saw Hoffman -- who, on 36-52 passing, set new single-game Penn records for completions and attempts -- hook up with junior wideout Rob Milanese for a 49-yard gain, and Zagorski for a three-yard touchdown, the tight end's third of the game but first one that counted. But the Quakers were unable to find the end zone again, in part because two of their last three offensive drives ended in interceptions. "[Lehigh is] an explosive offensive team, so your kids are going to have to play well to keep them in that 14-17 point range, and I thought our kids played well," Bagnoli said. "It's two-fold, we could've played better, but I'm not going to take anything away from Lehigh."

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