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Holy Cross back-up quarterback Erreick Stewart tries to scramble past Penn defensive backs Brandon Gebers, No.32, and Fred Plaza, No. 25. Stewart performed admirably in relief on Saturday, running for 31 yards and throwing for 127. (David Graff/The Daily

WORCESTER, Mass. -- The extravagant halftime show by the Holy Cross marching band yesterday on Fitton Field featured dangerous knife juggling and fiery baton tossing. Unlike the band, however, the Penn football team posed no danger and possessed no fire, as the Crusaders (4-1) stormed right over the listless Quakers, 34-17. One week removed from a 48-14 drubbing of Dartmouth, the Red and Blue (2-2) unexpectedly found themselves on the receiving end of a vicious pummeling. Penn trailed by as much as 34-3 in the third quarter, the Quakers defense allowed over seven yards per play from scrimmage and previously accurate signal-caller Gavin Hoffman was pulled in the third quarter after tossing his third interception of the game. "Honestly, it was never a contest, even if you look at the final score," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "They just physically beat us. We were just dominated. I don't know if we weren't just ready to play, or if we underestimated them. I'm as surprised as everybody else." Holy Cross streaked to the first of its five touchdowns just 64 seconds after the opening kickoff, as Crusaders quarterback Brian Hall scrambled untouched 30 yards into the end zone on a draw. After trading punts, the Quakers finally got on the scoreboard one play into the second quarter on a 23-yard Jason Feinberg field goal. This capped off a 14-play, six-minute drive, and made the score 7-3. This was the first of two long drives Penn put together in the first 30 minutes that penetrated inside the Crusaders' 10-yard-line. But a Holy Cross defense that stymied the Quakers with a plethora of blitzes and unexpected looks toughened inside the red zone both times. The Red and Blue could not find the end zone on either drive -- converting one of two field goals -- and could not capitalize while the game was still close. "They showed us a lot of different looks on defense. They just threw in a lot of coverages and a lot of different blitzes, and we adjusted a little too late I think," said Penn backup quarterback Mike Mitchell, who was 8-for-13 with a touchdown and an interception after replacing Hoffman. But after a relatively tame first frame, things really got out of hand in the second quarter, when Holy Cross barreled into the end zone three times. The sequence that broke the Quakers' back came in the waning moments of the first half when the Crusaders scored two quick touchdowns to head into the break ahead 27-3 and in total control. With 2:02 on the clock, Michael Gillis ran 12 yards around the right end for a score. And even more crushing, with 0:01 showing, wideout David Thompson hauled in a spectacular five-yard pass in the corner of the end zone. This fifth and final catch for the Crusaders speedster sounded a death knell for the Quakers. "Obviously, the score before the half helped our momentum and really took the wind out of their sails," Holy Cross coach Dan Allen said. "To win and to win the way we did, a lot of things have to go right. And they did for us." Not even the sidelining of Hall in the second quarter from a strained MCL could slow the Crusaders, as backup Erreick Stewart stepped in cold and didn't miss a beat. The Grambling transfer completed 6 of 11 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Stewart connected with David Kasouf on a 53-yard scoring bomb on Holy Cross' first possession of the third quarter, and the rout was on. "Their quarterbacks were both athletic guys who could pass it but weren't afraid to keep the ball and run it. And they hurt us -- we didn't stop them," said Penn linebacker Dan Morris about Hall and Stewart, who together ran for 82 yards and passed for 266. Hoffman was pulled midway through the third quarter after throwing his third interception, against no touchdowns. Rob Milanese led Penn with eight receptions, and captain Doug O'Neill pulled home six more passes, but the Quakers oft-pressured quarterbacks rarely connected with their receivers on the day. Led by Mitchell, Penn found the end zone two times in the final 17 minutes, making the final score somewhat respectable. Junior tailback Kris Ryan -- who rushed 18 times for 69 yards and is still recovering from a preseason ankle sprain -- scored on a one-yard run late in the third quarter, and Milanese hauled in an eight-yard pass from Mitchell with 8:14 left to end the scoring. This limited offensive success with the game out of reach aside, the Quakers did little more than mail in their effort yesterday. The option-oriented Crusaders attack burned the Penn secondary with four passes good for more than 40 yards. And the Quakers turned the ball over five times, including one amazing gaffe when a punt hit Penn blocker Vince Alexander on the helmet as the ball neared Quakers return man Fred Plaza.

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