Kris Ryan, in his first carry of the season Saturday, quickly proved he was back to his old form. And throughout the Quakers' 48-14 steamrolling of Dartmouth, the two Penn running backs who had replaced Ryan while he stood injured through a pair of early season games showed that they were still a threat as well. In all, it turned out to be another day of solid improvement for Penn's now-healthy backfield trio of Ryan, Mike Verille and Todd Okolovitch, who combined for 129 yards and three touchdowns during Penn's Ivy-opening romp in front of the Franklin Field crowd. "I think it went pretty well today, and I hope next week it gets even better," Verille said. "I think anytime you have three different guys scoring, you're pretty happy about that." The first of those three scoring carries came from Ryan, the Ivy League's leading rusher last year who was sidelined with a high-ankle sprain in the Quakers' first two contests of 2000. Subbing in for Verille, who was given the start against Dartmouth by Penn coach Al Bagnoli, Ryan entered the game in the first quarter with the score tied, 7-7, and the Red and Blue poised just four yards from the Big Green's end zone. It was a perfect scenario for Ryan to make an opening statement to anyone in the Ivy League who doubted whether he had yet recovered from his injury. Taking the handoff from Quakers quarterback Gavin Hoffman, Ryan barreled his six-foot, 235-pound body through Dartmouth's defensive line, dragging a few green jerseys along with him as he crossed the goal line for his first touchdown of the season. "I was real excited," he said about the carry that put Penn up, 14-7, with 9:33 left in the quarter. "Really, it just felt good to get a carry under my belt. The fact that it was a touchdown was a plus." However, it wasn't just Ryan getting carries -- and touchdowns -- in the first half. Verille carried the ball eight times in the half, touching the ball two more times than Ryan. While most of his runs were for short yardage, Verille did get to make an impact on the scoreboard early in the second quarter. In a series that he had begun with a six-yard catch from Hoffman nearing the end of the first quarter, Verille ended the 56-yard drive on a three-yard pitch play that he ran around the left side and into the end zone. The touchdown -- Verille's fourth in two games -- increased the Quakers' lead, 28-7. The contrast between the two first-half rushing touchdowns made Verille realize the differing styles that he and Ryan bring to the field. "He and I complement each other really well," Verille said. "The things that he does real well, which is pounding the ball, are different from the things I do well, which is catching the ball [and] running the ball outside." This potent rushing switch-up, as well as the prolific passing of Hoffman, helped give the Quakers a huge, 42-7 lead nearing the end of the third quarter. At that point, Bagnoli told Ryan and Verille to take a rest and handed the backfield responsibilities over to Okolovitch. The sophomore running back responded by carrying the ball a team-leading 13 times, including a fourth-quarter series that was almost all his own. Beginning in the last minute of the third quarter, the Quakers drove from their own 12-yard line to the Dartmouth one in 12 plays -- nine of which were carries by Okolovitch. Fittingly, the sophomore was given the final one-yard push through the middle of the Dartmouth line for his first touchdown in the Red and Blue. "It felt great," Okolovitch said. "Everybody wants to get into the end zone, and getting in was great for me. It... gave me a lot of confidence." Bagnoli, too, has confidence in all three of his running backs, which is why he's glad to keep a rotation in his backfield instead of playing Ryan while the star is still recovering. "Right now we're getting pretty good efforts from Verille, we're getting pretty good efforts from Okolovitch and Kris has just got to round himself into shape," Bagnoli said. "He's in OK physical shape, he's not in OK football shape." News and Notes Hoffman was named Ivy League co-Offensive Player of the Week. He completed 25 of 30 pass attempts on Saturday for 336 yards and four touchdowns. He did not throw an interception.Comments powered by Disqus
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