WORCESTER, Mass. -- It may be hard to believe after Saturday's Fitton Field shellacking, but as of Friday, the Ivy League's best defense resided right here at Penn. It's hard to believe because that certainly wasn't the Ivies' best defense clashing helmets with Holy Cross on Saturday. Sure, the jerseys were the same. And the defenders wearing those Penn jerseys looked the same. But the results were far from a repeat of the previous three weeks. The Penn defense that had held Lehigh, Lafayette and Dartmouth to just 278.3 yards per game gave up 341 yards to the Holy Cross offense on Saturday. By halftime. The Quakers weren't expected to completely stifle the Crusaders' 362-yards-per-game option-based attack on Saturday. This wasn't a war of attrition; when the Crusaders had the ball it was a veritable blitzkrieg. The Penn defenders looked helpless, and at times listless. When Crusaders' receiver Kendy Hall caught a pass from Brian Hall and romped 42 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter, it seemed as if he was running through a stationary obstacle course of Penn defenders. "I don't know if we came ready to play," Penn linebacker and co-captain Dan Morris said. "We're a very good football team, but..." With the exception of a few solid stops, Penn's defense never seemed to be in this game. Holy Cross' first play: a 13-yard option keeper by Brian Hall. Play Two: a quick pass to receiver David Thompson for 12 yards. Play Three: an inside tackle-breaking 25-yard scamper by Calvin Souder. Play Four: a 30-yard draw by Brian Hall in which the quarterback went untouched into the end zone. It was easy for Holy Cross to knife through a defense that looked this soft. A host of roughing the passer and late-hit penalties nearly cost the Quakers two weeks ago against Lafayette. But there was no doubt a hard-hitting, aggressive Penn defensive unit was into that game. This game was different. There were no jarring hits, and the Quakers were held to just one sack. "We did not tackle very well. We did not play with very much intensity," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "And we did not play with any emotion, which we had to play with." It was like this all day. Penn defensive tackle Tom Lewis almost sacked Crusaders' Erreick Stewart on a play in the third quarter, only to have the second-string quarterback elude him and three other defenders en route to an eight-yard gain. Yet it wasn't as if Holy Cross threw a couple new wrinkles into its offense for this game. "What they came out and did, for the most part, was what we saw on film and prepared for all week," Morris said. And even though the Crusaders had to switch quarterbacks when Brian Hall went down with a strained MCL, the difference in signal-callers wasn't too different for the Penn defenders. "The quarterbacks were very similar, actually," Morris said. Penn knew what was coming, but the Quakers' defense couldn't stop it. Holy Cross finished with 496 total yards. The Crusaders averaged 7.2 yards per play. They had 20 first downs, 230 rushing yards and were successful on half of their third-down conversions. And when the Johnny Turco Memorial Trophy awarded to the most valuable player was announced late in the fourth quarter, the winners -- Stewart and Thompson -- stood helmetless on the sideline, while third-string quarterback Ryan Collar was taking the Holy Cross snaps. This wasn't the way it was supposed to be for Penn's defense. They were tops in the Ancient Eight in rushing defense, first downs allowed and opponents third-down conversions. They had held mighty Lehigh to just 17 points and 15 first downs. But that was then, this is now. Now Penn's defense must regroup, regain its intensity and forge some happy medium between penalty-deserving intensity and what transpired on Fitton Field on Saturday. "The only saving grace is it's not an Ivy game," Bagnoli said.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.