WORCESTER, Mass. -- For the first three weeks of the season, the Penn offense earned nothing but accolades. The Quakers had a system that seemed unstoppable, and for three consecutive weeks, Gavin Hoffman threw for 300-plus yards. After a penalty-marred showing at Lehigh, the Red and Blue hung 45 points on Lafayette and lit up Dartmouth for 48. Hoffman was leading the most productive passing offense in Division I-AA. After Saturday's disaster at Fitton Field, just about all the Penn offense can do is sit back, scratch its collective head, and hope for things to click better again next week against Columbia. "We weren't getting the ball off crisply and it just didn't seem like we had any rhythm at all," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. Penn's primarily aerial attack has relied all season on the threat of big plays deep to open up short routes and turn those into big-gainers on catch-and-runs. That's why Hoffman had been completing over 70 percent of his passes -- the system opens up receivers all over the field. But on Saturday, the deep threat never materialized for the Quakers to help neutralize Holy Cross' coverage of short passes. The result was a gruesome display that looked like a cross between the run-and-shoot and a smashmouth offense generating three yards and a cloud of dust. Penn's first scoring drive of the game was just such a monstrous mutation of the Red and Blue's usual big-play offense. The Quakers ran 14 plays to move 47 yards -- an average of 3.3 yards per play -- and only managed to come away with a 23-yard field goal from Jason Feinberg. Penn had no plays on that drive for more than eight yards. The Quakers did manage to get a big play on their next drive -- Hoffman's 37-yard strike to Colin Smith was Penn's only play for more than 11 yards of the entire first half -- but came away with no points when the drive stalled out in the red zone and Feinberg missed a field goal wide to the left. By the time that Penn did finally manage to open up the passing game in the second half, the outcome of the contest was no longer in question, as Holy Cross had taken a 27-3 lead at the half and extended that margin to 31 points on their first drive of the third quarter. "[The offense] wasn't catch and throw -- it wasn't anything," Bagnoli said. "The only thing that was given to us was some short outs and some other things. Even when we got down deep, we could never come down and score. It was just a combination of things -- we also had a terrible turnover problem." Penn sure did have a terrible turnover problem. Coming into yesterday's game, Hoffman had thrown four interceptions for the season. On Saturday, he nearly matched that number, placing the ball in the wrong hands on three occasions. And it actually could have been worse -- on the Quakers' lone scoring drive of the first half, Hoffman threw a perfect strike over the middle to Holy Cross safety Troy Larose that the senior could not believe he dropped. What all of this means is that the Penn Quakers are not the St. Louis Rams. This was a bad week for the Red and Blue where nothing worked well, and the offense is not perfect. "You've got to get some young kids to understand that last week doesn't help you at all," Bagnoli said. "Too many times, they read their own press clippings about how we scored 50 last week and blah blah blah. Sometimes you learn the hard way. The only saving grace is it's not an Ivy game." That won't be true for the rest of the season. Penn plays its second Ivy League game next week. The Quakers are suddenly back to earth instead of floating on air after back-to-back 45-point outbursts. It wasn't just one player on Saturday, either. The entire offense was flat and nowhere near championship caliber. "We learned a very valuable lesson, that you have to prove yourself every week," Bagnoli said. "Right now, we're not proving ourselves every week... we got dominated, and we've got to regroup."Comments powered by Disqus
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